Building Friendships on Titicaca

Trip Start Nov 13, 2010
Trip End Jul 20, 2011

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Where I stayed
Amantani Homestay

Flag of Peru  , Puno,
Monday, April 11, 2011

Josie and I have been following the directions of the various tour guides  in each city - we have been met at each airport, bus station, train station and it had seemed to work well without really paying much attention to the tour schedule.  We got up in the morning from our luxurious hotel in Puno, bags packed and knew we were headed to Lake Titicaca.  When the tour guide arrived she looked in horror at the size of our bags...come on, we both travel light.....she asked why we were taking 'everything' with us as there would be lots of stairs to climb to our 'family's" house.  what???

'We have a family here'?  we asked.  Apparently we did.  I was pretty sure when the travel agent asked if we wanted to do a 'homestay', I had said 'no'.  Not because I am uppitdy, it is because I do 'homestays' nearly every week of my travels.  I was looking forward to the 'princess' tour, a vacation from my vacation......  but.......

So quickly we unpacked our stuff and grabbed just the bare essentials for our overnight at/on the lake.  Late for the boat, we were the last ones on and were happy to see our French/Aussie friends from our 7 hour van ride the day before.  Also on our boat was Richard from Wales, who we had met at breakfast and had instantly loved and Yvonne and Erik from Holland - also from our Hotel.

Looked like it was going to be a nice group and it was. 

First stop was at the 'floating' islands - built from a build up of reeds collected in the marsh.  The place actually made me quite sad as the people here seemed like they were zoo animals for us to peer at.  Boatloads landed onto their little community islands, many of the tourists gave the children candy and chocolates and chips and you could just see the evidence of this  -  the cute little kids had rotting little mouths.  Not progress. 

From there we sailed, very slowly, for another three hours to the island of Amanteni or something like that.  Seemed like everybody else knew they were going to stay with a local family - us?  Not so much.  We hadn't even brought the requisite gifts of rice and pasta or anything nice for our family to be.  Already we were crappy cousins!

Arriving at the port we found lots of indigenous people, dressed in their Sunday bests,  waiting anxiously on the dock.  Very cool.  We disembarked and it was pretty funny - some of the other boats were already there, and the first group I saw were the two couples (all nurses)  from Malta:  my first Maltese friends -  we had shared a long van ride with from Arequipa to the Colca Canyon.  We liked them.  
Next, leaning against the wall waiting to be adopted, I noticed Betty, last seen in Vilcabamba Ecuador - we had met on the horseback riding trip and learned we were both from Calgary. We had become friends over the few weeks in Vilcabamba.  This island was looking like Reunion Island rather than Gilligan's Island.

When it came time for the adoption lists to be read out, it was our good fortune to share our new family with Erik and Yvonne from Holland.  Our new  siblings!  Our 'Mom' , Sylvia, seemed a little young for us, but she happily collected  the four of us and we followed her up into the hills to find our digs for the night.

Island life is simple, basic and very very isolated,  No TV, no Internet and all the supplies have to come form Puno, by way of weekly boats. The people here live off the land, with small gardens of mostly Quinoa, a grain used for everything, corn and potatoes....lots of potatoes, sheep and llamas for wool.  Lots of knitting - everywhere, everyone, everything.  Men, women and children - knitting non stop.  Oh yeah, that's when the men are not embroidering.  Fathers must embroider their daughters clothing and husbands embroider their wives clothing.  And all the women wear very elaborately embroidered blouses and shawls - everyday!!!   I asked if a woman could see her prospective suitors handiwork before committing, as if your mate was lousy with the needle and thread, one would be destined to wear ugly clothes for the rest of ones lives.  Seemed like I was the first to be worrying about this.  And from what I saw, all the Dad's and the husbands must have a competitive sewing circle going on rather than watching hockey or playing video games.

We were shown our room - nice and basic.  four blankets on the bed to make up for the lack of heating.  Sure.

Our first meal was cooked in their kitchen in an open clay wood fired oven - fried cheese, potato's and corn, led by steaming hot quinoa soup.    Delicious.  At dinner we met the rest of our family - Sylvia's parents and her daughter, Cynthia (6).  We couldn't figure out where Cynthia's dad was as none of us could speak enough Spanish to understand and our family didn't speak English.

After dinner we hiked to the highest point on the island for a spectacular sunset.    Also nice.  I met a girl from Vancouver:  Amanda, a professional photographer and kindred spirit traveler, and we hit it off right away and we were able to swap some tales from the road.  I think we will definitely be Friends as I will with Richard - my Welsh, 'lineman from the county'.  A lovely person and lots of fun.

The town, who get to have guests about once a month as the tourists are shared across many many communities, hosted a dance in their community hall.  It was a ton of fun with most of the new family members offered traditional clothing to wear to the dance.  Sylvia brought Josie, Yvonne,  Erik and I our outfits and as you can see from the pictures, we three girls had a hard time getting dressed because we were killing ourselves with laughter, up in our tiny bedroom.[ Josie and Yvonne and both tall and slim.  Big heavy skirts are much more flattering on them.  Me?  My skirt made me look like Humpty Dumpty and that was with only one skirt.  It is not uncommon for many many skirts to be worn at one time.  
I was worried I was going to be the wallflower at the dance.  Thank you Richard and Erik for keeping my self esteem intact!!!

Lots of fun the whole two days....except for the freezing bed and the freezing outhouse run at midnight........I remembered why I don't camp.

The next day we sailed to another, totally different island.  even a greater knitters paradise.

All in all, good new friends were made, and the warmth of the experience far exceeded the chill of the night.  The princess got new friends and lived happily ever after.

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ramakant on

dear deb
you are looking so buitifull in these traditionl dresses iam seeing all wonderfull thing with your eyes

ann pflanzer on

Hi Deb:
Your photos are outstanding.

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