Islas Flotantes and an 'authentic' experience

Trip Start Aug 03, 2006
Trip End Dec 13, 2006

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Where I stayed
Hotel Don Julio

Flag of Peru  ,
Sunday, September 24, 2006

We arrived in Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca after 6 hours on the Ormeņo "Royal Class" bus service so the journey was pretty painless with lots of sitting back and watching movies. As soon as we arrived and dropped off our bags, we organised a tour of the floating islands for the next day.

We were up at 6.30am to meet our group and head on our way. We got to our boat and spent the first 20 minutes floating along through the reeds to get to the first Uros island. Our guide gave us a talk of how the reed islands are made and we got a chance to taste the building materials for ourselves; if you like celery then this is the place for you! It is amazing the structures they can build with the reeds: houses, churches, elaborate boats. There are about 5 to 7 families living on each island and they were all out with their goods to sell. The kids were a little more forward and just came up and asked for money. It felt a little like we were in some sort of living museum, like when you go to heritage sites and all the employees are dressed up in traditional dress kneeding bread and walking around shoeless, only these people were not employees; this was their lives and we had paid to watch them live it. Strange. We visited one more island before the 3 hr journey to Amanti.

When we reached the island that we would be calling home for the next day, we were met by a group of women all knitting and spinning yarn and waiting for their lodgers to arrive. We met our "mom" for the day, Olga and headed off to her house. We were shown to our room (quite nice) and a little while later Olga arrived with lunch for us to eat in our room. We felt a little isolated; we thought we would be eating with the family which consisted of Olga, her mom, grandad (who, by the way, could crochet with the best of them) and her sister.

After lunch we walked up to the local footbal stadium and watched the locals play against the tourists. With the altitude it was no match and you can guess who came out ahead and who was left gasping for air!

We then walked up to the top of Amanti island to watch the sunset. Then it was back home for dinner. This time we ate in the family kitchen which was a little hut out back. Grandma and sister sat on the floor in front of the fire and the rest of us squished around the little table. It was dark and there was no electicity so with only one candle to light the room it was pretty dark. We could hear squeaking from behind us and were told it was the guinea pigs (future dinner, not pets).

After dinner we were given traditional dress (2 wool skirts for Tara, a belt, blouse and a scarf, Steve had it easy with just a poncho and a hat). Once we were all dressed up we went to the community hall for a dance. There was a local band playing and locals would all grab themselves a tourist and go for a spin around the dance floor. Our host was not too keen on dancing so Steve lucked out once again and was able to spend most of the night watching Tara running around in 4 layers of clothes not having a clue what she was supposed to be doing with her feet. After a very packed day we were happy to see our beds!

To be honest, we were a little dissapointed with our "authentic" taste of island life. We felt a bit ignored and herded around like plonkers. We certainly got a raw deal on the "home-stay" aspect.

The next morning we ate in the kitchen again, this time in daylight so we could see what was going on. It turned out the guinea pigs were not in a cage but were running wild, mostly over the plates and cutlery. Not quite the same hygeine standards we are used to; not just the animals in the kitchen but the state of the cook's hands and her habit of picking her nose were all making us wish the kitchen was candle-lit again. What is it they say?.. ignorance is bliss!

After choking down some pancakes we caught our boat to Taquile. We went for a walk to town center and saw a local photography exhibit. We also learned a little about the local clothes and the meanings of what people wear. (full red hat = married, Half red half white = single.) After lunch with our tour group it was back to the boat and back to Puno.


- Stayed at: Hostal Europa - we stayed here on our first night and wouldn't recommend it really. Rooms are dark and cold and the bloke running the place just seemed a little bit strange.

- Stayed at: Hotel Don Julio - after our dissappointing stay in Puno and on the Islands we decided to treat ourselves when we got back and stayed in the this very nice hotel with hot showers and cable TV. Not budget prices though! Recommended.

- Quote of the day: Tara: "You can tell I'm turning 32 in a few days. I'm getting crow's nests around my eyes."

- R.I.P.: Tara's sunglasses. That's two pairs of expensive sunglasses we've lost!

- Trip organised by: Edgar Adventures - these guys seemed fine. There are so many tour operators offering trips to Lake Titicaca at the same prices that it's difficult to distinguish between all of them.

- Out drinking at: Kamizaraky Rock Pub - we drank here both nights we were in Puno because it had a great atmosphere and good pizza. Music was tremendous as well. Definitely pop in for a few.
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