For my Mam ...Lake Titicaca, Islands & Puno xxx

Trip Start Sep 24, 2010
Trip End Sep 24, 2011

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Boarded the night bus at 10pm and made the journey from Cusco to Puno.  We arrived in Puno at around 4.30am - just in time for all the "discoteques" pouring out and the streets were pretty busy with people heading home.  I had a organised a "short stay" at a cheap hotel which let me get my head down for a couple of hours before boarding the board the first trip of the day to one of the islands on Lake Titicacca.  Didnt have much time to see Puno on my way out .....but .....plenty of time on the way back as I had 5 hours to kill before the night bus back to Cusco on Sunday evening.

It was the first real day of sun in days so I took full advantage and sat on the top deck of the boat and soaked up the sunshine.  The lake was amazing sundazed islands where ancient agrarian communites live alongside the chaos of the international marketplace in Puno. The lake shimmered with a distinctive navy blue colour while its gemlike shores where like paradise. As our guide, Ricardo informed us en route to our first island of Uros .....this lake gave birth to the sun as well as the father and mother of the Incas. There are 3 languages spoken here, Spanish, Quechua and Aymara.

Just 5km East of Puno and around a 30 min boat ride, we approach the amazing floating islands which are Lake Titicaca's top tourist attaction.  They are built with the reeds that grow abundantly in the shallows of the lake and are an amazing site to see. The people on this island not only use the reeds to make their homes, their boats and crafts they sell to tourists but they are also edible!  I did take the offer to taste and well ......could only describe them as tasting like lettuce!  We stayed on our floating island for around an hour and got to try on traditional dress and look at their crafts.....although i said i wouldnt buy ....i couldnt resist myself and the hospitality of the the local people made is somewhat rude not to. 

So, we took a ride in one of the handmade river boats to the other side where we met our ferry then boarded again for our next island, Amantani which was round a 3hr ride away. I took the opportunity to study some spanish for my test on Monday!.  My visit to Amantani was going to be a memorable one, I had opted for a home stay with the islanders.  The villagers had organised a traditional dance and we were invited to dress in their local clothes and dance the night away!  As our boat nearer the shore ...we were met by various families who took us to our casa for the night.  The island was very quiet, no dogs allowed, no roads or vehicles either!  We were informed that after lunch we would be hiking one of the several hills, Pachamama (Mother Earth).  The ruins here date back to the Tiwanaku culture, largely bolivian between 200 BC and AD 1000.  I looked with some horror at the mountain we were about to climb but our guide, Ricardo informed me that "you are young, fit, u can do this Miss!!" So, away we went and the climb, together with the altitude was a hard one but the views once I arrived to the top where absolutely unforgettable.  You could see Bolivia far in the distance and the many people who had made it to the top just sat in awe .....I, as Ricardo had suggested, walked 3 times around the temple/ruins and made my wishes to Mother Earth.  Have i now got a bug for hiking..........???  We made it back down (which i thought was going to be easier than it was) around 6.30pm and headed back to our families home for dinner. After, myself, Suzy (Austrailia), Chris (Vancouver) and Sandra (Brazil) laughed in hysterics with our family as we began the task of dressing in the local clothes! Off we went to the local village hall for our night of dancing.  One thing that the trek did do for us was put us all to bed for 10pm!  We were to board the boad at 7.40am the next morning for our trip to our next Island .....and another 2 beers and bed for me!!

This island really was amazing and the local people, who mainly speak Quechua, walked us down and waved us goodbye as we set off.  Another unforgettable night.  Our next island, Taquile was only an hour away again, i opened up my Spanish books and studied for my next the next morning.  I met a lovely couple on this trip, Dee and Jim from Washington DC.  An older retired couple who had a wealth of travel experience and whose company i enjoyed very much.  We arrived at the Island of Taquile which is a tiny island populated only by 2000 people.  Again Quechua speaking and had a strong sense of group identity and a fascinating tradition of handicrafts.  The men wear woolen hats, which they knit themselves, and have a strong social symbolism.  Red hats if they are married and red and white hats if they are single. Taquile women weave thick waistbands for their husbands.  Women wear eyecatching outfits and these are all considered to be some of the best and most well made traditional clothes in Peru.  We had a steep climb to make it up to the Plaza and then downward trek on over 500 steps to make it to our boat at the other side of the island.  This island, again, was truly amazing!

So, we boarded the boat for our 3hr ride back to Puno and again, studying spanish and speaking with the lovely American couple i had met on my trip.  As Suzy and I disembarked the boat and headed into Puno for a look around, we were met with hundreds of traditional dancers and music.  We had headed straight into one of their many folkloric fiestas celebrating a Catholic feast day.  Accompanying the dancers, their wonderful costumes were drums and percussion instruments that date back to Inca times.  I didnt think that this trip could have got any better .....but i was wrong.  What a way to finish off a truly amazing and unforgettable weekend.  The night bus left Puno at 9.30pm but little sleep was had, my head was buzzing with the traditonal Incan music, colourful outfits and jaw-dropping sites I had just witnessed over the last two days. xxx

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