Whoa, whoa, whoa, back to the islands...

Trip Start Feb 06, 2011
Trip End Jul 24, 2011

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Where I stayed
Some crappy hostel that smelt really musty

Flag of Peru  ,
Friday, April 1, 2011

For a change we arrived back to Lake Titicaca and into Puno in style, with Peru's best bus company Cruz Del Sur, complete with a choice of meal and non-pirated films! Unfortunately this didn’t count for much on our arrival as the highly rated hostel we had booked explained we were actually staying in an 'annex’ which turned out to be a completely different hotel altogether. Ah well, at least Amanda got to experience the South American hospitality sector at its best.

Due to our imminent Machu Picchu trek we only had one day to visit the main attraction on the lake – the Uros community who live on 50 or so floating islands made out of reeds. We took a tour boat out of the harbour early in the morning and headed the short distance to the islands, which are clustered together forming wide canals. The islands are created by layering bundles of reeds on top of each other, with root sections at the base, and as the reeds slowly rot they need adding to constantly. The effect is that you feel like you’re walking around on very spongy mattresses! The islanders also build their houses and boats out of the yellow reeds giving an interesting contrast to the blue lake and sky.

Unfortunately due to the number of visitors the island experience has a certain feeling of being staged – I’m not sure how many of their customs or ways of living would continue if they only relied on fishing as an income. However as we were contributing to this state of affairs I guess we can’t complain too much. After a trip to another nearby reed island via reed boat it was time to continue onto the beautiful (rock) island of Taquile.

Taquile was very similar to Isla del Sol on the Bolivian side – green terraces plunging into the deep blue water of the lake. We walked a way up the hillsides to a restaurant for yet more fresh trout (who can resist when it was caught minutes earlier) and a demonstration of traditional village dances. Anna was coerced into joining in by the guide, and as a reward I promised not to get one of the special ‘single person’ hats worn (voluntarily) by the islanders. They are knitted by the man, and with surprising similarity to university traffic light parties the way they are worn denotes if he is looking for a wife – the prospective father-in-law also decides if the guy is suitable marriage material by how successfully the hat holds water. A tradition I’m glad that has remained only in Peru! Anna was similarly glad, as once married the wife cuts off her waist length hair to weave into a belt for her husband.

After crossing the island and passing through Incan archways and down 500 odd Incan steps we returned to our boat for the journey back to Puno, and into the trekking segment of our time in Peru.
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