The islands of Lake Titikaka

Trip Start Jun 02, 2005
Trip End Aug 19, 2005

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Sunday, July 24, 2005

The boat left early Saturday morning. There were about twenty people on my tour: Irish, French, German, Austrian, and Peruvian. It was a fun group. Our first stop was the Uros Islands. They are these floating masses of tortora reeds. The people speaking the Aymara language were the first to create this lifestyle. It is suggested they took to the lake to escape Inca conquest but no one really knows for sure where exactly they came from and why. There are now hundreds of these islands, thousands of inhabitants, schools, and solar powered electricity. While many islands are established for purely touristic purposes, the majority of the people choose this lifestyle to avoid the costs of living on the mainland and in an attempt to preserve their culture.
Several hours later, the second stop was the island of Amantaní. The mothers of the arranged host families met us on the shore in their traditional dress of the island. Since I was traveling alone I was paired up with the only other single traveler, a 71 year old French woman. Don´t be fooled by this lady´s age though. She spoke great Spanish and was full of spunk and strange questions which never pertained to the subject at hand. Our host mother and father greeted us and guided us up the mountain to their home. They had six children ranging from one year old to twenty. I thought our mother, Emiliana, looked like she could only be in her thirties herself. They spoke Spanish and Quechua, the native tongue of much of the Peruvian highlands. After an introduction to the family and lunch, we regrouped with the rest and hiked up to the top of the mountain to the temple of Pachamama (Earth Mother) just in time to watch the sunset over the lake. My head was throbbing, I was dizzy, exhausted, and freezing, but the view was breathtaking.
When we returned at dark, our family was sitting around a tiny, dark kitchen preparing dinner over a fire. They had no running water or electricity, but the fire was warm, the faces friendly, the stars unbelievable, and the experience unforgettable. We ate hot soup and discussed their island customs and life while the baby, Pepito, stumbled from lap to lap.
After dinner they dressed us up in their traditional clothes and took us to meet the others from our group in a building where a band played indigenous music, and they taught us some of their dances.
The next morning they fed us breakfast, kissed us goodbye, and led us back down to the boats.
Our last stop was the island of Taquile. Another long hike provided amazing panoramas of the lake and the island. We stopped for a while at the plaza to watch the local people set up shop for the daily market. The people on this island had a completely different style of dress. Our guide explained the intricate meanings behind the colors and shapes of their hats, bags and belts, which were instigated by the Spanish to organize and recognize the locals. Their daily dress indicated their social position and marital status and is still utilized today.
We hiked some more, stopped for a lunch of king fish from the lake, and descended back down to the boats.
Although I remember it all in a hazy, feverish, oxygen deprived fog, it was a phenomenal time.
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dane on

Great Story
You know you write well when you can make your reader crave desperately to visit the places you're describing. You made me want to go, and I've already been there. How do you do that? It sounds beautiful and I love that you got to see it. I can't wait to hear more.


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