Lago Titicaca - the Peruvian side

Trip Start Aug 01, 2013
Trip End Jan 15, 2014

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Back in civilisation in Cusco I treated myself to washing my clothes in a laundrette (as opposed to a cold hand wash!) and to lunch and tea in two different veggie restaurants in San Blas! The second of which involved a set meal of soup, main dish and celery tea for 5 soles (1.25), I think it might become my new local!

The guy who did the transfer from Cusco centre (outside MacDonalds!) turned out to be the boyfriend of the girl who works in the office at Vilma's language school...Cusco seems to be gradually getting smaller especially, as it turns out, Kati's new roommate is now having classes with my Spanish teacher, but at a different language school! The night bus to Puno was cold (and also seemed to be lacking bingo!), and arrived at 4.30am. I got the opportunity to have a mini siesta in the hostel before being collected to start the tour. The group is pretty big this time and predominantly filled with 20-something couples covering pretty much every Western European country. There are also a couple of girls from Ecuador who spent most of yesterday selling their country to me! ..maybe next trip :-)
We went on a cruise-esk boat to the floating islands of Uros, where we got off on one of the 70 islands and the guide told us how they are made from dried plant roots which are gradually added to as the base sinks until it floats just above the bed of the lake. There are about 5-10 families who live on each of the islands of Uros. Their diet is the fish that they catch for breakfast, lunch, and tea. The women take other 70% of the fish to Puno to trade for other food and necessities, so they may have a couple of potatoes with the fish for each meal. One of the guys on the island took us on a ride on a bamboo boat, steered by a long stick and filled with plastic bottles to make it float, around a few of the islands. We then took the big boat to Amantani island and after a few interesting moments when the boat engine gave in and we rocked to the beat of the waves, we arrived at the island where we had to line up to be picked by our new Peruvian Mama (as if I don't have enough already!) where we'll stay the night. I'm staying at a house with a very sweet Australian couple, the girl reminds me of Miss Honey from Matilda, and our Mum, Basilia, her husband and children. Lunch was veggie, so as it turns out, is all the food on the island!

We walked into the centre of the island, which is bigger than I expected, and stumbled across a fiesta of music and secondary age children in traditional costumes dancing in the main plaza to celebrate the day of the student. We then walked up to the highest point on all of the islands on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca, 4,100metres. The views were spectacular especially as the sun was setting. At the top there's a sacred area which is only open once a year. We followed tradition of taking a stone from one side of the path surrounding the sacred area, making a wish and carrying it round the summit before placing it in the wall where it will stay along with our "negative energy".
After a veggie tea of double carbs - pasta and rice, we went to the party that they put on for tourists with a band of teenagers playing traditional songs, we danced with our sister and of course dressed in the traditional dress. The traditional dress of Amantani is a bit more simple compared to my past experiences of wearing Peruvian clothes but it does include a long embroidered, black pashmina which the women often wear over their heads! The island is really peaceful at night, the houses have lights from solar panels but the paths are dark with just the glow of the moon in the sky, and reflecting on the lake, to guide you. I realised that today marked my 10th week in South America, and to celebrate, I slept in a room all to myself for the first time here!

We had an early breakfast of pancakes and fresh camomile tea, before saying bye to our families and heading towards the third and largest island of the trip, Taquile, with around 5,000 inhabitants. Our guide explained the differences in culture, character and lifestyle of the people on the different islands, with those living on Taquile being more closed and shy than their neighbours on Amantani. They also wear traditional dress which helps you distinguish who is single (a red and white hat for men; and a white top, red skirt and pashmina with large pom poms for women) and who is married (a multicoloured coloured hat with no white for men, and any coloured skirt and top for women and a pashmina with smaller pom poms). Also, in Taquile culture, both men and women have to show their knitting worth before they can be considered as a worthy husband or wife. We walked around the island to the opposite side, stopping for lunch along the way. The water from the lake (which you can almost be tricked to think is the ocean) a gorgeous blue. On the very slow boat back to the mainland I spoke to the Spanish couple and realised that I seem to be slowly losing not only my Spanish from Spain accent but also the ability to conjugate verbs using "vosotros" (you plural) which is only used in Spain and not in South America...! I also found out too late that the girl is a hairdresser otherwise I maybe could've had a quick haircut on the boat back to Puno, though sadly I'm going to have to man up and resort to a Peruvian cut, though the reviews aren't so great...
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