No man is a floating island

Trip Start Oct 15, 2013
Trip End Apr 15, 2014

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Flag of Peru  , Puno Region,
Saturday, November 23, 2013

We have just got back from our floating island experience. It took us pretty much a day to travel round Lake Titicaca, as it's so so big. It spans across Bolivia and Peru, and even has it's own Navy.

We got picked up by our new guide in La Paz who is going to take us through Peru. It was a sad goodbye to Speedy as he really couldn't have done any more for us, and this guy has big shoes to fill. We caught a coach to the Bolivian side of the lake got off the coach and caught a small boat to the other side, the coach caught it's own boat, which looked like it was going to sink at any minute. One the other side, we got on the coach again and traveled to Puno, a small town in Peru. That night, we had the most fantastic thunder storm, we have been in load of storms as it's a tropical environment, but this time, the heavens truly opened! I have never seen such heavy rain, and as Puno is built on hills, and has a block system, the roads turned into rivers in seconds. We were on the top floor and could see people trapped in the rain, sheltering under anything they could find- poor buggers! I think they were too scared to make a run for it as the current on the road rivers looked pretty strong, one wrong move and you could have been swept into the next block.

The next day was dry, overcast, but dry, which was a blessing as we were going on a boat all day. We started at a small market at the port, where we were buying gifts for the families we were going to stay with that night. We were told they would like food, as they don't really have any need for money, as they live off the land, so I sent Nath in to buy some food and treats for them. As we were phaffing about, we noticed that we were being stared at- more than usual, then a teen girl came up to one of our girls, very sheepishly, and handed her a camera, thinking she wanted her to take a picture of her and her friends, she gestured for her to bunch in with her friends- but it became apparent that the Peruvian girl wanted a picture with us whites! It was a very strange feeling, but we humoured her, and her friends, as we posed with them for pictures- and then Nath emerged from the market. You should have seen their faces when they saw him- white blonde, a good two feet taller than them, he looked like a polar bear compared to them. He posed for a couple of pictures and we moved on.

Our first stop was the floating islands which are made from reeds, yep, that's right, people live on floating islands entirely made from reeds, their houses are made from reeds, their beds are made from reeds and when we got there, there was a little girl chewing on reeds. It's really surreal to see a whole community bobbing on this lake (it's hard to realise its a lake, as it looks like a sea it's so big, you often can't see anything else but water when you are on the lake, and it takes hours to cross) When we arrived, we were greeted by the ladies who welcomed us with a song, then we were sat on benches (made from reeds) and had a translated talk from a man who built that island, who explained how they are made and maintained. After that, we were allowed to look round the island, which was no bigger than 15 metered squared I would say, and got dressed up in their traditional clothes- which were itchy, smelt like reeds but we looked fabulous!

Once we were done there, we got onto a boat- made from reeds, and traveling down the community to meet our original boat. Next on the agenda was to visit a small island (made from land this time) to trek to the top and have some lunch. The trek itself would have only taken us 20 minutes or so, and not been that hard as it was steep, but we can handle that, but we were at 3800 meters above sea level and the air is really thin, so I had to stop every couple of minutes to catch my breathe. It was such hard work, and it's only a matter if days until we do the Inca trail, which makes me very nervous, as we will be higher then. Once at the top, we had some food, phaffed about a bit more, and then trekked down in the rain to get the boat to our home stay that night.

We were staying with families on a peninsula of the lake which was a simple community which spoke a little known language called Aymara, so we were handed a leaflet with a couple of simply phrases to get us by. When we got there, we were introduced to our host families, our lady was called Sandra and when she was told that I didn't eat meat, she laughed, and when she realised it wasn't a joke- she looked at me like I had two heads!

The boys had a game of football with the locals, which we won, and the ladies of the community brought traditional clothing for us to try on- second dress up of the day, and we were all getting quite into it. Once we were suited and booted, we watched the locals do a dance, and then we joined in. It was like a line dancing, you follow the leader, swish your skirt and flap this pomp pomp thing we were given about- it was really fun actually.

Then we were taken to our homes for the night- we were told not to expect much as they don't normally have indoor flushing toilets, and having electricity is hit or miss, but we lucked out, we have power, and a flushing toilet inside- win! We had dinner with the family, which was soup (they always start with soup) and veg stew which was ok, and then played with their little girl Emily who was 5. She didn't understand that we didn't speak the same language, but we used the international language of poking each other, which she enjoyed and then we went to bed as it was dark- and there isn't much else to do.

The next day, we had breakfast and helped out with the farming. First of all, we took the sheep for a walk, they are kept in a small shed over night, and then walked to some moor land in the morning, tethered to pegs by ropes on their legs in the day, and then brought back in at night. Then we sewed some corn in a small garden like field, which entailed Nath digging holes, and me dropping seeds in, think Nath got the thin end of the wedge there. Then we had some lunch and made our way down to the boat to meet the others to go back to the main land.

It was a really good experience to see how differently other people live, even though they have very little by our standard, they were a really happy community, and didn't want for anything as far as we could see. I think the more simply you live, the less you care about the complicated stuff, living like that long term wouldn't be for me, but I can see how they would be happy like that.

Thought/ fact of the day- I was so nervous about the Inca Tail- anything is hard work at this altitude, let alone walking up mountains for 4 days! What have I signed myself up too?!?
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