Floating islands and purple potatoes

Trip Start Apr 23, 2005
Trip End Mar 31, 2006

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Thursday, September 1, 2005

Too early in the morning, we left the hotel and traveled in rickshaws down to the dock on Lake Titicaca where we caught a boat out the the floating reed islands which Lake Titicaca is famous for. These islands are made completely of the reeds which grow in the shallow water around Puno. All the buidings are made of reeds and wood and the inhabitants still live and work there. The traditional way of life was mainly fishing, but now tourism has become the primary income earner. The islands were first made as a way of escaping invaders into the Titicaca area and have been used ever since. Each island has a usable life of about 40 years before they get water logged, at which point they are freed from their moorings and a new island built.

Floating Reed island on Lake Titicaca

We then headed further out into the lake to another island (one of the more conventional non-floating affairs) where we spent that night with families in a small community. The people very much lived a traditional way of life subsisting on crops of potatoes and grains. Glenn and I met our host īmotherī and made the short, but arduous trek to the house and met the rest of the famliy who welcomed us warmly and made us feel at home straight away. First item of the day was lunch which involved a great tasting soup made from the local grain (which had the appearance of little worms) and a bowl of boiled potatoes that Glenn thought looked alot like gangrenous fingers. Glenn didnīt eat very much.

Our host family

Glenn a bit unsure about the local Cuisine

Something we all noticed straight away was that all the women had unproportionaly large bottoms. We speculated on the cause of this and came up with excessive potato consumption being the culprit.

After lunch we headed up to a meeting point to have a game of soccer with the locals. We fought valiantly, but the 4200m altitude made running around almost impossible and the locals pretty much whipped us. We then climbed to the top of the island to a temple dedicated to pachamama (mother earth) and listened to our guide explain the original religion which seemed to go like this (as I remember it):

There are 3 stages of consciousness: Snake, Puma and Condor.

The snake which represents the area below the ground is symbolic of knowledge and is the first level that someone achieves. The Puma represents the surface of the earth is symbolic of the ability to control your reactions to your emotions which gives you power over yourself. The Condor which represents the sky is some strange state, probably similar to nirvana where you donīt have any emotions and as the guide said `you are never sad`. I cheekily pointed out that you are never happy either, but he didnīt seem to like that too much. Over all of this is the big fella who is in charge of everything.

The climb was difficult, but good practice for a few days later when we would be walking the Inca trail.

After dinner which was another strange potato dish, this time with squeaky cheese that reminded me a bit of Haloumi, we were dressed up in traditional clothes and went out to a dance with the locals at the town hall. For guys it was a poncho and a funny hat which looked pretty cool. We arrived at the town hall only to find that all the girls had suddenly developed duck-arses. Wow! these potatoes work really quickly. But it was only the multi-layered skirts that the women wear which creates the illusion. The dancing was thankfully a fairly simple routine and we managed to get a basic grasp of it pretty quickly. Beer was sold at the dance, so most of the blokes quickly availed themselves of a bottle, only to find that pouring beer at such a high altitude is really really tricky. The low air pressure means that it froths up so much that you can only get about 1cm of beer and 10cm if froth unless you pour very carefully. I was the last of the blokes to pour and hadnīt seen what happens, so was understandibly perplexed when all the guys stopped what they were doing to watch me pour and then understandibly peeved when they all laughed at my dramatic failure to get a decent result (it is a matter of intense personal pride for Aussie blokes to be able to pour a decent beer). Chastened, I tried again and regained some of my lost pride.

First attempt...

...and the result

We headed home for sleep and then caught the boat the next day, stopping at another island before heading back to Puno for one more night. Next day - Bus to Cusco.
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tommy on

Re: Sproggy - You still can't pour a beer :)
Definately - so long as I don´t have to pour it.

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