Titicaca, the floating islands and a home stay.

Trip Start Nov 03, 2012
Trip End Dec 31, 2012

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

We were picked up at 7:45 after a hasty but light breakfast (Alexis had some stern words to say to the bano deities last night) by a mini bus scooting around town and often back tracking to fill up with travelers joining us on our trip. Our first tour with other people!

We arrived at the harbour of Puno and pretty much stepped right onto our boat (after clambering over 4 others first) where were were entertained by a busker who played pan pipes and a miniature guitar at the same time. A cross between folk music and old popular tunes.

Our first visit was to the floating reed islands of Titicaca where we stopped at one of the 20 separate islands, where we were introduced to
Nestor the leader of 8 families (20 people) on the Cantuta island.
Here he walked us through the process of cutting reed beds, binding the blocks together, stacking cut reeds above the beds and finally, pegging the beds onto the bottom of Titicaca so the island won't float of, as Nestor said (translated from his native tongue by our guide) no one here had a passport so they can't afford to drift into Bolivia.
We spent time visiting a family home (with solar panel, B&W tv, a billion nats and each home containing its own fully stocked craft bazaar).

From Cantuta island we took the half hour trip to the 'capital' island on a reed boat, rowed by Nestor and his second in charge for the cost of 10 soles pp. it was a surprisingly smooth journey which ended at, not surprisingly, another opportunity to buy things.

One thing we could not resist was getting a stamp on our passports. Quite unofficial and all. But it has sparked an interest in Alexis to visit a whole stack off micro nations for such a purpose.
Leaving the floating islands we headed off for a 3 hour tour (Gilligan's island anyone?) to reach the island of Amantani.   After we disembarked, we were paraded up the beach and lined up to be selected, much like a primary school lunch sports game, to be taken care of by a family for the next 20 hours or so.

We were placed under the commanding charge of a mummsy who we followed across planted and unplanted fields, over rock walls and down shaded lanes to arrive at their modest two storey home.
Upstairs was our appointed bedroom which would rival some budget accommodation in a city. We unloaded our bags and set ourselves up before coming down stairs to the outside kitchen slash dining room for a lunch of peeled tomato, potato and halumi (sp?) cheese.

The afternoons activity was, not surprisingly, walk based.
Mummsy had us follow her up from the house, again, crossing fields and climbing walls till we reached a stone inlaid footpath heading further up the hill, all the while knitting and carrying her 9 month old baby on her back. We couldn't really complain after that!
We had effectively crossed a border, this side if the island containing 4 or so separate communities, sometimes separated only by a path or field.
We met up with a few other people from our boat trip and continued up until we passed a school and sports oval where we were directed to wait.
Over the next half an hour, we were joined my many people and their family guides all who had seemingly brought an endless supply of craft work to do and gossip to spread.
Our guide arrived and began to tell us in Spanish and English what our walk this evening was going to entail and what time restrictions were placed on us (back here at 6:15 to be picked up by family, 7:10 for dinner at the family home, 8:15 to the central hall for fiesta and dancing)

We set off, up to the sadle of two peaks were we came across a somewhat decrepit building, strongly built but with nearly half it's windows broken. This was balanced out by the fact the walls were covered in an intricate series of carvings.
At this point we had an opportunity to choose between walking to the sun temple (every island seems to have one of these) or the moon temple. The main difference seemed to be purely the views when you reached the top.
We chose the sun temple because it was said to have a better view of the island in relation to the lake as a whole.
The path from the saddle to the peak was strewn with women and girls, their knitted crafts on display on blankets hoping to make a sale - anything from jumpers, hats, crochet toys, scarves, beer, chocolate and anything else they think a traveler could possibly want.

The temple of the sun it's self was 'closed' only being used once or twice a year.  It was considered too sacred for people to go traipsing all over it looking for photos. However you were encouraged to climb the wall and take pics over it.
The walk down (a little earlier than scheduled) was intermittently punctuated by cracks of thunder from an approaching storm. A storm that hit, just as we arrived at the meeting spot.
First fat drops of rain, which gave way to hail threatening to bean you on the head so we found shelter in a small shop where we ordered a black coffee (3 soles) each and sat to wait it out. (side note: whilst we were safely and warmly drinking our coffee the crazy kids across the road continued to play soccer amongst the bombarding ice).  Once we sat down we saw a face at the window which turned out to be the family 'Daddy'.
He had come to pick us up. So we downed our coffees and followed him out into the dark drizzle where the failing light showed a temporary winter wonderland with all the fields covered in a light white coat of mini M&M sized balls of ice.
True darkness fell as we climbed down the stone stairway at the back of their house and we went to our rooms for a little while before being called for a dinner of soup followed by rice with chips. They seem to have a very carb orientated diet on the island.

After a few games of cards, the rain was now back with somewhat of a vengeance and the sound of it on the rooftop was not comforting knowing we still had to set out to a hall just after 8 for dancing.
Mummsy came in with a bundle of cloth which turned out to be our traditional clothing for the evening. Alexis got off lightly with a simple poncho with a blue edge. Tina however had a white cotton top, red skirt, embroidered belt and black head scarf with luminescent embroidery at its base.
All dressed up, luckily we had somewhere to go. The rain had not let up and using mummsys torch and Alexis's we trekked up and away into the darkness. Nowhere near as 'up' as our last walk we knew we were not back tracking but going somewhere completely different.
After 10 mins or so we arrived at a community building which contained a bench seat around the edge, a bar set up on a card table and two people from our trip, one in a poncho the other in a raincoat, glumly looking sorry for themselves.
Turns out. After being there for half an hour after the 'start' time, we four were the only ones willing to come out in this weather. Four out of twenty one.

So mummsy showed us how to dance. We made a fool of ourselves. Tipped the band and went home.

Our room though spartan (and containing 1 spider, dealt with by Alexis. Terminally) was comfortable. The thick heavy blankets made sure that once you were in bed. You stayed there.
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