Sunday, August 7, 2011

Reflecting on Lago Titicaca - The Peruvian side

Our love affair with Lago Titicaca (the sacred lake) began in Puno, Peru. When we arrived in Puno we decided straight away that it was a dump and thus decided to book an overnight adventure on the lake straight away.

Our first stop was the Uros floating islands. Whilst now more of a tourist attraction these islands have housed families for thousands of years since they took to the water fleeing attacks from both the Spanish and the Inkas. Floating islands are constructed entirely of reeds (and a little rope), we were given a brief demonstration on how they are constructed - so if the need ever presents itself, we´re set. Whilst very touristy, it was still pretty cool to see.

After the floating islands we sailed out to Amantani Island to meet our host families for the night. It´s times like this that I really which I could speak more Spanish. What we discovered over lunch via my dodgy Spanish was that the main girl watching over us was 20years old, she made handicrafts and sold them on the island, she was still studying Spanish at school (their native language was Ayamata), she rarely left the island and she isn´t interested in getting married. To keep the conversation going I told her i´d be interested in seeing the things she made - although as I rightly suspected the items were similar to what we had seen in Cusco. This was of course also a big mistake as I was then trapped in the kitchen being pressured to buy from her (´you don´t want to buy anything?´). Luckily I found some presents for people, and at least I know the money is going to the person who made the items.

Late that afternoon we walked to the top of a mountain to see the outside of a PachaTata temple that we were not allowed to enter and watch a very clouded sunset. After which we returned to our houses for dinner.

Over dinner 7 of us sat around the kitchen. Bianca and I at the table, the 3 men of the house on tiny stools near the stove, the mother in the pantry and the daughter serving everyone. The men chatted amongst themselves in Ayamata and the mother and daughter were occupied - Bianca and I were left to our own devices. We alternated between silence with staring and giggle fits about the situation - which continued to feel more awkward with every minute. Every 10 minutes or so everyone else would turn to us, as though they´d just remembered that we were there, laugh and go back to their devices. At one point I turned to Bianca, ¨I bet you they actually speak English and this is some weird kind of social experiment¨, turns out at least one of them did. Hahaha.

After dinner we were dressed in traditional costumes of the island and taken up to a hall for the evenings activities - which consisted of listening to local music and learning a strange style of dancing. The dancing consisted of holding hands in groups of 2 or 3, swinging your arms and moving your feet with no discernible rhythm. Every now and again the small groups would join together and continue this rhythmless dance as a big group. Random, but highly amusing.

The next day we said goodbye to our host families and were shipped off to Isla Taquile, a neighbouring island which we were told was much more touristy and busy. We were dropped off on one section of the island and proceeded to do a 1 hour walk, which was pleasant, finishing in the town square, which only contained tourists. We determined during this time that the only reason this island was touristy was because they brought tourists there, whether they wanted to come or not.

After 15minutes of ´free time´ we were walked to the place where we were to have lunch (not included in the price). The guide refused to let us know the deal about the lunch (even though several of us asked) until after he had given us a detailed explanation of different hats worn by men on the island - after a tiny breakfast (one small pancake) we were highly hungry and impatient. Finally he finished and told us that lunch was 20 soles for soup and an omellet! MUY CARO (very expensive)!!!! A similar meal in Cusco would be 8 soles maximum. 8 of us decided this was not on and trekked back to the main square in hope of cheaper food. Not only was this wish granted but the main square had been transformed. No longer full of tourists, but a group of school children practicing for a flag parade they had coming up. Full and entertained we reboarded the boat to Puno.

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