Sunday, 25 April 2010

Lake Titicaca

I had the most amazing weekend in Lake Titicaca, with Haya, my housemate, and Lucy, another i-to-i volunteer. The 6 hour bus ride Thursday night turned into 8 hours and we got to the hotel in Puno at 6.30am and had to be ready for 7am to be picked up. We managed a quick hot shower and breakfast and then were on our way again.

The view of Lake Titicaca was spectacular just from the shore at Puno so I knew the day was going to be fantastic. We visited the Uros Islands first. They are very small, floating islands, made from totora reeds, about 2m deep, with lots of reeds strewn on the top, and bound together with rope. As I stepped off our boat, I wondered if I was going to fall through as it was very soft underfoot. The women wear really brightly coloured clothing, massive wide skirts and little jackets. All three of us dressed up in these clothes which looked hilarious with our hiking boots. Mainly women and young children live on the islands as the men and older children go to Puno to work or school. We were shown inside their houses, also made of reeds, which of course were very basic, but the reed bed looked quite comfty. The Uros people trade goods and sell the clothes they make to tourists. The Islands start to rot after 20-25 years and so they have to build new ones. It was an amazing experience to see how the Uros people live and I couldn´t begin to imagine living on such a small island permanently, it would drive me crazy. We had a ride on one of their boats to the next island, which was really relaxing, Haya had a turn at rowing and we nearly went round in circles.

After the Uros Islands, it was a 3 hour boat ride to Amantani Island, here we were collected by our homestay hosts. Ours was the tiniest lady I've ever seen, about 3ft tall. We had a shared room between the 3 of us, which was clean but had no electricity. Solar power lit the bulb in our room. We had to go outside to the next building for the toilet which had no running water, thank god for hand santiser.... and we had to flush the toilet with a bucket of water, so that was fun. We had a meal of soup (of course), followed by 3 types of potato, cucumber, tomato and fried cheese. We met the rest of our group in the Plaza and took a very steep hike up the side of a very steep hill to a ruin called Pachamama (mother earth), where we walked round 3 times for luck, once for wisdom, once for job , and once for love. Hope it works! I struggled with the climb as felt the effects of the higher altitude but was glad I made it to the top. The view was spectacular, although it had started to get dark. There are no roads or vehicles on the island,it's very peaceful. There was no street lighting at all, so luckily I had remembered my torch to get back home. We had another meal cooked by our homestay host of soup, and then rice, and vegetables mixed with egg, which was delicious.

The following morning, we caught the boat to the next island, about an hour and a half away called Isla Taquille. They speak Quechua here and have a strong sense of identity. The men knit and the women work the land. Their hats look like Wee willy winky hats and the colour signifies if the men are married or single , and the size of the womens pom poms indicate their status. We climbed a steep path to the main plaza which had a fantastic view of the lake. We had a lunch of soup and then trout, it was lovely. 500 steps down then took us back to the boat.

It took 2 and a half hours to get back to Puno and we then had some free time before catching the night bus back to Cusco. Puno is small but nice, with a main plaza and lots of restaurants and cafes. A typical Peruvian town. What a great weekend!

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