Because Smiles are Universal
Amantani Travel Blog› entry 3 of 7 › view all entries
So one of the things I really wanted to do here in Peru was a homestay. I had no idea really what to expect from one. I only knew it sounded pretty sweet. So Chris and I signed up for yet another tour and hit Lake Titicaca to stay with a family on the island of Amantani. Getting booked on a tour is really the only way to get to do one of these homestays. It was at once one of the coolest and weirdest things I have ever done. Oh, and utterly exhausting.
We headed out from Puno, the gateway town to the Lake yesterday morning with about twenty other people from around the world.
We landed on the Uros islands, which are man-made islands that the Uros Indians weave together out of reeds and live on.
We visited two islands and Chris got the chance to hop into a reed boat for a ride from one to the next.
After our visit to the Uros, we headed to Amantani Island, where we were to meet our host family and be put up for the night. This amazing terraced island is home to the Amantani people who speak both Spanish and Quechuan.
When we met our host family, I have to admit I was nervous. I had no idea what to expect. We were introduced to “Mama Andria,” the lady of our household and without much ado, we were off and following here up the steep, steep, steep hillside. Did I mention that it was steep? We climbed to her community about 45 minutes up. It was hard. Incredibly hard. Hiking at this alititude•well, I can only liken it to climbing stadium stairs while trying to breathe through a straw. All of the other tourists were struggling as well, so I didnt feel so bad. We stopped quite a bit. I am sure Mama Andria was silently laughing at us.
When we got to her house I was so incredibly relieved.
A couple from Germany was also posted in this house with us in another room. They were equally as fascinating as our host family. They seem to belong to some sort of spiritual group, a cult in my opinion, and they are on an eternal quest for all things mystical.
Our family made us lunch, which was good and filling and then took us back down that infernal hill so that we could meet up with our guide and hike up to the very top of the island to see some ruins and watch a sunset. Most of the Peruvian people, in addition to being Catholic, also still honor the Pachamama, the Mother Earth. One of the temples was built in her honor. The other temple was in honor of the Pachatata, the male counterpart to Pachamama. There is a high belief in the duality of male and female here. Our guide took us up on this steep, steep, trek and near the top, paused to talk about the importance of these beliefs. He also talked about how several Peruvian cities, including Cusco were built on a very precise mathematical line by the Incas and that this island sat right on this line.
On the way down, we stopped and some of our group members tried picarones, which are fried donuts. They reminded me a lot of the fry bread that my Native American students are fond of at home.
Back at the homestead, we crawled in bed for a late siesta. Before long, our host family was knocking and chattering anxiously in Spanish and it only took a minute for Chris and I to gather that our compatriots were missing in action. We were not any help so the family sent out a search party.
They fed us a huge dinner of rice and potatoes and then, oh happy day, they dressed us up in their native dress in preparation for a dance in the town square. We looked absolutely ridiculous. I was amazed at how warm the skirts were. We headed down looking like utter clowns to meet up with all the other tourists, also dressed to the hilt, in time for a big town dance. The host families took turns whirling us around and making us dance in huge exhausting circles. If there was any doubt that I was going to have a hard time sleeping, this was going to take care of it. But boy howdy, did I look good.
After much dancing and carousing, we were marched up that infernal hill once again and put to bed. In the morning, a fantastic breakfast of pancakes, lots of pictures and goodbyes and we were marched back down to our boat.
The homestay was phenomenal. The family was so incredibly friendly and the island was stunning. I would absolutely recommend this experience to anyone who is visiting Peru. The Amantani people were so incredibly hospitable and I did learn a lot about them, regardless of the fact that I did not understand them.
Our day today consisted of another stop on the Island of Taquile and lunch and then a long boat ride back to Puno, where we are killing time waiting for our bus to Cusco, where we will chill for several days before heading out on our Inca Trail trek.
We are hitting Cusco just in time for their Winter Solstice festival, Inti Raymi, which is like the carnivale of Peru. I am sure in Cusco we will also be able to check out the nigh life. We did stop in one disco a couple of nights ago but we had to get up early so we didnt stay long. I have noticed that at this altitude, I catch a pretty decent buzz fairly quickly. This means in Cusco, I will be a pretty cheap date. In the meantime, one more late night bus to catch. I cant wait.
I will post pics as soon as the camera batteries are recharged.