Woke up to a sunny morning which was great, we had to spent the best part of 4 hours on a boat today so i was slightly aprehensive, i took a travel calm and didnt eat breakfast just in case i was sick. I get so travel sick on boats, and tried to avoid them at all costs. We were all driven down to the port on 3 wheeled bicycles, driver at the back and 2 people in the cart at the front, it was so funny. 6 in total all racing eachother down the cobbled streets! The boat journey was fine, the water was clam and the sun was shining so sunbathed on the the top deck and chatted to people. I was slowly getting my way through the group trying to make conversation, some easier than others, but i found the tour guide hard work, he was more like a club rep.
The first thing he told me was that he here to guide us through the destinations but not to provide information and facts, he would help out were he could. I asked how deep the lake was and he said 60m i later found out it was 274m deep! He seemed to be more interseted in listening to his MP3 than anything else.
Lake Titicaca is the highest lake in the world (100km long and 60km wide) It is split over two countries, Bolivia 40% and peru 60%. The lake is not guarded very well so smuggling produce over the border here is easy. We had lunch on an island called Taquile, our meal was being prepared at someones house, this house was at the top of the hill, there was 500 steps up to get there. It wasnt even that far but the altitude was stopping me from breathing, and i struggled to walk 10 steps without stopping, everyone else was the same.
I thought of the Inca Trail, i would be walking at similar altitude but only for 25 miles, eek! Lunch was nice, there was no choice, the locals have been making the same quinoa soup for 15 years, it was lovely and i had fresh trout from the lake, delicious. We watched while the family dressed up in traditonal dress and danced for us. The islanders have moved with the times with Tvs and the internet but their traditions are still present, Women wear really bright skirts (up to 18 individual skirts) and floppy hats, each person has a different hat depending if their young, old, single or married, all the knitted is done by the men only and the women spin the cotton from sheep, llama and alpacha wool. After the 500 steps back to the boat (just as hard work) we sailed to the island that we would stay for the night.
I thought it would be cool to stay with locals but imagined it being a little touristy as other places have been. But i was wrong and my stay was the most heartwarming experience ever. I was paired with Andrea again and as the boat docked the familes came to greet us. My new mamma introduced herself as Teresa and my new papa was called Atuto, the greeted us with huge hugs and kisses and seemed genuinely happy to see us. We walked up the hill to their house, it was 3 small mud huts, one was the kitchen and eating place, another for the whole family to sleep and one hut for us two. When i walked to the garden i was greeted my their 7 children! They were all so cute, the oldest was Marcos 15, then Edgar 13, Jeanet 19, Gloria 8, Yeyson 6, Huber 5 and Maribel 6 months old.
It was a little arkward at first, their native Language is Aymara but they did speak Spanish, between me and Andrea our spanish wasnt great but enough to get be. The kids took us to see the animals, they had 2 chickens, 2 pigs, 6 cows and a really noisy donkey. Dinner was being served at 730pm so we had some time to kill, we relaxed in the room for a while until the kids one by one came in with games for us to play, they had marbles and spinning tops and we played with them for a while. Then huber stopped my ipod in my bag, they were so excited and took it in turns to listen to music. I had some movies on there and put the animation "magagascar2" on for them, they were amazed looking at the screen, they pointed out the animals and repeated my words for them " Lion" "Tiger" is was so cute.
The island has only been open to GAP adventures in the last years, before that their was no visiters to the island. I felt so lucky to be a part of something so new and exciting, the families were happy to have us and the kid thrilled with the latest gadgets we brought. It was fantastic but i did think what i would be like in 10 years, when the novelty of ipods and cameras has worn off all resturants and shops are built to cater for the tourists. Our new mama called us in for dinner, the hut was tiny and she had made all the food on a fire in the corner, all the kids sat round the table and the parents and aunt sat on the floor, we had a lovely meal of soup, rice and potatoes and Mate (tea) the kids ate so much and Huber even asked for seconds.
He was the cheekiest, always getting into mischief and being told off my his elder siblings, after his food he fell asleep and the kids laughed as he was awoke by a huge raindrop that had landed on his face from the leaking ceiling. Me and Andrea then got dressed for the party being held for us all the village hall. Mama and the girls helped us into our 8 skirts, each tied individually, then a jacket and belt and finally a sach and pompoms on our arms. Pompoms are a sign of power and men have handbags with lots of pompoms on them, so funny. I looked so huge with all the skirts on and the young girls came in to laugh, the had the same clothes on but looked so cute. We met up with the rest of the group and we all danced the traditional peruvian dance, all the gils swirling their skirts to the beat of the drum, Edgar was loving taking pictures on my camera and had a crowd of kids around him all trying to see the pictures.
It was so much fun seeing everyone together, grandparents, parents and children, really nice. I was really tired and settled into bed early on my bed made of hay.
Day Two. My nights sleep was so good, i had lots of blankets and was really warm, but by 5am the noisy donkey was in full swing. At 7am i came out of the hut, the kids had already done their morning chores, whether it be feeding the animals, washing dishes etc. Papa came in with our breakfast, we had fresh eggs and flat bread made from quinoa flour, The kids all came in and practiced their English with us, its not taught in school so it just words they have picked up from tourists, they were all so clever for their ages but probably wouldnt leave this island. they all written down their names and papa gave us their address, i promised to sent some of the photos i had taken of the children.
the whole family walked us the the boat and it was really sad to say goodbye. The whole experience was amazing and i never expected to do anything like this. I will never forget my new family, so warm, friendly and generous.
Centries ago Uros people left the spanish rule on the mainland of Puno and made their own floating islands on Lake Titicaca. The islands were made from a reed called Totora which grow in the shallow parts. The roots were bound together and loose reeds put on top, ancors are thrown to the bottom and the islands simply float on the water and the top reeds changed every 2 weeks or so. The islands are constantly moving with the waves caused by passing boats, it was strange walking on the surface. Everything is made from the totora reed, houses, tables, handicrafts and boats, it is even eaten and provides good medicines for the families.
The people have moved with modern times and some houses had solor panels so tvs and radios could be used. I really didnt enjoy this visit, it was fasinating to see how they live, but the people have stopped fishing in the lake and now soley rely on tourism. Boats after boats full of tourists were docked up at the sides of the islands. I felt obligated to buy something from them, and the whole thing felt staged, maybe this was because i had just had a wonderful time at the Island homestay im not sure but i didnt enjoy it and was happy to leave.