Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lago Titicaca

The hotel where I stayed in Cuzco arranged everything for my trip to Lake Titicaca (which, for those of you still giggling, means "puma" in Quechua). This turned out to be super relaxing for me since I haven't really done anything else besides my trek in Nepal by tour.

To get from Cuzco to the lakeside town of Puno I opted to take the longer busride and stop at a few historical sites along the way. I met an Australian couple on the bus who spoke no Spanish but were really fun and we got along great and I helped them barter in Spanish. We saw a beautiful church, some Incan and pre-Incan ruins and I got to feed a baby alpaca by bottle. My goodness was it the cutest thing I ever saw! Yes, it was.

The next day I was picked up to go down to the port where we would travel by boat to three different islands on the lake. The first was Uros, the 42 man-made floating islands where natives live to this day. They depend a lot on tourism to support them so they embroider beautiful tapestries and made arts and crafts out of the reeds their islands, houses and boats are made of. They also eat the reeds, saying they tasted similar to asparagus. I got distracted and never got to taste them...oh well. They also had a small fish pond built into the island where they raised fish to eat and a tiny garden but they said the chiefs go to Puno to trade for more food.

They dive down to the shallow parts of the lake to cut huge blocks of the soil where the reeds are growing to create the bases of the islands. Turns out that soil floats when it's cut free. Then they pile layers and layers of reeds on top and anchor the islands with rocks so they don't float to Bolivia overnight. We got to see inside their houses, some of which had solar panels and electricity, which is really cool. Then we bought some souvenirs and got to ride in a reed boat to another island. I asked if I could row for a bit and they let me...until the wind blew us backwards then they asked to row again so we didn't crash into another island.

It took 3 hours to get to Amantani, the next island we visited and where we met our families who cooked for us and let us stay the night in their houses. I got asigned to a family with two other younger women who were also traveling by themselves who didn't really speak Spanish so I made most of the conversation and translated. Our room was really nice, very insulated with real beds and a nice bathroom with western style toilet outside the house, compared with most of the metal outhouses on the island it was great.

We had lunch of soup with potatoes and quinoa (keen-wa) which is a great grain I was delighted to find is a staple of not only Boulderites' diets but also the people of Titicaca. Then we took a nap and headed to the main square to meet the rest of the group to go hiking to the top of the island for sunset. It was about then my stomach started hurting and I ended up walking super slowly until I had to turn around, find my way back to the house and I just slept the rest of the day and night. Unfortunately that meant missing dressing up like the natives and learning their dances at the party they had for us, but I felt much better the next day so I guess it wasn't worth pushing myself.

We had pancakes for breakfast and then rode the wild waves of Titicaca to Taquile Island which was gorgeous in the sparkling blue waters and sunshine. Lots of terraces and people in bright clothes. Taquile is known for the handicrafts; the men knit and the women weave really delicate patterns so I had been saving a lot of money to buy gifts here. It was worth it. The men also display their marital status through the Santa-esque hats they wear. If they have a red and white hat it means they're single. Completely red means married. Pretty cool, no mistakes there!

We had lunch in the beautiful sunshine then strolled back to the boat down the other side of the mountian. I had made friends with an old French man on the boat who gave me some eucalyptus to smell when he saw me with my upset stomach. We chatted in Spanglish/French and took pictures of each other. He was very kind!

A long boat ride back in the sun concluded the trip. What an adventure! Then I packed my stuff up back at the hostel and met the girls from my homestay for dinner and shopping before a night bus back to Cuzco, caught a flight to Lima. Whirlwind!

Lynn and Paul, the Aussies from my bus. We passed them in the floating islands.
Chief and little girl eating totora
They have the coolest hats
Paddling a reed boat
Attempting to paddle. We went backwards instead...

On Taquile. Little kids love pictures and hope you pay them to jump into your pictures uninvited.

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