Written by Emily
Rach and I awoke in a fairly breathless state this morn after a night of tossing and turning and trying not to run out of oxygen. The usual multilple letres of cocoa tea were drunk down at breakfast, along with, unsurprisingly, many second helpings of bread, cereal and yoghurt. Once we had all eaten our fill, which took Rach and I a great deal longer than eveyone else, Ruben instructed us to cruise (or rather struggle breathlessly) up to our rooms and pack a night bag, as that night we would be staying with a hearty family on Amantani Island in the middle of Lake Titicaca. Casual.
On exiting the hotel that morning, I'm sure what we were all expecting to find was the trusty GAP bus, revving itself up to take us wherever Ruben's plans would lead. However, what we found, and I stupidly almost walked into from sheer bemusement, was a row of about 8 tuc tucs. This was the first of the 'Ruben surprises' that would plague us for the entire trip. The tuc tuc ride was an intense one, there were several times when my life flashed literally before my eyes as steaming lorries missed us by centimetres and we sped dangerously close to Clayton and Robert in front. Soon enough though, we pulled up at some sort of hearty market place to buy gifts of gratitude for our future Peruvian relatives.
Once we had sorted ourselves out with M&Ms, Oreos and Pringles, we cracked onto the gifts and arguing about whether or not to bother getting a colouring book and pencils for enfants that may or may not exist. Eventually, we and our bags of snacks and questionable gifts climbed aboard quite the sea-worthy vessel and were instantly introduced to Henry, a second guide employed to provide us with some mega lake info, and to give Ruben a break.
After an hour of intense information from Henry, we were all up for resting our brains and generally monging out on the roof of the boat enjoying the healthy views. This idyllic scene was abruptly interrupted by Ruben and another one of his frickin surprises. This time, he jumped on up to the boat roof with a hearty bottle of Peruvian rum and 2 letres of coke in his hands. He then grabbed an empty water bottle from Lisa, and began to mix up some sweet alcoholic beverage. Ruben's bar was well and truly open for business. It took a sweet while of passing the heady mixture around the group a la a year 10 party, and several re-mixes, each more potent than the last, before all the rum and coke had been consumed. This teamed with the sparodic rocking motion of the boat, and I was left wondering how it would look if we all boomed up on Amantani Island and instanty vomitted all over our host families...
Presently however, it was time for lunch. The boat pulled up and was moored at the foot of a ridiculously picturesque island called Tequille. We were all a little wobbly on our feet as we clambered out and onto dry land, a situation which I am sure that Ruben's bar had not helped. But luckily, there was a casual hike to the top of the island to be completed, so we could walk off our rum and coke sea sickness before lunch.
This walk was fairly intense, leaving us all the more concerned about our general fitness for the 4 day hike to Machu Picchu that was looming closer with every passing day. These negative thoughts were instantly banished at the sight of lunch however, in an amazing restaurant overlooking the bay. Rach and I were cheered up all the more on sitting down at the mega long table with the rest of the Peru crew to find a basket full of our fave fried dough made famous from our time in Gandoca. It was a blissful meal, interrupted only by frequent pausing whatever we were doing to pose for a photo for Trevor. After lunch and a swift desent down the other side of the island, we were presented with an unsavoury suggestion from, who else, Ruben: "Who wants to go swimming?"
We were all fully aware that he meant in the lake, but the majority of the group took this ridiculous question as a joke, and laughed it off. I however had grown wise to Ruben's 'jokey' ways, and so it was that Rach and I found ourselves standing on the edge of the boat, looking into the voluminous depths of the lake and internally cursing our damned adventurous spirits. Of course, the water was too cold to describe through the medium of words alone, and also too cold to stay in for any longer that the ten seconds I managed. We were climbing up the boat rudder and out of there before you could say 'Ruben surprise'.
Another short cruise on the boat of fun and we had made a noisy and disorientated arrival at Amantani Island, all primed and ready to meet our new adoptive fams. Rach and I and our copious collection of bags, hats, food, rubbish, bottles, pillows and general crap were introduced to our Peruvian dad- Fausto who instantly sweetly grabbed as much of our travelling paraphernalia as he could and led us up a rubbly path on the 20 minute walk to his house. Despite the fact that I was having a stunted, but vaguely progressive conversation with Fausto in Spanish, Rach decided to go one step further, and asked me if we should try and talk to him in the minimal amount if Kechua we had just learnt with the help of a lovely worksheet, typed up by Henry. However, after a brief discussion, it was clear that the only phrases we could remember were "it's delicious!" and "I love you a lot", neither of which seemed appropriate in the circumstances. After a moment's consideration, Rachel whipped out the Henry worksheet of Kechua terms and phrases and proceeded to read out every one to an overwhelmed Fausto.
After what seemed like my entire life of walking, we arrived at a little building and garden which Fausto's gesturing revealed to be his humble abode. Once in the garden, we were introduced to Magdelena, our Peru mum, Francesca and Sonia, our Peru sisters and Toto, our Peru hound. We were also provided with a woolly hat each, which we were told would help the family identify us within the crowds of tourists on the island. Fausto then led us up some steps of a small out- building which, it transpired, was all our own. The room was so cosy and beautifully decorated with Peruvian textiles and garments hanging on the walls, perfectly made-up beds