Day 37 8/11/09
Another early day for our tour of Lake Titicaca. We headed down to the lake on 'Tuk Tuks' though in my opinion they were rickshaws as they were not powered but who knows. As we were to spend the night at a home stay our first stop was the local market. Juber our local guide for the lake advised us that in addition to standard essentials such as wheat, sugar and rice we take with us fruit as well as it was difficult to get on the peninsula in large quantities.
Our first stop was an island in the Peruvian side of the lake called Taquile. On reaching the island we had a half hour walk to the top in the centre. Here we were able to explore and rest. The altitude had taken it out of us once again during the walk uphill. Lunch was a simple combination of soup followed by trout. It was followed by an explanation of the islands inhabitants. The various hats of the men each have a symbolic significance. There is an especially colourful one for the elected chiefs, a red one for the married men, a half white half red for the single men tiled right if in a relationship, left if not and back if too busy for such things. The women wear black shawls, small pompoms is single, large ones if married.
From Taquile we headed to the Peninsula for our home stay. When we arrived we headed to the school playground where the lads had a football match before meeting the papas and mamas for the night. It was the most exhausting game I have ever played. The altitude meant that at each pause in play we were all reduced to sitting or crouching down struggling to get our breath back. After the football we headed up the hill (exhausting) to our home for the night. The house was great we had an area clearly designated for such occasions. The remanded of the home focused around a small courtyard. On one side was the kitchen and main dwelling at the back a new two story building was half constructed. Our room finished this off. The family owned a number of animals dotted around the surrounding hillside.
Before dinner we headed to the very top to look out on the whole peninsula. Puno was visible to us away in the distance. Dinner was very basic, but well flavoured consisting of soup, rice and vegetable stew.
After dinner we played cards with the children. The couple had eight children in total however, three had already grown up and left home. That evening we were dressed in the native costume which entailed a poncho, hat, brightly coloured bag and for our wrists a chain of woolen pompoms. Our party was held back at the local school so our papa led the way through the dark. The stars were brilliant as there was no light pollution on the island. Chris and I arrived to the party to meet the rest of the group who were similarly dressed. The girls had large vivid pink bell dresses complete with white sashes and a second colourful one around their waists. So we danced some native dances before heading back to our house. Our papa had been one of the musicians in fact most of the evening.
Day 38 9/11/09
The next day we had breakfast with our family. After saying goodbye to our families we headed back on the boat and off to the floating islands.
The floating islands were established by the islanders as a refuge against treats from the mainland. They existed relatively unnoticed by Incas, Spaniards and Peruvians up until the advent of tourism. Some islands remain secluded however, others use the benefits of tourism to make improvements to their islands such as solar panels which replacing fire reduce the likelihood of them occurring on the islands. Whilst on the island we received a demonstration as to how the islands are made, how they trade and the boats they use to row to the mainland on. We were even able to take a brief trip aboard one of these boards and I was able to try out a bit of rowing. Whilst on the island we were able to buy native alpaca weavings I bought one denoting man's relationship to Pacha Mama.
When we returned I went on a tour of Puno. My first story was to the highest of Puno's monuments a vast condor on the top of its tallest hill. It took me an age to climb the vast staircase to 4,017m. The view was spectacular! I was able to see the entirety of Puno stretched out before me. This included the Lake and I could even make out the passages used to navigate through the floating islands. I even walked up the tower to the viewing deck under the condor itself. It was meant to cost 2 soles but as I had no money, the bloke let me in anyway.
After heading back down I followed Roland's directions to a barber. Despite the fact that I could not understand her Spanish and she understandable spoke no English I didn't end up bald.
Back to La Carsona for dinner, Alpaca Stroganoff is awesome and Jim was the first to try Guinea Pig.