Our faces lit up at the line of tuk-tuks outside the hotel which would transport us to the port where our cultural encounter began. Spending a good ten minutes choosing presents for our host families we settled on rice and pasta - hoping they would decide to make this for our dinner (wishful thinking!) Henry (our uber-enthusiastic tour guide) gave us a run-down of the lake and explained how 60% of the lake belonged to Peru and the other 40% to Bolivia although the Bolivians would suggest otherwise! We learnt the deepest point of the lake was 274m and the lake sits 4000m above sea level.
Stopping at Taquile island for lunch, just outside of Puno bay, we immediately noticed that perhaps our fitness had not improved as much as we had thought after the inca trail. Huffing and puffing our way to reach the restaurant we were given a dance show and explanation about traditional clothing on the island by the locals. Being warned only to flirt with the men in red and white hats meaning they were single was our first glimpse into how different this culture is to our own.
Taking a second rocky boat ride to a peninsula of the mainland, we were greeted by the local community and a procession of song and dance before being whisked away by our individual families in evacuee-like fashion. Bistet, the father of our household seemed very friendly from the smiles he gave but realising he spoke absolutely nothing but spanish we both had slightly more worried faces making our way uphill to the house, conveniently located next to the school (our meeting place). Josef, his 10-year old son escorted us to our bedroom up a ladder and through a small hole or doorway where we were welcomed by a wide variety of different Jesus statues and crosses! We felt slightly bad that we seemed to have a larger room than the entire family shared downstairs - including the grandma.
Upon arrival Emma asked for the baño (toilet). Josef proceeded to walk us around a field with a large bull in and roaming chickens until we reached a three-walled mud hut covered by taurpaulin and pointed to the small crack in the ground. Laura and Emma continued their conversation still looking at each other as Laura held a flapping curtain to make it a little more discreet! Routinely washing her hands, Maria the mother gave Emma a strange glare as she was cleaning her hands in the water for cooking dinner!
After a football match with the locals and Laura happily taking pictures from the sidelines, everyone was amazed as she chatted in spanish to a little Peruvian boy named JuanCarlos. Having finally found her heart, she was upset to see he had one hand which was emphasised by Josef who took great pleasure in showing everyone and upsetting the shy little five-year-old. Emma disgusted at the condition of Josef´s own skin thought it would be a good idea to introduce him to Clarins, which he seemed to enjoy!
Dinner was just as eventful and consisted of Emma sitting in silence asking Laura every five seconds "what are they on about?". Laura, following her previous attempt at Spanish, felt it best just to stick to verbs she knew asking questions in broken spanish and smiling at the replies, to which she understood very little. Before the fiesta, Mama Maria helped us dress in typical Peruvian style, firmly strapping six skirts, a multicolour jacket, a waistbelt and a bowler hat along with sash to us. Unlike Peruvians, who are accustomed to the cold, we felt it necessary to also wear tracksuit bottoms and four jumpers underneath, making us appear more like sumo wrestlers!
A bonfire in the school grounds and dancing with the local children was a true insight into the culture which is very simple but enjoyable and we were amazed at the energy levels of the small children. Realising on the way home there were no taps or water, we resorted to brushing our teeth into our tea mugs and praying that we would not need to make the journey past the bull to the baño after-dark.
This morning we were woken by the family to an interesting breakfast of muña tea and poppadoms before leaving the island to visit Uros, a collection of floating islands made solely of reeds. Whilst being given a talk about the construction of the islands to which Emma contently listened, Laura was more drawn to the dead fish lying scattered around our feet. Each island houses at least six families and they are real works of art as everything including the tipee housing is made of reed, which seems a shame as every nine months they need replacing due to rotting. We took a short reed boat trip to the other islands, astonished that people can live their entire lives on such small pieces of land.
Sad to be returning to the mainland of Puno, we chilled this afternoon enjoying pancakes after the group chose to opt out of the phallic symbol tour. Tonight is our last night in Peru as tomorrow we are headed for La Paz, the capital of Bolivia. Here, four members of our tour will be leaving so we had our farewell dinner at a polleria (a Nandos style chicken restaurant).
Our experiences in Peru have eased us into travelling and given us a taster of a completely different culture to our own. Highlights were definately sandboarding, surviving the Inca trail and the llama perching on the doorstep of our hotel at Colca Canyon. Sad to be moving on but delighted Peruvian clothes will no longer feature in our wardrobes, we look forward to the next chapter of our journey.