Isla Amantani, Peru
26.04.2011 - 28.04.2011 20 °C
Puno, a rambling port city on the Peruvian shores of Lake Titicaca, was merely a jumping off point for our exploration of more islands on the lake. We boarded an 8am boat bound for a tour of three islands in two days. Our first stop was one of the small islands of the Isla Uros, where communities of local people live on islands made from floating reeds. We and other touristicos were given an entertaining show about the history of the foundation of the islands and shown inside their houses made of reeds, and of course given the chance to buy their many handicrafts. Their 'show' included a demonstration of how the islands were constructed as well as daily life on the islands using models of miniature houses, boats and household items - which was hilarious as the real-life houses were not much bigger! The inhabitants of the floating islands supposedly now live in Puno and no longer on the islands themselves, which are reserved for giving tourists tours of the islands, making it a real Disneyland experience rather than a truly authentic one.
We then set sail for Isla Amantani, another island 3 and 1/2 hours away on a typically slow boat. Here we were greeted by a local woman who led us to her home where we were to spend the night with her family. The three of us - the two of us plus Julia, a girl from Belguim, were fed a traditional hearty almuerzo (lunch) of quinoa soup and a vegetable stew (the whole island is veggo). This was follwed by a mandatory siesta (tough life), and then the family's 10 year-old son took us on a tour of the island, showing us his school and the highest point of the island to see the Pachatata Inca ruins and watch the sunset.
That night we ate a dinner of more soup a veggie stew with rice. The family live without electricity, gas or main water supply, in a mud-brick house. They cook with a wood oven, and keep cuys (guinea pigs) for medicinal uses,which live uncontained in mud crevices on the floor of the kitchen, the same way cuys have been kept by Peruvians for centuries. The family grow plentiful and colourful crops of potatoes, corn, quinoa, herbs, beans, carrots and fruit such as passionfruit. After dinner, Mama dressed us in clothing traditional to the island. We looked quite comical in the colourful clothing, made for much smaller people than us! This home-stay cost us a mere $10 each, and was a truly unforgettable experience.
Leaving the island the next morning, our next destination was Isla Taquile, another small island inhabited by indigenous communities. We spent a few hours exploring this tranquil island, perusing their quality handicrafts and enjoying the high-altitude morning sunshine, before climbing back aboard the boat to return to Puno. Back in Puno, our mission became 'kill bedbugs,' as Trav had discovered bites all over his legs and arms. We doused our packs with Raid, took hot showers, and isolated and double-bagged all worn clothes and our sleeping bags, to deal with at our next destination, Arequipa, where we were travelling to later that night.