Lake Titicaca, Peru

21 Sep

Reed Boat on Uros Island

Now that I have some free time, here is a glimpse into our weekend trip to Lake Titicaca

After the whole ordeal last Friday, it was nice to get away for a bit. A bunch of the girls from our volunteer house booked a weekend trip to the world’s highest lake in the world, Lake Titicaca, which divides Bolivia and Peru.

At 9:30pm, 8 of us boarded a night bus to Puno, Peru, the starting point of our adventure. We arrived in Puno at 4am and took a taxi to our hotel for a quick nap and hot shower. After breakfast, our guide picked us up and drove us to the dock where we met our captain and island guide. Our first stop was the Uros islands.

The Uros islands are famous for their construction. They are completely artificial, man-made from reed, a natural fibre. The Uru people made these islands as a security precaution against rivals. The Uru even developed an anchor system so that the islands wouldn’t float all the way to Bolivia.

The Uru people continue to live on the reed islands, but some of them have the luxury of solar panels. Walking on the islands is a strange feeling. It’s very bouncy and squishy. You could easily imagine your foot going right through and hitting the water. We had the opportunity to take a short ride on one of the reed boats. Today, they build the boats with recycled plastic bottles to help them stay afloat – – way to go recycling!

Uros girl in traditional dress

After Uros, it was off to the next island Amantani. On Amantani, I had the pleasure of spending the night with a local family. The homes on the island are very basic. They had some low lights, but no running water or heating. The kitchens had only a small fire to cook food. We separated into groups of three, but luckily two of the women hosting us were sisters and lived next to each other – so the 6 of us were able to eat meals together and have a few good laughs about the menu options. The Amantani people are strictly vegetarians. Their dishes mostly compromise of quinoa and potatoes. For dinner, we had quinoa soup (amazing!!) and 5 different kinds of potatoes. Sort of weird. Peru has 5000 kinds of potatoes, a crop which the Amantani people clearly take advantage of.

After lunch, we hiked up to a sacred mountain and watched the sunset over the massive lake. Lake Titicaca resembles more of an ocean than anything. It’s so vast. Once the sun goes down, it’s freezing – so we bundled up and hiked back down. Once we reached the bottom, we treated ourselves to hot chocolate and met our families for dinner. Dinner was much better – soup, rice, pasta. I mean, you can’t get much starchier than that, but it was much tastier than dry potatoes. After dinner, the sisters dressed us up in traditional clothing and took us to the town hall for a traditional song and dance celebration. It was pretty funny seeing everybody decked out in colourful skirts and blouses. The dancing was pretty intense – especially when you are struggling with the altitude. After three dances, I was done for the night. We walked back to our home in the pitch black and got ready for bed. Sleeping under 6 wool blankets can get pretty heavy, but we were thankful for the warmth. The next morning, we had breakfast and said goodbye to our families… off to our last island!

Taquile is a 1 hour boat ride from Amantani. The goal for the day: hike from one side of the island to the other. Other than the scenic views, there is only one thing that makes Taquille famous… its textiles. In fact, it’s been named a UNESCO world heritage site because of its unique weaving techniques. Here is just one example: apparently, the women cut their hair off and weave a belt for their soon-to-be husbands as a substitute for buying a wedding band.

Once we made it to the other side of the island, we had lunch overlooking the lake. Trout for those who enjoy fish and omlettes for people like me! Then it was back on the boat for the 3 hour ride to Puno.

Dressed up on Amantani

Puno isn’t the most beautiful city, actually it is pretty ugly. We had about 5 hours to spare before our bus back to Cusco, so we did what most bored people do… eat, shop, eat. We had ice cream in the plaza, browsed elderly women’s handicrafts and settled in a restaurant for a few hours. I bought another alpaca toque, some socks and a leather bracelet. It was so cheap!

The finale of the story is that I tried alpaca at the restaurant! Not by choice though. I actually ordered beef, but they brought me alpaca instead. It was actually pretty good. Some of the other girls ordered it on purpose and we agreed that it has the texture and colour of pork, but the taste of beef. Not bad! I prefer llama to alpaca though. Llama has the consistency and look of steak.

Now, I am back in Cusco and living in a hostel again. I really miss the volunteer house and everybody in it! Tomorrow is our last day in Cusco and Thursday we start the Inca Trail. I am so nervous! It is going to be rough, but definitely well worth it.

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One Response to “Lake Titicaca, Peru”

  1. Joe September 22, 2010 at 3:57 AM #

    I saw those reed islands and boats on a documentary ,I couldn't believe it,it must be quite labor intensive to build.To actually be walking on the reed islands and boats must have been awesome.Stay safe.

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