Saturday 28th June 2014
Puno to Lake Titicaca (homestay), Peru
This morning we had breakfast in the hotel and were picked up by bici-taxies for our transfer down to the port. Puno has quite a large port as it is the main tourist set off point for the Uros Islands as well as the other Peruvian Islands on Lake Titicaca. The lake is shared by Peru (60%) and Bolivia (40%). Our group then boarded our boat with about 8 other people and headed out to the Uros Islands (floating reed islands) about 30 minutes away. We spent about an hour or so there being shown the places where people live and looking at their craft. We were divided into groups of 4-6 to visit a local house. Lynn and Julie were dressed up in local clothes, as were some of the other groups. After this visit, we travelled by boat to Isla Amantani where we were staying with a local family in their house. This took about 2 and a half hours sailing. We were picked up at the wharf by Yolanda, the mother of the family with whom we were stayng and walked up a very steep track to their house. The others were all 'collected' by their host family member. The view of the lake and distant mountains in both Peru and Bolivia was stunning. Once we had settled in and after lunch (soup and rice with fried cheese), we were taken by Delia (15 year old daughter) uphill to a stadium - a grandstand built alongside a football field - and met with the other people from the boat, at 4:00pm and we then walked (aka struggled) up the very steep path to the top of the mountain, an extinct volcano that had a temple built right on the summit. By the time we reached the summit (4,190m) it was almost sunset so we admired the view for a while - it was an amazing place with 360 degree views across the lake to mountains and other islands. We then walked down the stony track and were met again by Delia, Yolanda's 15 year old daughter, who escorted us home in the gathering darkness. We had a bit of a rest in our room then had dinner, soup then rice, beans and vegetables with sauce. The house we were staying was quite solid but fairly basic with a kitchen with an open fire for cooking and dirt floors. We ate our meals in a small room obviously kept for their tourist guests - the rest of the family ate in their kitchen although Yolanda ate lunch with us (doing much soup slurping) and Eugenia (father) ate dinner with us. The family were very friendly and nice - they had 6 children although the eldest 3 had moved away to Lima leaving behind 2 daughters and a son (youngest). Yolanda had shown us her handicrafts (hats, toy llamas, gloves etc) at lunch time and we agreed to buy a hat each. After dinner, it was fiesta time and all the tourists from the boats had been invited to a dance at the local hall. So just before 8pm Delia came to our room (surprise...) with traditional clothes for both of us, heavy skirt in red, white embroidered blouse, striped belt and embroidered black shawl for Lynn and a very large poncho for David. We duly put these on - Lynn being dressed by Delia (luckily the clothes fitted over her warm clothes) - it was very funny - and then headed off with Delia and her 7 year old sister Yasmin, who were both dressed like Lynn, just up the road to the large hall where we waited outside until someone came with a key to open up. Everyone came with their families (all dressed in costumes so there was much laughter) and then the musicians arrived, one with a drum and a pan pipe, another with a pan pipe, the third with a Peruvian guitar and the fourth with an ordinary guitar - no electronics or amps here - they then played and everyone danced around together (tourists and host families) in large circles while the music played. it was quite exhausting as the altitude here is very challenging. At around 9:30pm, the dancing finished and we walked back with the girls to their house and then were in bed by around 10:15pm. A very pleasant day.
Sunday 29th June 2014
Lake Titicaca homestay (Amantani Island) to Puno, Peru
Up at 6:30am today for a (very) light breakfast - just two small crepes with jam and a cup of muna (small leafed plant growing at the edge of the path) tea. After breakfast, and sad farewells to our 'family', the father of the house Eugenio, walked with us down to the port where the boat was waiting to take us all to Isla Taquile about an hour away on the lake. When we arrived there, we walked up steep paths and around hills - beautiful views - to get to the town square where we all sat around, looked at the markets then went for an early lunch to a local restaurant. The guide told us about the history of this island as we sat waiting for our meal. We had a delicious trout lunch and afterwards walked back down 500+ steps to another port where the boat was waiting for us. We left about 12:45pm and arrived back in Puno at 3:15pm and were transported back to the hotel. It is cold here in Puno, especially at night where the temperature drops to 0c. We are pretty sick of being cold everywhere as there is almost no heating anywhere in hotels, restaurants etc. It's almost they don't believe that it's cold, but it is. Tonight we went out to dinner by ourselves to a cheap local restaurant for a bowl of delicious green (?) soup and chicken and chips. It is our last night in Peru. This is a beautiful country, full of contrasts, very friendly locals, beautiful scenery, ancient ruins, a proud heritage, overall a very interesting country.