Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world at 12, 500 feet. Half in Peru and half in Bolivia, it stretches out 118 miles by 50 miles. Just the lake on its own is beautiful in the blazing sunshine, with stunning mountain backdrops, although we were also going to be visiting three of the islands, Uros, Amantani and Taquile.
The Uros are of pre-Incan descent, and those still living in the traditional manner inhabit floating reed islands that they have to remake themselves every 10-15 years. Boats, huts and the ground you walk on are all made from native totora reeds. Incidentally, they also gave us reeds to eat, you peel them like a banana:
The Uros lead a simple life and seem to be a happy people. They rely heavily on fishing in Lake Titicaca for subsistence (mainly trout and kingfish). Above is a picture of what the contents of a reed island look like.
This was to be our home for the night, staying with local families across the island.
Once we landed the views back over Lake Titicaca were beautiful. Amantani was 3 hours by boat from Uros. There was almost a Mediterranean feel about the place, even though the people live very differently here, most without electricity or proper sanitation as we would know it.
This is my Peruvian mama. Her name is Hemenigilda, and here she is in her kitchen preparing a hearty lunch of quinoa soup, rice, potatoes and vegetables. Meat isn’t available here, animals are kept only for milk or their wool. She had two boys of her own and I became adopted into her family for the visit.
After lunch we played football with the locals and others staying on the island, before climbing up to one of the main viewpoints on the island to watch the sunset. After dinner, we were given ponchos and alpaca hats and mama frogmarched us down to the local community building for some traditional dancing to a local band. It kind of felt like I was 12 again at the school disco, but there were to be lots of laughs that night.
After all the exertions of the day (multiplied several times by the effects of altitude, I can personally vouch for that), we retired to bed. The next morning it was time to say goodbye to our adopted Peruvian families.
As is the case with both Amantani and Taquile, the small jetty at the bottom of the Island is the start of a steep climb up into the villages themselves. Taquile is famous for its textiles and handicrafts.
However, here it is the men that do the knitting, not the women! We were given a demonstration whilst having lunch. Also of real interest here was an insight into how the people live, including marriage and courtship rituals. Once married, for example, the bride and groom have to stay awake for 3 days straight or their marriage could have bad luck. They are also not allowed to laugh, joke or smile during this time.
There’s clearly a lot of shyness among the people. Boy likes girl. Boy traditionally throws small stone at girls back to let her know he likes her. Girl throws stone back if she likes him too.
For those more technologically minded, the process is adapted as follows: Boy likes girl. Boy reflects small mirror into the house of the girl to let her know he likes her. Girl reflects mirror back if she likes him too.