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6.18.10: Lake Titicaca, Peru

The Islands of Lake Titicaca (The Peruvian Side)

This morning I woke up, packed my stuff and set out for the islands of Lake Titicaca.
Titicaca for all you dirty minds out there means Gray Puma... Titi = Puma and Caca = Gray.
Our first stop was a small floating reed island, part of the Uros islands.
This particular island had five families living on it with a total of 23 people.
Our guide explained how they make the floating islands, starting first, with compact reed roots. They use the reeds for most everything including their islands, houses and boats.
They use the dry, dead reeds as kindling for cooking and they also will peel away the first layer of the fresh reeds and eat them like a banana. It´s healthy and it keeps their teeth clean. They passed around some reeds for us all to try... yummy.
They taste like lettuce and cucumber.. so in other words they taste like nothing.
They showed us their houses and they type of fish that they catch and Max played soccer with some of the young boys.

Then was our 2.5 hour boat ride to the next island.
After a nice hour and a half nap and a boat ride that seemed to teleport, we were at our next Lake Titicaca island, Amantani Island. There, the group was divided up into 2´s, 3´s and 4´s to stay with a host family. The woman who greeted us was Norma.
We were going to be staying with her, her husband, and their two young girls. When we got to their home, a short parade up from the lake, she showed us to our sleeping quarters. The door to our room was about waist high and the ceilings were no higher than 5´5.
It was a pretty good sized room with three beds and a desk that I exploited for my journal entries. The view from the room was amazing, with a perfect view of the vast Titicaca.

We explored a little before lunch and took some pics of the area. Around 2:30 Norma came and got us for lunch.
The native language of the Island is Quechua, however, a lot of people know some Spanish too, so our method of communication was chopped-up Spanish and smiles. For lunch we ate at a table set in their kitchen where we watched Norma finish preparing the meal as we devoured our first course of Quinoa soup.
Traditionally, the host family does not dine with their guests, so we knew not to wait. We were famished from only having rolls and jam at 7am and the soup hit the spot! The next course was potatoes, veggies, and a corn\egg pancake-looking creation (everything fresh from their land). It was probably the freshest, healthiest meals I have ever had.
After the nourishment we had fresh mint tea, which is traditional at most Peruvian meals and is also said to help combat altitude sickness. Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world and is even higher than Cusco.

After the grub I bonded with Norma´s 4 year old daughter.
We took pictures and I showed her how to use my camera. She was very intrigued at seeing her image instantly on the screen and looked and pointed at the screen like it was some sort of aberrant phenomenon while giggling relentlessly.

We came back to the room for a little reading and writing time, until our hosts knocked at our Alice In Wonderland sized door with their arms full of handmade goods for sale. She had alpaca scarves, beanies, socks, and more. When she told me that the scarves were 25 soles, more than twice the price than in Cusco, I decided to pass, but still felt obligated to buy something so we invested in a nice pair of knit socks that, I´m certain, will come in handy some day during the trip.

Then it was time for us to go meet us with the rest of our group.
We trekked up the mountain for about 45 minutes, until we reached the tip top.
Wonderful 360º views of Peru with the faint, flurry-filled Bolivian mountains in the distance underneath the brilliant salmon sun-setting sky. It was stunning.
At the top of the mountain sat a temple that we were forbidden to enter. No locals or tourists, only holy elders were permitted.
Our guide did tell us that it is an aged belief that if you make a wish and walk, silently, around the temple 3 times, while thinking about your wish, it will come true. The first lap you are supposed to reflect on the past, the 2nd lap you focus of the present, and the 3rd and final lap you will the future. I decided to partake in this tradition and succumb to superstition... I need all the help I can get.

By this time it was getting dark, so we put on our headlamps and descended down the mountain until we met up with our hosts again for dinner.

Dinner was a cream of corn type soup, all made fresh, and a plate of white rice, pasta, and potatoes. Now correct me if I´m wrong but, I´m pretty sure that only covers one food group- starch. But nevertheless, I was hollow and the food was good. After dinner we went back to the room for a little bit. By now it was completely dark and, as staying on an island with no electricity goes, we were operating by candlelight. It was a blast from the past, for sure. It was actually a trip to think about. Just a few weeks ago I was living in Dallas, editing a television reality show, and now, somehow, I´ve found myself staying on a primitive island in the middle of a Peruvian lake with people who, not only, don´t speak English, but barely speak Spanish. I had to laugh... Livin´the dream huh? This is a far leap from the typical spa resort, suntanning vacations of most ¨normal¨people my age.

After dinner the family came and summoned us for a traditional dance celebration they have on the island. When she knocked on our doll house, I opened the door to see her standing there holding a pile of clothes. She pointed to the clothes and pointed at us. Apparently it was time to play dress up. Max got off easy with a poncho and beanie,
but they had something even more ¨special¨planned for me. The first layer (of many) was a white embroidered Peruvian style shirt. The next layer was a, too bright for human eyes, yellow under skirt. Yes, apparently one skirt is not enough. She tied it so tight I lost a dress size. Next layer was another skirt, this one purple. Once again, another dress size lost. Then to, literally, tie it all together she strangled my stomach with a rainbow striped belt that was just what I was hoping for. But for the cherry on top, a black headdress with multicolored embroidery that the ends.
I´ve never been so sexy.
We headed up to the dance-a-thon where I got serenaded by my very own Peruvian flute band and we boogied the night away with the natives.
If it wasn´t for my tan less, blinding-white skin, I don´t think you´d be able to tell the difference.
We went back to the casa, where it took me about 20 minutes to get me out of my Peruvian attire. 5 minutes for me to try to pry the knots apart, 5 minutes for max to try, 5 minutes for me to loosen it with a pen (which broke and exploded in my hand) and 5 minutes to break out the pliers and heave me free from my vibrant-patterned prison. Thank God too, because about ten minutes into the undressing endeavor, I was prepared for this dress code to be my new globe-trotting uniform.

After that fiasco it was time for a treat. I had bought a sublime bar earlier in the day (Peruvians version of Hershey's chocolate with almonds) which was just the reward I needed, read by candlelight for a while and snoozed....

Quote of the Day: If there is no struggle, there is no progress.¨

Posted by emichele 14:24 Archived in Peru

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