7 February 2014
After a night of maybe two or three hours sleep, we were up at 6am to get ready for our day on Lake Titicaca. A place I have wanted to go since I was probably mid teens. I think I was watching a doco on the Galapagos Islands and Peru and Lake Titicaca and just knew I had to go!
There was no sign of the sleet/ice storm and torrential rain from the night before and the weather was gorgeous. Cool but clear skies and big fluffy clouds in the sky. Our local guide told us that we would be making our way to the lake in limousines. I grossly misunderstood what this meant. This, in Puno, is a two person seat with a cute little roof and a guy riding the bike around. It took ten or fifteen minutes and was actually pretty fun. The manual labour of the guy riding the bike seemed to fair better than the motorized tricolo we had taken in Chivay two days earlier!
We made it to the lake and bought toys for the children who live on Uros floating islands. Monica had told us that toys and small gifts were appreciated but to avoid giving lollies and chocolate because they aren’t very practical and not healthy. Jem and I bought two packets of coloring pencil, a recorder (the international most hated instrument for parents but loved by children) and some colorful balls. We jumped on our boat for our half our boat ride to the floating islands.
The floating islands are an maxing. There isn’t really anything earthing them and the are basically earth which is bound together and then up to 25 layers of reeds are piled on top. Also the houses they live in need to be set upon even more reeds because it is so damp, most of the families living there develop rheumatism. They also need to be careful in the dry season (winter) because if they are cooking and ash or a flame catches the island, the whole thing can burn right up. It took us all a few minutes to get our sea legs. I think it took a few of is girls 0.2seconds to spot one of the cutest children we had ever seen and were instantly mesmerized. Big brown eyes, shiny black hair in little pigtails and the pinkest cheeks you ever saw. She was divine.
We took our places on the reed bundles around our local guide and the Island President. We were welcomed to the island and we were given an explanation of how the houses float and how they are built and then we were given a welcome song by both the men and the women. It was our turn to sing and I’m ashamed to say the only thing we could come up with was “if you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands”. Also, I only remembered the first verse. Smooth moves group! Us girls were then dressed up in the local gear and hats (very fetching, let me tell you!) and took our group photos and yes, there were cuddles with that little girl. My heart was a big soppy mess she was so cute. As the families are sharing an island and there doesn’t appear to be a lot of privacy, we were curious about adult alone time. We were told that there is a reed boat which can be used by couples seeking some intimacy in private. The President told us that the saying is that two people leave on the boat and three people come back :). Cute baby story.
Soon enough it was time to say goodbye and make it to our next island, where we could get out passports stamped for 1 sole.
We passed out more of our gifts to the five children on that island and this one little girl looked like she was going to fall over carrying her new dolls house toys and coloring pencils and coloring books but there was this look of determination in her face, leave no gift behind! One of the ladies also had a baby strapped to her back and it was like maternal instinct took over for half of us and we just went baby stupid. DISCLOSURE: Jemma would be incredibly disappointed if I failed to mention that she was NOT one of us.
We piled back onto our boat and started our two hour boat journey across Lake Titicaca to Taquile Island. Two hours is a long time on a slow boat but thanks to those two hours each way, I’ve managed to update these blog entires! Win! As we approached the island, our local guide pointed out the mountains of Bolivia across the lake, it was a clear day so they were easier to see. It puts things into perspective! Especially coming from a country as big as Australia!
We pulled into the island and it was immediately breathtaking. Just simply gorgeous, mostly untouched by modern machine or polluted by modern society. Our local guide explained that we had a half hour walk UP to our stop. Now, for us who are not dealing with the altitude, that was a big ask. Most of the group powered ahead but there were a few of us huffing and puffing and moving slower than snails. The higher we got, the more beautiful it became. We were me half way by two adorable little girls who immediately started scoping out our tell-tale red plastic bags from the mainland shop (with toys and gifts!). They were also selling wrist bands and Jem and I bought each other adorable friendship bracelets (they should stay on longer than our Cleveland Rock n Roll Hall of Fame entry wrist bands). We continued up the hill and eventually made it to flat ground. Once we caught our breath and turned around, we lost it all over again by the view. It was just gorgeous. We took our seats and received a warm welcome demonstration song and dance and pipe playing. We had many curious faces scoping us out. Many, many friendly faces and smiling children and adults. Our local guide helped to translate the welcome message from our hosts. We learnt all about the different hats the men wear (married, single, girlfriend, still a child). We learnt all about how the men knit the hats and women weave and the men knit with FIVE knitting needles. It’s pretty impressive! We learnt all about the culture of finding a partner and the gorgeous way a shy man might let the girl he is interested in know how he feels. It involves some secret squirrel following of the lady until one day he has enough privacy to pick a small pebble up and throw it at her gently (yes we had to clarify this). If the girl throws the pebble back then you have yourself a date! If not, then you have been rejected and you don’t try again (a mans pride is universal). Also, the people of the island are entitled to be boyfriend/girlfriend or fiancé and see how it goes for a few years before they get married. Marriage is final. There is no divorce so you better be confident in your choice.
We were then pulled up one by one for a festive dance and it was so much fun, even though I was the last girl on the log. Like the last girl at the dance. Ah well. The older lady who did come and rescue my abandoned, not-dancing self was lots of fun and we had a suburb time dancing away. Although at altitude I will say it went for far too long haha. The little children were so gorgeous as they shyly approached us and selected who they would like to dance with. It may have been the cutest thing I’ve ever been a part of.
Next thing! Lunch! Delicious bread and coca/mint tea and salsa with quinoa soup and fresh grilled fish and omelette. It was amazing. After our meal our guide brought the two ladies who had prepared for us and as they were speaking (in manchwa) they both got really shy and it was pretty cute. Very sweet.
We spent the last forty minutes or so playing soccer (by we I mean not me), with Locals vs. Gringos as our local guide said. It was a pretty full on game. The three kiwis were playing for blood haha. It was a fair match though. Grown adults verse mostly small children. Lots of fun. Soon it was time to say goodbye and I just was not ready. It was such a happy, relaxed and beautiful place. Land as nature intended it to be. No concrete jungle. No traffic jams or honking. No pollution. We had group photos and I took my hat off for the photo and a few of the children all pointed to my hair (red probably isn’t seen much here!) and talking among themselves and one of the little girls ran over and held my hands and stood in front of me for the photo. The whole time staring up at me smiling or holding my hands on her cheat and just playing with my thumbs. It was very cute and it was followed by a very warm hug and a big smile. She was gorgeous. They all were.
We had cuddles and some of the smaller ones collapsed into your arms and started showing you all their new toys. I think there were a few of us on either side who were ready to say goodbye! We said the traditional goodbye and thank you and then we headed off for our walk back along the coastline of the island. The other side of the island reminded me a lot of the Whitsundays, which is my favourite place on earth back home. A little bit of home sickness but more just an appreciation of what a truly amazingly wonderful day we had experienced. I will definitely say that since our arrival into Chivay in the Colca Canyon and away from the cities, I have really started to experience the cultural growth I was looking for. Partying and all the rest is one thing as is seeing all the tourist hot spots when you’re abroad but there is something so special about what we saw and did today and I have a very happy heart.
We made our way back to Puno on another two and a half hour boat ride and headed back to the hotel. Our Puno stay was over in the morning as we were heading to Cusco. A few of us he a delicious dinner with Monica at one of her cute little locally known restaurants.
Early bed not with a crazed brass band going on until 5am. The festival was gorgeous though and the entire town lit up I think our hotel room was just in the thick of it haha.
It was going to be near impossible to beat this day in terms of rewarding and happy traveling. I loved it. Hands down, the best day traveling I have ever experienced. 🙂