Friday, March 9, 2012
For my solo adventure, I took a 2-day boat tour out onto the lake. We stopped at 3 different islands (the lake has over 40 natural islands and 44 man-made islands).
Our first stop was at Uros Island. This is a man-made floating island, made out of reeds. All of the houses are also made of the same type of reeds. Walking on the island felt strange, like a floating bog or like walking on a waterbed. Some of the inhabitants graciously showed us how they make the islands out of reeds and let us peek inside their houses. Thanks to the revenue from tourism, many of the houses even have solar panels for electricty.
Our second stop was to Amantaní Island. A natural island with about 4,000 inhabitants, the people still mostly wear traditional clothing and speak Quechua. It was here that we met our host families for the night and joined them for lunch. After lunch, we hiked up to the two mountains on the island, called Pachatata (Father Earth) and Pachamama (Mother Earth). Hiking up to over 4,000 meters was tough, since my lungs were still not aclimated to the lack of oxygen, but the view of the sunset over the lake from the top was well worth the huffing and puffing. After dinner, our host families dressed us up in traditional clothing and we went to a fiesta with other families from the island! We danced long into the night, wearing our traditional outfits and grooving to the live band. The people were so welcoming, wanting to share with us all of their customs and traditionals. And our family was so generous: sharing conversation, offering us delicious meals and giving us the few blankets they had for the chilly night.
The next morning, we said goodbye to our host families and headed to our third and final stop: Taquile Island. This is another hilly natural island where we enjoyed another short hike to get an incredible view over the deep blue lake. We learned about the culture on the Taquile Island and enjoyed a delicious lunch of fresh trout--straight out of Lake Titicaca. After lunch, we relaxed in the sun and drank some "explosive" tea, which is a mix of fresh muña (an Andean plant similar to mint) and coca leaves (known for having many benefits, especially for helping with altitude sickness). Finally, we boarded the boat once again for the journey back to the mainland city of Puno.
Visiting Lake Titicaca has definitely been a highlight of my trip so far. Pictures cannot even begin to describe how beautiful the lake is and how vast the skies are. I also made some great friends on the tour and had the opportunity to experience some of the traditional island cultures up close.
Tonight I say goodbye to the lake and head to Lima for a few days.
City life, sea level, and warmer weather here I come!