What a week! Completely stunned by the beauty of Isla del Sol, we made our way up north back to Peru and the other half of the biggest high altitude lake – Titicaca.
Our base camp was again Puno where we stayed at the hostel Ollanta Inn. The owner is a really kind man that knows a lot about the history of the country and he also gave us some recommendations about what to do with the remainder of our time in Peru.
For Titicaca we definitely wanted to see the populated islands not too far away from the shore. So one brisk morning we joined a tour that took us out to the first stop: The Floating Islands of Uros. People have been living on this group of islands for hundreds of years to protect themselves from other peoples, some locals but also for example the Incas. Their islands are built solely on reeds, those that grow all around them. They also make their houses and beds out of reeds and need to renew the floor of the island every month, as it rots away at the bottom. They aliment themselves with fish and ducks and even the inside of the reeds, but nowadays of course they are connected with the mainland and are able to get basic food by boat. The better connection to Puno also enables many young people to attend high school or even university. Being on one of these islands was very surreal. People had their little reed huts with only a basic reed bed and a little stove in it. And of course a picture of Jesus. Power is being provided by solar panels, but thinking about the freezing temperatures that made us tremble every night I could not see how people were able to survive that. Seeing those four families live that way changed my perception of what you actually need in your life. The inhabitants were really friendly, spoke almost no Spanish only Aymara but of course they also became victims of the mass tourism that had been established in the last decades. They try to sell you artesian products or a ride with their self-made reed boat. And then weirdly sing you the song “Row the Boat” in English. Controversial! Though a great eye-opening experience, I wouldn’t do it twice. I am quite sure that not a lot of the money of the tour actually goes to the inhabitants of the Islas de Uros and it broke my heart that the little kids always came up to me with some kind of bracelet or earrings or dragged me to the blanket where they had all their products spread out. It was like they were drilled to do that. It was good to see the life of the Uros once but contributing to the commercialization of the islands made me feel remorse.
Only a few kilometers further we arrived at the island of Amantaní, with a completely different language – Quechua – and culture. There we stayed with a local family that shared their house and meals with us for the day. The family consisted of a mother and father with their daughter who already had a little son. During meals we talked to the daughter and it was especially interesting to hear about life on the island as a young person. Once a week there comes a big shipping of food on the island, so fresh products are rare, except the ones that are grown on the islands itself. That’s why the family had a big yard where they cultivated different crops like quinoa or corn. The island of Amantaní had two temples up on the two highest hills – the Pachamama and the Pachatata that represent the Mother Earth and the Father Sky. Before sunset we made our way up there to also catch a sight of the rising moon and all the other islands and peninsulas around.
The next day was spent on island Taquile where we mainly walked around the island and enjoyed the good weather in combination with the great views of Lake Titicaca. Taquile is famous for its traditional clothing that differs for married and unmarried men and women. Men wear hats and belts they knit themselves and a guy that knows how to knit well is considered marriage-material. :-) In Taquile I especially liked the arches that were spread around the island decorated with little statues on top.
These days were definitely well-spent on Lake Titicaca. We learned a lot about how the cultures and way of living differ from island to island. Especially staying with this generous family on island Amantaní opened my eyes about how little the people actually have and much they rely on nature. It was a good feeling to be part of it, if only for two days. :-)
After Lake Titicaca we were northbound towards Cusco – a big stop during our travels! Coming soon on the blog. :-)