Sunday, December 18, 2011

December 18 - amazing trip to Lake Titicaca

Bus tour to several sites along the route
 of the Incas from Puno to Cusco. We
traveled with Cruz del Sur.

Raqui - walls up to 15 meters high - unique
in the Inca empire
This short trip from Cusco to Lake Titicaca was one of the best and unique trips of our lives - other worldly would describe it.

We started out last Thursday on the Cruz del Sur luxury bus to Puno. It was a tour bus that stopped at several spots along this famous Inca route which made it more fun as a way to travel and broke up the trip nicely. We arrived in Puno, a commercial city right on the lake to a heavy rain storm so we did not really get a chance to see the city at night. We really did not have any idea of what the tour to the various islands would be like and we were tempted to cancel it all thinking that the weather would be terrible. I am so glad that we did not cancel.  We were picked up for our two day trip to the islands in the morning and taken to our boat. 

La Raya - the highes point along the route
at 4335 meters above sea level. Notice
the snow capped mountains in the background
We met the rest of our fellow travelers and by the time we ended on Sat afternoon we had many new friends - hopefully to stay connected for years to come. This was one of the best parts of the trip....the fact that so many from all different lands could come together (all ages from 6 - 60's) and bond in such a short time. [Represented were Eduardo (age 8) and his brother Enrique with mom and dad Katty and Jose from Venezuela; Paul (Wales) and Anny (Peru and Spain)who live in Switzerland; Pavel from Lima, Peru; Celia (Japan) and Denis (France) who lives in New Caledonia - islands in the South Pacific; and Werner and Christine from Austria]. Some of our new friends will be in Cusco during our final two weeks here and we will meet them again.
The floating island of Iros

Greeted by the women of Iros

Small cookstove on Iros

Boats of this style still used to get
from one island to another - we road on this boat

Our first island stop was Islas Uros which are "floating islands" made of reeds that grow in the shallows of Lake Titicaca. By the way, this lake is the highest navigable lake in the world at 3830 meters (almost 12000 ft). This island is prepared for tourists and though a feeling of "Disneyland" was still interesting to view how differently people live in this world. They live in small reed houses, travel with reed boats and are self sufficient in many ways. Iros is only one hour by boat from Puno so some do travel to the mainland....unlike the other islands that we visited which are much farther away. There are primary schools on the island but no high school or beyond.
On our boat - 3 hour boat trip from Iros to
Amantani. Here I am with Eduardo, age 8 from
Venezuela. We spent much of our boat
travel time together - drawing in our
journals and painting with watercolor.

In the afternoon we traveled three hours to Isla Amantani our spot for the night. This island operates its tourism as a collective. About 4000 people live on the island in 10 communities and each takes turns hosting tourists in their homes. We stayed with Theo and his family along with Anny and Paul. We were served simple meals - lunch (almuerzo) dinner (cena) and breakfast the next morning. All the food is grown on the islands and was vegetarian because it is much cheaper. There is fishing though fish was not served in our family. We had quinoa soup, potatoes and some vegetables for the main meals and a fried type dough for breakfast.
After lunch we all hiked to the top of the island - a spiritual spot for the people with remains of pre-Inca ruins that are still used for their holiday celebrations.

The accomodations were simple, but sufficient. It was quite cold on the island at night but we were basically prepared having brought our long underwear and several layers of clothing. Shortly after dinner we were given some local clothing and dressed (over our clothes) for the party or "disco" that night. Everyone gathered and we danced around to music for a time with lots of laughter as we looked ridiculous but the people of the island seemed to enjoy us. Richard was his fun loving self and got everyone out on the dance floor. We left but there were 30 or so young people from one of the other islands who stayed on.
Farming on Isla Amantani

Terraces and homes on Amantani

The Disco at Amantani

Our family at Amantani - we hope to visit again sometime

More terraces on the island
The next morning Richard was up very early (at sunrise) and went out to explore the island a bit. After our breakfast we all met again at the boat for the next island which was Isla Taquile. We spent several hours walking on the island and then had lunch at another cooperatively organized restaurant. This time there was local trout for those who wished and some rice, potatoes, omelette and tomato. This island is also self sufficient for its food and its main industry is textile - knitted hats, scarfs, bracelets and other items...all in small needles with colorful designs done by both men, women and children. Many of the items found in other parts of Peru are coming from this island.
Hand knit - all made on the island of Taquile - famous for
these knit designs done by both men and women.
 Amusing to the families,the tour guides and our new friends was Richard who when asked for his name answered with "Hombre de arana" - Spiderman. Everyone on the islands laughed and was amused by his fun loving ways. In the end they were all calling him Hombre de arana.
Leaving Isla Taquile

Hombre de arana (Spiderman) taking
a short time at the helm of our boat back
to Puno.
For the return we went to Puno and several of us had dinner and left on a 10pm bus which arrived back in Cusco at 4:30 am this morning. It was a quick trip but for us, most amazing and a window into an unusual world. We were on the Peru side of Lake Titicaca but learned from many that the Bolivian side and islands are different yet again so we shall put that on our list of things to do in the future.
Now we are back in Cusco with new friends to meet this week, Spanish classes for another two weeks, yoga and of course ... the holidays.
We shall take this time to wish everyone HAPPY HOLIDAYS and a PEACEFUL AND HEALTH NEW YEAR.