New Years Day we left Cuzco for Puno. Puno is not known for much, but I found this town amazing. It is situated 12,562 feet above sea level and is the gateway to the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. We had a long bus journey up and over the mountains and arrived at our destination around 4:00.
We were so excited because our hotel had a wood burning fireplace and bathtubs in every room...now all we can hope for is hot water and we are happy campers! Our local guide came over to explain the next couple of days with us. We were to leave on a boat early in the morning to the Island of Taquile on Lake Titicaca. After a hike to the local village and lunch we will set sail (not literally) to the island of Amantani where we will meet our adoptive mothers. We will get situated there and then after dinner the village will throw a party for us. Our families will dress us in traditional clothing so we will become one with them. The next day we would visit floating islands made of reed and head to Bolivia. We were so excited!
We had dinner at a wonderful restaurant in Puno and then Todd and I set off to explore this strange town full of tourists surrounded by real Peruvian life. We found a wonderful shop near the restaurant that specialized in antique and traditional clothing of the islands and the Puno region. As we rummaged through heaps of items we got filled with history and culture. Everytime we noticed an item we were educated on the exact area, reason, colors, gendor for that piece of clothing. We stayed there for at least an hour facinated at the wealth of knowledge this guy produced. Of course a couple of interesting items were purchased story and all.
The next morning we packed our day packs full of thermals, (there is no heat on the island and we are quite high....brrrr), a change of underwear, a toothbrush and our camera. We dressed in layers as the sun can be quite warm during the day.
Before we left the harbor we were advised to bring some items for our family in appreciation. Todd and I purchased a rice, sugar, colored pencils, paper, a candy bar and water. Then we were off.
The boat passed the reed islands...how interesting to think the island is floating soley by reed roots. We spent 3 hours on Lake Titicaca to get to our first island, Taquile. A tranquil boat...at one time the entire group was sprawled out somewhere soaking up the warm sun. The day was perfect, blue skies, warm sun, minimal wind...it doesn't get any better than this.
We arrived on the island of Taquile and were surprized at the way of life. It was as if time had stopped. They did have electricity, but no indoor plumbing, no stores except soft drinks most likely for tourists. They were working in their farms in traditional dress, the children running and playing with out a care in the world. Some older girls (11 or 12) were responsible for walking the sheep. The island of Taquile is famous for males that knit. The boys start learning to knit at the age of 3 and perfect their trade in their teens. All products that are made on the island are made by the men.
We found this very interesting as we browsed the main store. We grabbed lunch at a local restaurant and were served Quinoa soup and fresh trout. Quite delicious. A cup of special mint tea was also served so we could combat any altitude sickness symptoms.
As we were walking down to the boat we met a small family that was selling more knitted items. Three generations of men were there proudly showing of their items. Todd decided to purchase a hat and they were thrilled! What a wonderful experience.
On our journey back to the boat we met wonderful vistas with blue skies and matching reflections of Lake Titicaca. Wonderful. We were heading to the island to meet our adoptive family.
An hour later we reached Amantani Island. The women of the families were anxiously awaiting our arrival. Todd and I were first to meet our new family. We greeted one another and made our way to their home. After we got situated in our room we headed up a long hill to meet the others. The plan was to climb the mountain and watch the sunset. As we were all a bit tired and the air was thin, most of us opted to hang out with the locals instead. The guys challenged the locals to a game of soccer...what were they thinking at that altitude????
We all hung out for a couple of hours and then our families came to get us. They recognized us by the hats we wore..they presented them to us as we met them so they could always recognize us. The husband picked Todd and I up and off we went back to their home for dinner. After dinner we were dressed in traditional clothing and went back up the hill for a dance with a local Peruvian band and our new families and friends.
We headed home about 10:00...and were off to bed. In the morning we were served breakfast and headed back to our boat to the floating islands. Waving good bye to our families we slowly left the dock and began our 3 hour trip back to the reed islands. The reed islands were amazing. We sunk about 2 inches with every step. A small amount of people truly still live on the islands and the community must constantly rebuild the islands as the reeds rot.
We had a picnic lunch on the boat and then boarded a bus to Bolivia. What a great couple of days....some of the most memorable!