Wednesday, April 4, 2012
This morning the skies are overcast but not threatening. Once again the restaurant is on the top floor and there are views overlooking Puno and Lake Titicaca. We are at 13,000 feet and comfortable as we get acclimatized to the altitude. We drink the Coca Tea and enjoy our breakfast. We are just finishing up and the hotel brings us word that our ride is here. We step outside and our driver already has our bags loaded in the taxi. We take a double take as we realize our taxi is a bicycle powered open cart! This is going to be fun!!!
Our driver speaks almost no English, but he knows where we are going. It is probably not really difficult for our driver as it is all downhill to the Lake. He probably has to use most of his energy on the brakes! He takes us to a market near the lake edge as we need to buy some supplies for our next destination. So we buy 10 pounds of Sugar and 10 pounds of rice. You’ll see why soon!
It turns out we have to carry our possessions across 3 boats and onto a 4th boat where we find our ride is a shuttle boat with seating for 30-50 people. We are the first ones on so we take the front seats. Before we know it, our guide and the driver cast off and the boat is underway. Hey, what? We are the only ones on the boat! It turns out this boat is all for us and we marvel at the attention showed to us. We go by an island with what appears to be a large hotel in the middle of it. We never do get any info about it. But in about an hour, we arrive in Uros, a section of the lake that is filled with reeds growing and dozens of man made floating islands made from these reeds. Our destination is “Santa Maria Island” where we disembark and the boat leaves.
Our cameras are busily clicking away at the sights of reed boats with creative animal faces designed into them and floating isles. The wife of the couple that lives here takes Elee into her hut and dresses her in native attire for fun and a camera moment. We meet the family that lives here and they take us into their hut and show us how they weave the reeds into useful things. They also show us how they chew on the reeds to keep their teeth healthy. These people have the whitest teeth we have ever seen! The father brings out a bowl and shows us the fish he caught this morning for their dinner. He has to fish every day as there is no electricity for refrigeration. A group photo is taken for us and the wife brings out a needlepoint tapestry she has made and our wallets are about 100 US Dollars poorer after we buy the tapestry and a model reed boat for souvenirs! But you can see that tapestry in our hallway framed any time you visit us!
We all go back outside and they now demonstrate how they build and maintain their island. Walking on the island feels very spongy and comfortable to walk on. It is quite the intriguing process as they have to add reeds to the top of the island as the bottom slowly rots and disintegrates into the lake! There is a small tower that they let me climb and I take a shot of all of them below us and then Elee and I get onto a reed boat and the husband paddles us across to another island that has actual wooden buildings on it.
The paddle across is uneventful yet quite a fun ride!
We get off the reed boat onto the larger island and it turns out this is where their schools are. They have a fish farm for food and we walk around letting our cameras lead the way to colorful and interesting shots! This island has electricity and even a pay phone! We see a sign spelling out “Tupirmarka” and it takes a minute to figure out it says “Supermarket”, where you can buy food and clothing! Our large 50 person boat is here and we re-board it for the next ride.
The boat now takes us through the reeds and past more floating islands as it weaves its way out onto Lake Titicaca, sometimes spelled “Titikaka”. Another hour or two and we arrive on a peninsula into the lake where our next host meets us at the stone dock. We have to wonder if the people here are dressing for the tourists (our first guess) or if they just get up and always dress in costume. We’ve seen some that appear to always dress this way.
Before we ever leave the dock, my camera begs me to shoot some sunken boats and the thought hits me that these people are so poor, so why did they let them sink and not patch them up? I never get an answer. We strap our luggage onto our back for the hike up the hill (we have luggage that converts to backpacks just for this trip!) and our new host leads the way along with our guide that is with us for two days here. We get there and drop our bags in a windowless room that is shown to us. When I say ‘windowless’, I mean there are openings in the walls with reed mats to cover them, but no formal windows!
We are told the children here are still in school and they have to walk an hour in the morning to get to the school bus and then walk an hour home in the afternoon! Their school day with the walking goes from 6 AM to 5 PM. So we take a walk around the area and see what we can see. From a small herd of sheep to the backside of the complex we’re staying in to signs identifying the area we’re in!
We give the sugar and rice that we purchased this morning to our host as we were requested to do something like this. Because it is almost Easter, we have also brought some things for the children. We knew before we started this trip that we would be staying with this family and that they have 3 children. So just for fun, we have brought plastic Easter Eggs filled with candy and before the children got home, we hid them around their yard. Now it must be pointed out here that the concept of the Easter Bunny and Easter eggs doesn’t hold any meaning in South America because they represent Spring and the beginning of life. In South America, it is Fall and they don’t have such pagan rituals. This family doesn’t speak English, they speak Quechuan. An Indian language. Lucky for us, our guide speaks Quechuan. So we explain the ritual and game to our guide and he translates for us. As soon as these children understand how the game is played, you’d never know it was new to them. They took to the game like any children do!
Then we sit down to a vegetarian dinner with the family and the kids are happy and curious. They ask questions which our guide translates and stories are shared. The meal is delicious and we bring out more goodies for the kids in the fashion of Coloring Books, Crayons, Writing Notebooks, Pens and Pencils. They start going at the coloring books and the little one falls asleep at the table.
Mom and Dad have the new goodies put away and the kids go off to bed. We chat with our guide for a few more minutes and then say goodnight ourselves and turn in. Before we do, the mom brings us two hot rocks wrapped in towels and instructs us to put them at the foot of our beds. We do and our feet stay toasty warm all night!
See you tomorrow!