Lake Titicaca, Puno and the floating islands
What an amazing day! We got up at 6.30, got washed and packed and had eggs for breakfast. We were told by our guide to wait downstairs for our transport, with only our daypacks and food for the the home stay families. When we left the hotel our transport was waiting- eight tuk tuk bikes with drivers in front. They were all decorated individually with stickers, flags tinsel and of course big noisy car horns which were constantly beeping. Because there are sixteen people in our group, we looked like a big tuk tuk crew flying down the street, overtaking each other and holding up traffic. It was hilarious! We took a ferry to out first island which was Taquille island. The local men there wear special hats to show if they are married, or single, and when they get married they wear a belt made with their wives hair! The woman has to live with them a couple of years so they can see if they should marry, and if they get on really well she lets him him cut her hair and he makes that belt from it. It's a big heavy belt and acts as a support when men carry heavy things, so the hair symbolises the wife's support. Also, on the woman's wedding day, she wears a skirt for each of her years of age (all made by her partner). The island people are mainly pescatarian because their sheep and other animals are precious and only for special occasions. While we were there, a little boy came over to Brad, tried to read his map and then was curiously grabbing his beard. We were all laughing and they talked a little bit in Spanish, so Brad found out the boys name was Miguel. the walk up the island's steep side was very hard in he altitude and it was impossible to catch our breath. We had quinoa veggie soup, omelette and coca tea for lunch, with 'moonyah' which is a plant which grows on the island, smells like mint and helps you breathe when you rub it in your hands and breathe in with your palms close together. When we left the island, we took the ferry for an hour and Brad convinced the driver to let him drive the boat. I had a go but I don't think it has power steering answer were swaying all over the place. It was loads of fun; the weather was on our side as we went to Amateri Island.
Here we met our home stay families. Our lady host was called Binita- a 24 year old woman who lived with her Mum and Husband. We followed her uphill to her house, where she showed us our room which was simple but nice- 3 beds, lots of blankets, a table with a patterned embroidery tablecloth and some carpet. We walked back together down to a small sports area where we met our group and their families for some games of football and volleyball (gringos vs locals). We won the first game, but got smashed toward the end as the altitude was taking its toll. Brad got hit in he face with a ball too which was pretty funny. Our group walked up to get some drinks in a local bar, which was tiny and had a hobbit size door to the toilet so I literally had to bend in half to get in. I had hot chocolate with baileys which was a nice comforting drinks, and Brad had a beer with the boys. Our families picked us up and it was pitch black. Binita shone her flashlight in front of us and we were struggling to keep up, then out of nowhere we saw flashes of lightning and heard thunder before a torrential downpour of cold rain followed, making it even more difficult to see. It's not like we were walking down a path- there were muddy parts, parts made of rock, parts you could fall off and a huge amount of puddles the whole way. On top of that we had to climb a load of slippery rocks to get to the house. We got into the kitchen and sat around the table drying near the fire. It was quite awkward because we only had a little sheet with a few words from their language and some translations. Binita and Brad were able to speak in Spanish and I did try but I just couldn't get the hang of it and they just laughed at me whenever I spoke and Binita patted my back. She would have been more subtle if she ruffled my hair but that was funny. For dinner we had vegetable soup and vegetables with rice which was filling and I had to force it down out of politeness because even though it tasted good I was stuffed. After dinner, I got dressed up by Binita's mother as a local. I didn't want to wear my jacket because it was soaking wet and cold but the man toldme to wear it and didn't understand what I was saying so I had that as a bottom layer. The next layer was a tunic with embroidery around the front. On top goes a big wraparound skirt and then an embroidered tunic and a big tight belt. Brad sported a brown embroidered poncho and his wooly Peru hat so we were good to go! We walked up to the disco hall and it was pitch black to we could see hundreds of stars decorating the sky. Inside the hall, locals and our families grabbed us for a dance (Brad was first up with Binita) and it was hilarious! Basically, it's sort of sideways jogging and swaying holding hands. It started in small groups and then we were a kind of conga line all holding hands and jumping around together. I was knackered but I couldn't stop laughing and smiling the whole night because we must have looked mental!
The next day, we had a toast commonly made by locals (fried), some bread rolls and coffee. Our family didn't eat with us. After breakfast, we helped to herd the sheep. Basically, the Grandma opened their gate, and they all ran up some stairs with us following. Ther were around 35, 4 of which were lambs and we had to chase them with branches around the paddock. We thought we had to keep going like a sort of sheep P.E. lesson but the old lady kept saying 'no mas' which we worked out meant we had to stop. They all started munching on the grass so we realised it was time for their breakfast. We stood around for a while watching the sheep eating. I think maybe we weren't very good sheep herders because when it was time for them to move again the man came and took us for a hike so it was left to the pro's. We sat at the meeting point and I made friends with a little boy called Alexander who apparently was four, and just sat next to me chewing beads. He was alright. Another woman came up spinning wool, and I was told they do that to make the wool thinner. Brad had a go but it was more difficult than it looked. We set off on our hike, all covered in sun cream and wearing our hats with big bottles of water, all excited to reach the top. Around 5 minutes later we were all exhausted and struggling to breathe, sweating and frantically rubbing moonyah in our hands, wondering how we would make it. As a group we persevered and it was good to have time to chat with other people. All around us on the steep uphill walk, we cloud see green inca terraces as well as sheep and once we were high enough we could see the island's edge on the sea. At the top we came to a temple which is only open once a year for the people who live on the island. There, they have a big celebration and give offerings to Pachamama or Pachapapa (the two different mountains). They offer llamas and pray and celebrate all day, as a way to bring good fortune for their crops and animals for the rest of the year.
After that, we had lunch and left the island. The next stop was the floating islands. These islands are made from reeds, and the first one we went to had six tiny reed houses, all made by the families. Each little house fits up to seven people inside which looks like an incredibly tight squeeze. The island was anchored in by a big wooden stick in the water, and the people that live there will live off the island mainly, drinking the water around them while at the same time using it as a toilet and shower. They also take eggs that are about to be hatched from the water birds, then domesticate the hatched birds until they are big enough to eat. We were shown by a local man how the islands are made, and took a ride on a small reed boat which they sometimes use. The island felt quite steady (I imagined it to feel a bit like a giant lilo) and we noticed that we saw little kids and older people, but no teenagers. This may be because teenagers go to school in Puno. After that, we went back for a night at the hotel before a big day trip on the bus to Cuzco. Another seven hour bus ride!
We have been in Cuzco now two days. Yesterday, we went horse riding in the Andean mountains. This time it was just Brad, Victor and I. We first did a walking tour Nd saw the local markets which were packed! I bought a hat for my sunburnt head and we went for lunch. We were collected from the hotel for horse riding, and it was a twenty minute car drive up past the white christo...