Peru Update #6 — Puno y Lago de Titicaca

Puno Rooftop TerraceAfter a long bus ride from Cuzco, our group arrived in Puno.  Since it was a first class bus ride, it was pretty plush, with reclining seats that allowed for comfort and sleep.  We had dinner at a place called “Machhu Pizza” and settled in for the night at a cool hostel with a lovely rooftop terrace.

Floating IslandsThe next morning, we had the unusual (for us) experience of getting a counterfeit 100 Soles bill from an ATM.  Apparently it isn’t all that unusual in Peru, since we learned that it is not uncommon for corrupt bank staff to slip fake bills into the stack while pulling real ones for their use.  There was nothing we could do about it, though.

Boat to Floating IslesSo we went ahead with our plan and got on a boat heading out onto the waters of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world.  We passed the famous floating islands, and then went on to the isle of Amantani.  This island thrives on tourist visitors, and we were slated to have a homestay experience, complete with being dressed up in traditional garb for a folk dance.  We also managed to celebrate Nate’s birthday with a cake while we were there.

Susannah writes:

Upon arrival on the island of Amantani on Lake Titicaca, we were greeted by several Peruvian islanders.  Florentino greeted us and led a small group of Explorations kids up to his home on the hill.

Island Homestay LunchFor a while it was a bit awkward, since none of us were very confident in our communication skills in Spanish.  Us white kids of the household started out secluding ourselves in the girls´ dormitorio, talking and laughing loudly.  I will always remember entering into that room, ducking deeply in order to not smack my head on the frame.  For the most part, it was a small and comfortable stay.  The ceilings were nowhere near the height of the door frame, and the beds dipped in at the center, creating a pleasurable nook to curl up in.  At lunchtime, we left our abode, tired from the long boat ride and a little famished.  The kitchen was separated from the main house by a courtyard, cobblestone path, and rickety stairs.  Lunch consisted of a traditional soup in a small, handmade earthen bowl containing five peeled potatoes, one boiled egg, a slice of tomato, and a slice of carrot.  There was a ceramic pinch bowl of salt on the side as well.  To settle the stomach, our host father brought us all a cup of tea with freshly picked mint.  Like most Peruvian tables, a pot of sugar was present.

Pachamama TempleWe thanked Florentino graciously for the food and conversed a bit, which proved to be much easier than we all had expcted.

After lunch, we resumed our conversations upstairs.  (Teenagers have an odd way of adjusting to their environment.)  At one point Florentino´s daughter came inside our room carrying her handmade crafts within a woven blanket.  Her life´s work is producing beautifully knitted alpaca warmies — hats, scarves, mittens, gloves, and socks.  We learned that she had a small son named Yenny running around, who eventually peeked his head through the door to say a quick “Hola, cómo estás?”  I bought some cozy bed socks from her.  She left after awhile, and we felt good for making some decent connections with her in Spanish.

Amanti Island TourI didn’t like the idea of staying in our room all day and creating an “us and them” dynamic, so I left our quarters to play ukulele out on the porch. Immediately, two of the women working outside lifted their heads to the sound of the music and gave me a more-than-delighted, toothy grin.  Florentino came out of  his room on the balcony and stood to listen.  He laughed and smiled, and I let him try out the instrument. He had never seen or heard a ukulele before.

AmantiBefore I finished my second song, he called me back into our room. There, we prepared to go on a day hike to the “Templo de Pachamama,” or the Pachamama Temple.  Florentino led us to the town plaza where we met our peers and boat island guide.  He then led us out of town and up into the hills, along a stone path winding through vast and rolling highlands.  There was no shortage of stone walls and terraces; along the way we must have passed under at least five or six stone arches.  At the very top were mounds of rocks for vantage points and a stone room with a locked, barred door dedicated to  Pachamama, who is the Incan incarnation of Mother Earth.

The view on top was breathtaking.  We could see the vast, blue waters of Titicaca for miles and miles… rising rocky islands, and clouds strewn across the pale blue sky.

They Dressed Us UpI lay myself down upon a rock in the soft declining light of the sun.  Tired and a little mentally exhausted, I closed my eyes to feel a raindrop land perfectly on my nose.  Another fell on my face.  Yes! I thought.  I wanted it to rain on me.  Just on me, for it seemed the dark gray cloud had manifested directly above my body from where I lay.  While enjoying the light droplets falling, wishing they were more constant, out of the sky a hard stone came pelting down to earth.  With just one second of warning, not enough to save myself, the Thunder God gave a deafening roar and the hail raged… The size of pea gravel, beating the ground, slicing the air, stinging my exposed skin.  There was no cover on the hillside, so I raced downhill in search of refuge.  I hunkered briefly under a stone archway, but a hole at the top let in the hail.  So I continued down the mountainside, away from the wrathful elements.

Celebrating Nate's Birthday on Amantani!

Celebrating Nate’s Birthday on Amantani!

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One Comment on “Peru Update #6 — Puno y Lago de Titicaca”

  1. Sterry Judy Says:

    Hi Everyone, I want to let you know that I really have enjoyed reading these posts and love the descriptive language that you authors use. I’m sure I never wrote this well at your age. I’m glad you are enjoying your trip and glad to see you venturing out of isolating yourselves when language difficulties emerge. Whether playing an instrument, singing, trying to spin while walking as the women on Amantani do, playing string game/cards, hackeysack, or making and flying a kite-these are all activities that will intrigue some Peruvians to join you so you end up with unexpected encounters–don’t be hesitant!

    Disfruta bien de este viaje! Es casi terminado.

    Judy


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