|I may have to make this quick as I've got a bus to catch shortly. I'm currently in an internet cafe in Puno listening to jingle bells. Things can be so backwards here.
On Feb. 25 we boarded a boat and set off on Lake Titicaca. Our first stop was the floating islands of Uros. Here the Uros people live on floating islands that they've constructed with the thick root mat of the totora reed. On top of the root layer, they pile over a meter thick layer of reeds. Then they actually live a fairly sophisticated life living on these islands. They live in cozy huts also made with the totora reed and even have small solar panels that provide them with electricty for lights, radio and even small t.v.'s. Today their main industries are tourism and fishing.
From there we headed out into more open waters and that's when things started to get pretty rough. Poor Jen had a bit of a break down when the swells got to over 5 feet and the boat started rocking dramatically from side to side. Eventually we reached the island of Amantani where we met the family that we would be spending the rest of the day and night with. Our family included a 37 year old mother named Irma and an amazing 9 year old girl named Nelida (her father works far away in the town of Nazca). The island is very steep and has no roads or cars. The people live a very simple life in houses constructed with mud and farm basic grains, vegetables and livestock. Jen and I were slow pokes on the way to our family's home, so Nelida eventually insisted on carrying our bags, which she wrapped up in a large shawl and carried on her back. Its rather pathetic when a 9 year old girl has to carry your pack up the hill. Again, I'll blame it on the altitude.
We had an amazing time staying at their home and I'm proud to say that I could carry on a basic conversation in Spanish with them. They cooked us lunch, dinner and breakfast over an open fire and clay stove in their very basic kitchen. The food was simple, but delicious. In the evening, its a custom for them to dress their guests in their traditional clothing. So they bundled both of us up in colorful skirts and blouses and then brought us down to their community hall for an evening of music and dancing.
The next morning we boarded our boat and travelled to the neighbouring island of Taquile. Last year this island was recognized as an Unesco World Heritage Site because of the quality of the local textiles. The men weave their own hats, which can take 1 or 2 months to make. The color of their hat indicates whether they are single or married. We saw many men and boys on the island carrying around knitting needles and walking while they knit. Take note all you undomestic men back home! We spent several hours hiking around the island and then had a much calmer boat ride back to Puno. Unfortuntely, it was hot and sunny and I applied sunscreen everywhere but my lips. This morning it looked like I had lip implants because my lips were so swollen and burnt!
So now (in about 15 minutes) we're catching a 5 hour bus for the town of Arequipa. From there we will be heading into the Colca Canyon, which I think is about twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. We'll be there for 2 days and then fly into Lima on the night of March 1st. Then we're going to head to the oasis town of Ica for some sandboarding and perhaps a dune buggy ride in the desert. Hopefully I'll have time for one more update before the end of our trip. If not, I'll see you all in a week.