don't laugh, that's really the name!
Hello everyone- It's been a while since my last blog. I have been really busy and often out of internet range. I just returned to Cusco from my jungle trek in the Amazon. I have been to Lake Titicaca and a week in Taray (a small town where my school has an alternate site). I'll just be writing about Lake Titicaca in this entry. More to come tomorrow about Taray and the jungle.
Lake Titicaca…where do I begin? This experience was the most intense and cultural that I have had yet in Peru. I traveled with 3 other friends from my school. We booked a trip through the travel agency associated with our school. We took and overnight bus that left at 10:00 p.m. Friday night to Puno, a city on the shore of Lake Titicaca. I thought this sounded like a great idea at the time, but in retrospect, I would not take an overnight bus again unless I absolutely was in a bind and had no other choice. We arrived in Puno at 4:45 a.m. to be met by a tour guide at the bus station. He walked us up to a dingy café in the bus station to sit and wait. We didn’t know the plan ie.. how long we were to wait etc.. Also, we were freezing cold. Puno is even higher in altitude than Cusco. We were all dressed in layers, hats, mittens and scarves. After about a half an hour at the bus café, our guide split us into 3 different taxis, destination unknown. At about 5:30 a.m., we pulled up to a building in Puno. We walked into a room with a big couch and a few chairs. He told us that we would be waiting a couple hours until we would be taken to the boat. So, all 12 of us in the group basically sat down and dozed for 2 hours in this strange room, painted bright green and orange. It was kind of surreal. We were twelve near strangers, sitting in a random, strange room in Puno, not so sure how this tour was going to pan out. All I have to say is…comfort in numbers! It was very weird. Had it just been one friend and I, I would have been much more freaked out. At around 8 a.m., we were taken to the boat and finally began the “real” tour. It was just bizarre in the sense that they didn’t really know what to do with us in the “transition” between bus and boat, so they drop us at this random place to wait.
So, now the tour really begins. We were taken by boat to the Islas Uros. They are about a one hour boat ride from the dock in Puno. These are man-made floating islands. I thought this was really neat. About 8 families live on each island. They are made of big mud type blocks, held together by wood stakes and rope. They put several underneath and then pile up layers of reeds on top to form the surface of the island. They have houses built out of the same reed materials. The island itself was circular with a diameter of about 10 feet. The people were dressed in colorful, traditional clothing. They were selling their textiles and other things to the tourists. I find the way they live fascinating.
After the floating islands, we went to the biggest island in Lake Titicaca, Isla Amantani. We were split into pairs and we stayed with a host family.
I stayed with my friend Sonia. We had an interesting experience at our host home. We lived like they did for only one night. I don't know how they do it. I guess they don't know any different. There is no running water and no electricity. The door to our room was extremely short. The people here are really short.
In the evening, we were dressed in traditional women's dress and brought to a dance by a bonfire. Wow, I'm so glad I experienced this. It was a very unique experience.
After our night sleeping in a mud hut on Isla Amantani, we hopped back on our boat and toured another island called Isla Taquille. That was also an interesting place. In the plaza, you can observe the men in traditional dress, knitting. They knit hats. They all wear special hats, indicating if they are married, single, and under 6 years old. Fascinating culture. We at lunch on this island and then headed back to civilization in Puno. We had 5 hours to kill before we hopped back on another overnight bus. Ugh! I was so tired after these 3 days, I had to catch up on some sleep.
More to come tomorrow on my experience in Taray, the small town near Pisac (the great market, shopping city).