Exploring Uros Flotantes, Amantani & Taquile Island
While crossing the border from Bolivia into Peru, a man on the bus told me about a hostel I could stay at in Puno, with hot water, breakfast, tv, and discounts on my tours – I said sure.
I arrived in Puno around 16:00, and so I wandered the city a little bit, but it was cold, and the weather was looking like it would rain soon, so I returned around 19:00. Puno itself is a small city, but I wasn’t there to see the city, I was using the city as a stepping block to explore the islands on Lake Titicaca. I booked two tours through my hostel, a 2 day Island tour which included the Floating Reed Islands (Uros Flotantes) plus an overnight on Amantani Island and the next day on Taquile Island. Upon my return I booked a tour to the Sillustani Funeral Towers just outside of Puno. I was ready to explore and meet new people. I was set.
The Floating Reed islands are beautiful. They are about 30 minutes by boat from Puno. The islands were explained, how they are made and how they float, how the people Live, and what they eat, and we were showed examples of their taxis – the floating reed boats with dragon heads on front, and of the Mercedes Benz – the gigantic floating reed island of many colours and double decker sitting options. We were showed inside their homes and shown their many hand made goods. This was more of a buy-or-dont-leave situation. I did not buy, I held my resolve not to spend $30 dollars on something I really didnt need although beautiful.
Next was the 3 hour boat ride across the lake to Amantani Island. We arrived on the island, were sat down in the Plaza, and on the other side of the Plaza were the locals. We stared at each other in silence and anticipation. It was like being adopted! We were called up in groups of 2-4 and introduced to our Island mommy. My island mommy was named Norma and she has two daughters – Natalie and Noelle. We walked back to our home and were immediately feed dinner; soup plus a plate of rice, deep fried cheese, and veggies. Delicious. In my house was Helen (UK), Troy (New Zealand), and Ichiro (Japan).
Later, we all hiked up the mountain to the Temple on the top. We stopped half way and watched a soccer game of Locals (45+ years old men) vs. foreigners. The locals won 3-1. I watched as soccer is not a port I enjoy to play. I do not like any sport where I chase a ball the entire game in circles but never get to kick it. Afterwards we continued upwards to the top of the mountain to the temple – it was a long way up – and remember – we are still at 4.700 masl. Air is scarce.
When we made it – we walked around the temple three times; once for Health, twice for Love, and trice for Money. Then we placed a stone we picked up on the top of the temple walls for Luck. It was a nice ritual with STUNNING views of the surrounding island and Lake views.
In the evening we were all dressed up in traditional clothes. Brightly coloured skirts, white shirts with colourfully woven flowers, a rainbow waist band, and a black head covering with rainbow flowers embroidered on the bottom. Boys in poncho and hats. We went to the main building, with two bands playing traditional music, our island mommy grabbed us by the hands and we all danced in circles swinging out arms, laughing, and enjoying the two hours (from 20:00-22:00), of festivities. Normally I am not a fan of dressing up in clothing and dancing around – but out island mommy was VERY insistent we dance and have fun, and she seemed to be enjoying it thoroughly as well – so I did not mind one bit.
The next day, early rise, we ate breakfast, got back on the boat for one hurl-inducing boat ride across the choppy Lake Titicaca. I have never gotten sea sickness before, and I am happy to say I remained un-sick, but my stomach definitely was not at its happiest after that 1.5 hour boat ride. Once upon Taquile Island, we hiked around the island. When I say around, I mean the path had the slightest incline and it circled the island slowly up. This is MUCH preferable to 500 stairs straight up on the other islands I’ve been at recently!
The locals have special clothing. The men wear Red and White Hats. If the Hats are Solid Red; the man is married. The the man wears a Red&White Hat; he is single. If the red&white hats pompom is to the Right; he is single and searching. If the pompom is to the left; he is interested or seeing a woman on the island. If the pompom is to the back; he is not looking or recently separated from a girl he liked. Highly entertaining to be able to Read men so Easily! Excellent system.