Titicaca

After being in such a loud and packed city as LaPaz, Titicaca lake has been our host for one week to enjoy a peaceful atmosphere and discover the charms of its shore and islands…Historically it has been a location where settled different clans : Queshua, Uros, Aymaras, Incas… It is a place full of resources which probably justify its name which means “Grey Puma”, the symbol of the heart for these people. In addition to the fauna attracted to this place, the lake provided fish and also drinkable water to the local population. Like almost all South America, this region rose from the sea by the tectonic plates movements billions of years ago and some 9.000km2 water was trapped and formed the lake. Its salinity used to be high but progressively dropped to a current level of 3g/L by evacuation through outgoing rivers. It is a mythological place, as the legend said the first incas, Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo were sent there by their father, the sun God Inti, to form a new civilization.

Nowadays it is a common retreat and holiday location for both Bolivian and Peruvian people as well as for the tourists of course.

Our first stop was in Copacabana, the original one according to local people that later may have lent its name to the Brazilian beach because of the similar landscape of surrounding cliffs… Actually there is no more in common : no sand beach, 10-15ºC cold water…

After a day of chilling, we went on an excursion to discover both the Moon and the Sun Islands where stand former Inca temples that could be the first ones. The stairs reminded us that we were at a 3.800m altitude despite the beautiful sea-like landscape framed by the Andes in the background.

We then crossed the border to Peru on the 23rd of June to arrive to the city of Puno our second stop on Titicaca lake. The city itself does not have much to offer but it is the starting point to visit the islands of Amantani, Taquiles and the floating village of Uros.

We booked a 2 days trip to these islands together with Andrea and Greg. 2 days visiting the islands and one night on Amantani in a local family.

Unfortunately, Andrea felt ill during the night, and the next morning they had to postpone their trip.

We embarked on the boat with a group of few other travelers and a guide. Our first stop in Uros was incredible. The floating village and houses are all made of dried reed found on the lake. Each little island hosts 5 to 6 families forming a community. We were received by the chief of one of those communities. The families showed us their houses, how they lived and the craft souvenirs they made for us to buy of course.

The chief explained that in case of disagreements between families, the island is split in 2 halves and each go their own way. Easy!

The families sang a few songs for us, the chief invited us for a boat tour in the village (at the cost of 10 soles per person, which is okay as it helps them buy medicine for the children he mentioned. Not sure what the Chaman of the village would have to say to that…), and we then we made our way to Amantani.

We stopped in the family’s house where we would stay overnight. We were slightly disappointed as we thought we would be one or two persons per family and really co-lived with the. So we were surprised to see that actually all 7 of us would stay in the same family who owned a rather big home with several rooms, almost like a small hostal. Not as authentic as we’d imagined.

The family cooked for us a quick lunch in their little kitchen : local potatoes and a few beans. Light. And a mate de coca for desert.

After that we made our way up to the temple of Pachamama to see the sunset. There are no cars in the village, everyone walks up and down the hill on a little paved caminito.

The guide explained that this island was very special: there is usually only one temple per village or island in Peru. However Amantani has 2 temples: Pachamama and Pachatata (Mother Earth and Father Earth). The location, elevation and orientation of the island makes it very strong in energies and is said to be one of the chakras of the Earth, which is why the Incas built 2 temples to create more balance.

The hike up was hard to reach 4.200m, but the view on the lake by sunset was absolutely worth it.

For dinner, the mother of the family served us a quinoa soup, pasta and rice for main dish. They ate in a separate room than us which made us feel a little uncomfortable. We are not sure if it is a cultural thing or if they are uncomfortable sitting at a table with foreigners… Our guide didn’t really say much on the topic either.

The next morning, we left for Taquile, the third island. There are 2.400 inhabitants living in a collective community. All wear traditional hand-made clothes. Men and women on this Island specialize in Crochet. We visited the main square of the island with the exhibition of textile and clothes made by the locals. Some incredible scarfs, Peruvian hats, gloves… You wouldn’t believe it is all hand made, and prices are more expensive and non-negotiable on the island. José (our guide) explained that the inhabitants of Taquiles are ones of the most talented craft makers of the country and exported their products in several European countries.

After lunch, we made our way back to Puno. Back in the hotel, the receptionist told us that Greg and Andrea left on the tour that same morning but we would probably meet again in Cusco…

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