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Puno and lake Titicaca

PERU | Wednesday, 6 September 2006 | Views [1601]

Sunset on Amantani

Sunset on Amantani

The Peruvian Titicaca lake-side town of Puno which I spent a few days in was really very charming and a culturally fascinating place to visit.

When I arrived in the cold late afternoon to the town, I have to say that I was not all that impressed with its somewhat shabby appearance but I booked myself to do some island hopping on the lake for the day after hoping that that would lift my spirits.

We left Puno at 8am to get on a boat bound for our first stop to the Uros islands. The people who live on these islands have been living here for hundreds of years in the same way since they lost their war to the Incas and moved permanantly off shore. But this is not what is interesting about these islands. They are actually man made floating islands, made out of the floating reeds which grow on lake Titicaca. The islands are up to 3m thick. Each islands has about 10 families living on it, and if there is any conflict between the families, they split the island. Everything on the islands is made out of this particular reed, they even eat it... They speak the language of Aymara her. Was really interesting to see their special and unique way of life.

After spending an hour or so here with the people, we set off on a 3 hour journey to the island of Amantani where we were to spend the night in a homestay situation with a family from on of the communities on the island. We were met at the dock by our families. I was staying with a lovley woman called justakia and her beautiful 3 year old daughter Lys and the only other single female traveller, Angelica who was Peruvian but also really easy going and friendly. We were prepared a gorgeous traditional vegetarian meal for lunch which I thouroughly enjoyed as I am having serious vegetable withdrawal symptoms and then we went to the main square to meet up with the rest of our group to take a walk to the temples on the top of the hill to watch the sun set... It was one of the most amazing sun sets I have ever seen.

At night, our guide had organized a dancing party for all us gringos to go to. Our families dressed us up in tradition clothes (Ponchos and Chullos for the guys and colourful skirts, embroidered shirts with a waist wrap for girls) but it actually looked hilarious as we all had hiking boots on underneath! We were sort of taught to dance (I wasnt all that successful I have to say!) But had fun anyways. We retired early to bed.

In the morning we farewelled our families from the dock and headed off to the island of Taquile. It took around an hour to reach there from Amantani. When we got there we had an 1 hour walk to the main square from the shore which was very pleasant as all you could see was blue! Blue skies and blue lake. When we got there we were explained about the dress customs of the people who live here which was really interesting. Children under 5 years old all wear skirts. When they get a bit older the boys wear pants and the girls are given a head scarf. The boys until they are fifteen wear a particularly decorated chullo and after they turn 15 they must wear it in a special way, showing that they are now responsible young men and are ready to marry. Once they are married they must change chullo design and must start wearing a pouch where they keep coco leaves which are used for greeting people. The boss of each community also has a special chullo. The women if they wear dark coloured skirts are married and light are single. The other interesting thing is that in this culture, you must live with your possible future wife for 3 years before marrying. If they get on well then they will get married and if they dont then they must separate because they do not believe in divorce.

We had lunch at the island and then headed back to Puno where we arrived around 4pm. 

Was a really enjoyable and interesting adventure.

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Tags: Culture

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