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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Peru gets the "Titi"

PERU | Friday, 11 January 2008 | Views [1166]

There aren't many lakes in the world that have two foul words in their name. But the world's highest navigable lake does: Lake Titicaca. The border of Peru and Bolivia slices straight down the centre of the lake, therefore Peru gets the "Titi" and Bolivia gets the "caca." Not fair to Bolivia! But I'm sure Peru is happy with their share of the name. Without being too derogatory I must share this is where I came to this morning. I woke up at 5 AM just as the bus pulled into to Puno, and I must say I slept well for being on a bus. I was all out of soles, so I couldn't get breakfast. I sat for more than an hour until the girl picked me up precisely at 6:15. Puno is the highest town I've been to (12,451 feet) on this trip. It's a small place that seems to have that non-touristy feeling. I was dropped off at a youth hostel and I had to wait until 7:45 for my transfer to the dock. A girl was crying because her backpack had been stolen off her bus; that's why I watch my stuff like a hawk. Last night I put my bag under my seat rather than using the overhead bin. I went into town to see if there was a currency exchange place open but absolutely nothing was open. At 7:45 we drove for a few minutes to the shore of Lake Titicaca. Luckily I was able to exchange $20 and got an energy drink and a big bottle of water before boarding the boat. As we headed out the lake was very calm and I could see the shoots of totora reeds that come up through the lake. The first visit was the Uros Islands, also known as Islas Flotantes.

They are man-made and their people speak Aymara: a language closely related to Quechua. It was a very special feeling standing on a floating island. The eldest inhabitant is 91 years old, and I got a photo with him. The homes are very interesting and I was surprised that some of them had TVs, lights, and radios. I played soccer with some of the children and the ball nearly ended up in the lake. I'll tell you a little about these floating islands. They are found nowhere else in the world, and the totora reeds are constantly replaced as the bottoms rot out. Many of the islands are quite young, with the oldest being only about 75 years old. We only had 45 minutes but it would have been magical to spend the night on a floating island. Afterward we had the option to ride in a hand-crafted totora reed boat to the next floating island. The boat looks like that of Legend of Zelda: the Wind Waker.

Several of us rode slowly, and as so I was chatting with my new friend Claire, from Australia. She's travelled heaps more than I have. On the island I took even more photos whilst soaking in the Lake Titicaca atmosphere. I'm so glad I came here! One girl wasn't feeling well so she stayed whilst we were ready to go. As we moved further out into the lake, the reeds became fewer and the waters rougher. I went on top of the boat and relaxed, taking photos and falling asleep. The ride was a lot longer than I thought and it was rocking back and forth toward the end of the ride. It took three hours to go from Puno to Isla Amantani (pronounced a-MAHN-ta-NEE). It is incredibly beautiful; like a high-altitude version of a tropical island. There are no roads, vehicles, airstrips, police, gas ovens, electricity supply, or running water. We were greeted by locals in colourful dress, and the name of the man I'm staying with is Segundido.

The people of Amantani speak Quechua but are more closely related to the Aymara. We had to walk half-breathlessly up a huge hill yet I was already in love with the island, wishing I could stay another night already. Half an hour later we were at Segundido's home. It was nice and I was given my own room but I decided to stay in the room with two guys from Brazil. Segundido's son has the flag of New Zealand on his wall, which was probably given to him by another traveller. There is no running water; instead it's collected in a huge drum by the rain, and the food is cooked over an open fire. We ate lunch (a late lunch) at 4:00 and we ate corn soup, rice, potatoes, and cheese (sopa de maiz, arroz, papas, y queso). I don't like cheese though. After lunch it was raining and I had a half hour to relax so I fell asleep again for a short while. One of the guys woke me and we started our walk. The view from the home is incredible!

For an island this compact there are quite a few things. There's a soccer field, basketball court, and a few little shops. I got a chocolate bar and then played soccer with the kids before we began walking up another big hill. The walk was steep and I was breathless, but it was what I saw that took my breath away! There are mazes carefully built with rocks and an award-winning panaroma of Lake Titicaca! Near the top of the hill is an outdoor cafe. I got a couple of hand-made donuts and a hot chocolate for 4 soles, and the donuts were so good that I got a few more. Filling myself with donuts I walked all the way to the top of the hill. There's a gate built with rocks! The view is incredible with Lake Titicaca all around me! At the same time I noticed there are two other little communities besides the one we're visiting. I stayed up there for about a half hour before it was time to head back. It was getting dark and there are not many lights on the island. A few homes have a generator but there's no main electricity supply. My face is sunburned due to the strong UV radiation at this altitude. The moon was out and the stars were starting to shine. I really love stargazing. I asked Claire if she'd be interested in stargazing with me later but she said she'd probably go to sleep. Back at the house we had 20 minutes to relax before dinner was ready, and it was a tasty meal of rice, soup, and stew. I've had soup and rice with just about every meal in Peru. After dinner the stars lit up the sky! It reminds me of watching the stars in Australia or Arizona. Segundido then gave us an Aymara poncho and hat to wear before we went to the dance hall by the basketball court. The musicians were dressed all fancy and are excellent with their instruments. In all the years I've been in school I never learned how to play a musical instrument. But, if I did learn I'd love to learn how to play the violin or drums. I danced with Claire first and then with one of the local ladies, and then we all formed a big circle, dancing together. Later I danced with Jemma, from Australia and Teresa, from Canada. It was a lot of fun but by 10 PM I was beat and everyone else was leaving. Segundido's wife had to use a flashlight to guide me home before there are no lights (well, almost none) out here. I said goodnight and washed up, getting water from the water drum to brush my teeth. Isla Tequile is on tap for tomorrow!

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