Floating Islands…

After the high that was Machu Picchu, we headed back to Cusco for one more day before making our way to Puno… which involved a 7 hour coach ride to get there. We ended up taking a public bus for this stretch – but a decent one. The buses in South America vary greatly in terms of quality… there are small buses which cram you in as much as possible, bigger buses which are fairly standard, buses which offer seats which recline slightly, and then the king of  buses where you effectively can lie down. Word on the street is that Argentina has the best buses, but we were all pretty happy when we got into our allocated seats for the journey. There was plenty leg room (Far more than Economy flights give), and the seats reclined a decent amount, along with a leg rest to make it more comfortable. The only part which wasn’t such fun was the toilet.  Very basic ‘hole’ ultimately that only allowed Number 1’s and just opened out onto the track below so was pretty smelly….  But we survived the journey with snacks, chat, and some video catching up courtesy of Dropbox and good friends 🙂

Puno is a fairly large town on the edge of Lake Titicaca. Once we arrived we checked out the town and the market – bought some fruit for the next day and then headed for dinner. We had an early start as we were visiting the floating islands – plus the hotel we were staying at had the most comfortable beds of the journey to date, so we were all pretty happy to call it a night around 9! Next morning, up early and a quick Peruvian Limousine ride took us to our awaiting transport for the day… a boat!

Peruvian Limousines!
Peruvian Limousines!

As you’ll know, i’ve not been a fan of the boat to date, but i’m definitely improving and actually rather enjoyed it! Lake Titicaca may be a lake, but it is Enormous. It is also the world’s highest lake so it’s quite weird feeling at sea, but knowing you’re 3000m above sea level! We slowly chugged away as we were off to visit two islands. Firstly Uros – the floating islands and then Taquile Island.

Happy on the boat!
Happy on the boat!
Reeds drying out for building purposes
Reeds drying out for building purposes

1.5 hours in and we made it to Uros – literally lots of small floating islands made out of reeds….which have families and tribes living on them. We docked up next to one, and jumped onto the island – a very odd feeling knowing you’re standing on reeds, a bit of peat moss and that’s about it! And you can feel it floating. The island we were on had about 5 families living on it, with children running around so happy and just wanting to interact with us. I had brought with me some sparkly stickers as i had known that at some point in my trip i’d probably give them to some kids, and this was a perfect time. In no time at all i was surrounded by little kids all wanting a sparkly owl! Some stuck them proudly on their tops, others ran to their parents to show them their new wares, whilst a couple stuck them on their faces!

The villagers awaiting us
The villagers awaiting us
The kids on the islands
The kids on the islands
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The huts – simple but worked
The huts on the island
The huts on the island – and how loose the edges were – you got wet if you weren’t careful where you stepped!

Meanwhile the adults of the islands were explaining how they live on the islands. It really was amazing to see. Everyone was happy – their houses were very basic, (though TV’s and mobile phones were visible) and it was clear that tourism was a key part of their livelihood, but everyone seemed content with their lives and what they had. All the fruit we had bought in the market the day before was given to the islanders as fruit is hard to come by for them and we bade them farewell and made our way to Taquile Island – another hour drive away… in which i got to drive the boat! Not so easy actually as the waves really do dictate which way you go, so i have much respect now for sailors who can manage to keep a boat feeling fairly smooth sailing!

(Trying to) drive the boat well!
(Trying to) drive the boat well!

Taquile Island is an actual island rather than a reed-based one. It has one community who live and work there, and again tourism is a vital part of their lives. Although the whole day did feel a little contrived, at the same time i really enjoyed it as both islands had people living (or trying to live) life how their ancestors used to and they wanted to keep the traditions alive. On Taquile island it’s the men who do the knitting. You won’t walk past a man on the island who isn’t holding a pair of knitting needles in their hands at all times. The hats they wear are key. A fully red hat (self knitted) means they are married, whilst one which is red and white means they are single. And they are judged by the women on their craftsmanship! They also knit the hats for their children when they’re born and all the scarves and items tourists can buy on the island. It was impressive to see men of all ages knitting super fast and making such beautiful items!

Married man on Taquile Island
Married man on Taquile Island

We had lunch on the island of fresh trout and salad which was one of the best meals we’d had whilst looking out onto the Lake which was glistening from the sun. A small hike around the island followed to see the crops and how they live before finally taking the boat back to Puno. Despite being on the Lake all day, we had barely covered 5% of it! But it was a really interesting day. Final Peruvian dinner was had (some choosing to eat Guinea Pig – or Cuy as its known) and we got ready to head to Bolivia the next day…

Taquile Island
Taquile Island

Another country done and loved!

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