We took another bus to Puno the following morning to explore Lake Titicaca but didn’t arrive until later in the evening, therefore having to explore the city the next day. After walking around Puno for a bit, we compared different tour agencies for tours to the Islands of Lake Titicaca. That night we met a guy from New York, Jake, who decided to do the same tour with us. The tour consisted of us visiting three different islands, Uros, Amantani, and Taquile.
Uros Floating Islands, our first stop, are man-made islands now made by descendants of the Uros Indians. Each floating Island consists of multiple families with one man being elected the president. The president is elected by the members of the floating island and is someone who is highly respected and trusted. The islands and their boats are made from totora reeds and have to be rebuilt every 10 years. On the tour we learned that the younger generations no longer live on the islands as they decide to leave for the city life once old enough. Because of this, our tour guide explained why he believes the floating islands will cease to exist in the future as the younger generations continue to become more westernized. The floating island we visited had 8 families living there and every group of 4 people were shown around a family’s home by one of these families. The home Farima, Jake, and I visited was a family of four and although quite small, was equipped with cable TV and solar panels.
After the home visits, we took a ride on one of the reed boats to another floating island. As we left the floating islands to head to Amantani, the families sang us the song “Row Row Row Your Boat”, which though very touristic, was also quite touching!
The boat ride across Lake Titicaca from the Uros floating islands to Amantani was nearly 3 hours. Amantani is a fixed island home to communities who still wear traditional clothing and follow ancient local customs. As there are no hotels or hostels on the island, those who choose the 2 day tour get a chance to stay with a local family in their home. Part of the stay also involves actually becoming part of the culture and part of the family you stay with for the 2 days. Jake, Farima and I all stayed with the same family and our Mama’s name was Helen but we chose to call her Mama all the time. She was this adorable little lady, who had 5 kids. She told us (in Spanish) that only the youngest one (who was 14) still lived with her on the island and the others had moved to bigger cities like Lima and Puno.
The three of us were all given a shared a room next to Mama’s and our new brothers’. She cooked us lunch consisting of vegetables, quinoa soup (delicious) and fried cheese with rice. As we were part of the family, we offered to help and cleaned up the dishes. After lunch, we met the rest of our tour group in the square to begin our hike up to the highest point on the Island. As it was beginning to get a little colder, Mama gave us hats that she had sown herself for our hike up. They were quiet stylish (you’ll see in the pictures below)! Once we reached the top, we noticed a ceremonial plaza were locals come and offer coca leave as well as alcohol to Pachamama (Mother Nature) for a good harvest, wealth, and protection against natural disasters. There is a tradition that if you walk around the ceremonial plaza 3 times and make 3 wishes they will come true within your lifetime. Jake thought that if he ran for the last one his wish would come true sooner. So as Farima and Jake ran the last lap, I decided on a leisurely stroll. After some picture taking and sunset watching from the highest point on the island, we headed back to our house to meet Mama for dinner. Following dinner and some more dish washing, Mama dressed us all in traditional local clothing and we headed to a fiesta in town. Though I was a little disappointed that there weren’t as many locals present at the fiesta, mainly tourists and they’re rent-a-families, we had a blast learning the traditional dance moves with Mama that night.
We woke up to homemade bread and mint tea for breakfast the next morning and walked back down to the port to say our thank you and goodbyes to Mama and the rest of the families and boarded our boat to our final destination, Taquile. Once there, we hiked up and around the island to enjoy more gorgeous views of Lake Titicaca. A fun fact we learned about the Taquile culture is that you can infer the marital status of a man by the type of hat he wears (and they are all required to wear hats). Men wearing black hats are captains and leaders of the island; red hats signified a married man while a mixture of red and white hats was representative of an unmarried man, whether or not he was in a relationship. However, if you were unmarried and wore your flap to the left it meant you were living with your girlfriend, to the right meant you had a girlfriend, and to the back meant you were completely single (and ok with it!).
Our trip was coming to an end as we headed back down to the water after lunch and departed on our 3 hour journey back to Puno. Back in Puno, and as we realized it was Cinco de Mayo, the three of us headed out for celebratory tequila shots and margaritas to celebrate the occasion even when in South America!
Edited by: Farima M.