Note - having trouble getting photos on via tablet so have had to resort to Facebook if anyone wants to see some of the pics. Thanks
Monday morning 4am rise, mainly due to jet lag and the altitude sickness forcing us to kip early the night before. As we were about to leave for our boat trip I asked reception for some oxygen for Gina as she was suffering terribly. Five minutes of free pure oxygen helped a bit and off we went. The boat waited on us and we ventured off to our first stop which was a true life community staying on a floating bed of reeds. Twice a month they put a new covering of reeds over the existing as the lower reeds rot away. The houses and boats are also made of the reeds and one of their staple diet is, you guessed it, reeds. The island must cover about 20 metres by 20 metres and housed four families. Up until recently, having lived in their own bubble, they married whoever was available, sisters and brothers getting married is very common indeed to them, natural and they've only been recently been educated by the government what the dangers and issues there could be. If they could introduce that in Bathgate and Armadale then things wouldn't be so ugly. The guide advised that the kids were now forced to go to school and not surprisingly it was tres difficult to get them to return. They thought the tribes would die out in approximately ten years so it was a privilege and honour to see this before it disappeared for ever.
Amantani is the name of the island that we sailed to next and this is where we'd stay overnight. Now I thought we were staying with natives in the straw huts that we'd just seen so we had taken sleeping bags, inflatable pillows, mosquito netting, bags of cleaning /hygiene products so imagine our surprise when we were introduced to our family and shown to our room which had lights, a bed, windows etc. What an eejit!!
Now don't get me wrong there was no running water, there was an outside non flushing toilet and the place was as bare as could be but nowhere near the hardship we were prepared for. To be honest we're not sure if we were disappointed in not living like a native for a whole night.
We were collected by the family we were to stay with and began the ascent to their house. A distance and elevation we could normally do without breaking a sweat was like climbing a mountain, we were so weak with altitude sickness.
Maleyano introduced us to his lovely wife Patricia. The tres 'ninos' being at school. Conversation was interesting as they spoke espanyol or Quechua. Thankfully my weeks of training allowed me to ask primary school questions..
Their house had steps going up with no balustrade on one side, steel spikes sticking out from the roof, ginger bottles were used to continue the guttering but best of all the access to their part of the house was via planks.. The platform to their front door held up via two thick branches. The kitchen and dining room were separate, held in what looked like an outhouse. The cooking was via a stone oven ie you heat your stones and then once warmed up put pots and pans on them. Regardless of the method the vegetarian meals were superb. We were treated as honoured guests and got the best seats in the area. There weren't enough seats for all so the parents sat on child seats to eat their meals. After lunch the whole tourist group walked to the top of the sacred hill named Pachapapa. Again this was very painful on the head but we got their eventually. To show what pussies we were there were loads of old women up there already who had set out their wares for sale. So basically they made it up the hill with a full pack which included all types of woollen wear, beer, waters and confectionary for the soft gringos.
The sunset was amazing and we ventured down to get dinner and get ready for the discotheque. We were dressed up as locals by the locals to show that we were welcome and honoured guests and as soon as the pan pipe band started the floor filled and the most amazing dancing ensued. The standard was so high I looked like a good dancer. Unfortunately headaches took over and we retreated early to bed. Our host was gutted as we were buying him drink and he in turn shared it with his mates.
We said our goodbyes the following morning after pancakes. Patricia walked out us down to the harbour and waved us off. Prior to this the kids gave us big hugs and smiles before they left for school. A truly memorable and humbling experience. They have so little yet seem so happy. No facetube or britains got no talent for them. Lucky b stards.
Stopped at taquile and after yet more hiking to an altitude of 3900 metres had a fantastic lunch in fantastic scenery but the place had moved on commercially from Amantani and especially Uros and it was kind of sad to see the locals wearing football tops and offering to allow you to take pictures of them in exchange for money. Interesting to see the different levels though.
Early bed again as we can't catch up yet. Up at 6 again to get the 10 hour train journey from Puno to Cusco which will be detailed in part 4.
See below for Gina's thoughts on the trip to visit the different locals. Enjoy.
Arriving in juliaca to the sight of cheerful smiling faces and the sound of traditional intense happy music being played by airport staff in traditional dress while we waited for our luggage was my first overwhelming spilling of water from eyes experience...
I just knew all the suffering from vaccinations and now altitude sickness was going to be very worth it.
The people of this part of the country that we have encountered so far truly appreciate the tourist and you can see from the ear to ear smile and the hug and very often the kiss on your cheek they have grateful hearts when you show appreciation for the welcome and assistance they provide for you.
Sesgulls scavenging at puerto puno brings a smile to my face. For those of you who know me will understand my love of seagulls. ..
The morning of the start of our trip on lake titicaca I was very unwell with the effects of altitude. Our tour guide and hotel staff couldn't have been more understanding by supplying oxygen for me and sending a message to the captain of our boat to wait for us.
Oxygen, altitude sickness medication and a wee snooze was just the recipe to get me sitting on top of the boat with the sun shining and a cool breeze to welcome my next overwhelming experience of seeing and being with a wonder of nature that Lake Titicaca is. It is so vast you feel you are sailing through a calm ocean with views of huge snow covered mountains in the distance. I can't quite describe the awe but I do know it filled me with a feeling of warm positive energy gifting me with a reminder that we are all connected. My soul was singing with joy especially as a solitary seagull circled above in the clear blue sky.. I knew my Dad's spirit was guiding and protecting like he always has and always will. I am sure he will enjoy every part of this journey as much as me if not more as he just loved to travel.
Our trip on Lake Titicaca took us to visit some of the original remaining Uro people living on floating reed islands. We were welcomed with open arms and smiling faces. They had laid out their hours of work in homemade craft items and the ladies sat feeding their babies whilst knitting and hopefully selling a few items to help with the family income so that they could pay for some schooling for their children. Geez we in the west really have been so spolied. You can read or watch documentaries but boy oh boy actually spending time with these wonderful people doesn't just fill your mind with knowledge but also your body and soul gets to feel it too.
You will hear these words often "awe" and "overwhelmed".
Arriving at the island of Amantani.
All the families our group would be staying with were waiting at the Puerto. Traditional Sunday best attire, smiling and genuinely welcoming. Massive step back in time. Basic of basics, all manual labour by way of human or animal strengh. No fridges, hobs or fan assisted ovens not even a sink just buckets where you sit or kneel down to wash and rinse your dishes. Simple but hard working life but happy contented people. We were returning from a temple of worship on top of a hill having worshiped and sent our intentions to Father Sun as it set. Benjamin a sweet 7 year old boy from our family climbed up the mountain to help guide us down in the dark. He ran to meet me, looked up at me with a huge smile, hugged and kissed me, took my hand and gingerly guided me down using a small head torch all the to my room. He then came to our room to guide me down to their out house kitchen to join him his sisters, mum and dad for a very tasty meal. Overwhelmed to the brink of tears again. These people just radiate love all around them.
Later that evening after some very passionate music and dance I stood staring up in awe at a galaxy of the brightest and the most stars I have ever witnessed. They appeared so close you just wanted to reach up to pick one, another universal wonder. Definitely a memorable vision to store for meditation. Next morning our family waved us off in the same endearing way they greeted us and they waved and waved until our boat had sailed away out. A wonderful, wonderful experience.