There are 42 floating islands on Lake Titicaca founded by the Uru people. They were originally built on the lake for defensive purposes. These islands can be moved since they are floating on reed beds.
When we arrived at the dock we were greeted by a member of our host family and were escorted back to their house to enjoy a local lunch and a brief siesta before a trek up Pachatata Mountain (Pachatata means "Father Earth") to watch the sunset.
This was the first time that we really felt the altitude affect us. Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world at over 12,500 feet. Our trek up Pachatata would increase that another 1000 feet. This was a good test for us since the Inca Trail hike was only four days away.
There is meat on the island, but most of their diet is made up of potatoes, quinoa, and rice. We ate vegetarian for all our meals. Meat is considered very special and is rarely eaten for daily meals.
As we walked the path back to their house, Lori, with a mysterious newfound burst of energy decided to playfully race the boys back to their house. The boys were delighted at the unexpected challenge. Once back at the house she played games (Tic-Tac-Toe) and learned Spanish from them, while teaching them a few English words and phrases. I got the chance to play a quick game of soccer with the boys along with one of our other housemates who was staying with us. It was a fantastic and amazing cultural experience, punctuated by copious laughter.
We freshened up a bit and came downstairs to the family's main room only to discover that we were going to be dressed up in traditional clothes to attend this fiesta. The night had become quite cold so layering in the warm Peruvian-style clothes really helped.....until the dancing started.
This lasted for a couple of hours until we finally snuck out of the fiesta a bit early in the darkness with our flashlight and picked our way along the rocky path to our home stay, only to find the door locked when we arrived. After the boys answered our knock, they pointed to the back of the house since they could not unlock the door without a key. So, we had to hop over their back fence and around the sheep pen in order to come in a side door and gratefully shed our heavy woolen clothes for pajamas and a warm bed.
If you ever take this trip, it would be helpful if you brought toys or educational books for the children who live on Amantani Island. Fresh fruit or even toliet paper (you can purchase cheaply in Puno) would also be gratefully accepted if you brought some along. These proud and hard-working people do not get many luxuries so anything extra you can provide would be such a thoughtful gift for them.
On our way again, we were informed that it would be a 1.5 hour ride to the island of Taquile, our day's destination.
Taquile Island is known for its textiles and clothes. You can also do a home stay on this island if you choose to.
We had one more night's stay in Puno before we left the next morning. Some people were catching the overnight bus from Puno back to Cusco, but we were not up for that. Therefore, we highly recommend staying the extra night in Puno after your Lake Titicaca tour.
The next day, after a good night's sleep, we took a direct bus back to Cusco, not the typical tourist bus. The direct bus had no stops. The ride is much faster but travels along the same scenic road that we traveled to get to Puno.
When arriving at the bus station to get our tickets, we had to pay a small 'departure tax'. This was not included in the price of our ticket. So, be sure to purchase your bus ticket from the company you plan to ride with and then go to this marked booth to pay your departure tax. It was a very quick additional step and very inexpensive (less than $0.50).
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