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El Ultimo Viaje August 12, 2011

Posted by Amisha Kadiwar in Travel Log.
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For our last trip, we headed to the island, Amantaní. A 3 hour boat ride would take us across the highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca. The lake was HUGE. Apparently, the size of Puerto Rico. As we moved further from the mainland, it got chillier. The wind on the lake was cutting and strong. Every direction was a vivid blue with the mountains peeking out in between. We sat at the top on the high deck for a while and marveled at the enormity of the lake. We started approaching a little island and pulled into the dock.

On the Lake Titicaca

As we gathered our duffels, we were told that our host families for the night lived 45 minutes up the mountain. We hoisted up our things and prepared for the trek. The altitude there was a bit higher than that of the Potato Mountain we’d climbed, and like then, we endured some struggle times climbing with so little oxygen. At our village, we were greeted by our host mom, a tiny lady who came up to my elbows. Apparently, the main source of income for these rural families comes from groups like us who take excursions to the island. The various communities living there take turns hosting tourists every week. Overall, the island is home to about 8,000 people. Our mom led us around a soccer stadium (even the most rural islands LOVE soccer) to our little house.

Our Island Home

Our room was much nicer than we expected. From what we’d heard we practically expected to be sleeping in barns on straw cots or something. We actually had a little loft room with 2 beds and small windows. The bathroom was downstairs and around the corner. It, however, had no running water so I had my first experience flushing a toilet with a bucket. After dropping our bags home, we went to see the island’s parade for Peru’s Independence Day! I was so impressed at the construction of the town stadium. For being on an island with no electricity or running water, the stadium was grand.

We watched the school kids march with flags and older people dance in various styles. After the parade, our families brought us an authentic lunch on the hillside. We all sat in a huge circle as they rolled out a blanket filled with potatoes. We sat in the dirt looking out at the great scenery. Lunch was followed by a climb to the highest mountain peak in the center of the island. From there you could see all the tiny village homes and the never ending Lake Titicaca in all directions.

The View

When we returned home, we watched the sunset through our loft window and our family called us down for dinner. The kitchen was in its own little building, which was basically a plain little room with a dirt floor and one small table. There were no appliances or such, just a fire with some pots hanging over it. It’s hard to believe that in 2011 people are still living in such simplicity. They make a 3 hour boat ride twice a week to get food from the mainland! After dinner, our mother dressed us in traditional indigenous clothing and took us to the town hall to meet the rest of our group for dancing. We all looked ridiculous but had some good laughs and good fun.

The Whole Group

On the way back from the dance, we stopped at the soccer stadium to lie and look at the stars. The night sky on the island was the most beautiful I have EVER seen; even better than the planetarium/observatory in Cuzco. I didn’t even know the sky could have so many stars. You could even see the strip of the Milky Way. As we lay there in awe, I waited for a shooting star. Everyone had gone on and on about seeing them in Cuzco and I figured if I was ever going to catch sight of one, it would be here. After a few short minutes, I saw a star fall across the sky; just like the movies! The night was cold, but it wasn’t as bad as we’d been expecting. Sleeping, the blankets were so heavy you could barely flip over.

The next morning, the sun rose so early and shone brightly through our windows. We packed up our things and walked down to the docks to catch the boat for our next island adventure. Another long boat ride brought us to Uros, the handmade floating reed islands. The islands of Uros were so curious. None of us could understand why these families made their own islands (you could literally walk across from one end to another in less than two minutes) instead of living on the many mountains in the lake. Uros was made of 22 small islands each of which housed about 3 or 4 families. They explained to us how the islands were made and how they anchor themselves down to keep from floating all around the lake. Our guide mentioned too that if neighbors have trouble getting along, they simply saw through the reeds to split the island in half! It really was a strange sight. I also finally got the chance to give away the 5 pounds of crayons and paper pads that I’d been lugging around for days up and down the mountains. The children on the reed islands have very limited resources and were so happy to receive the little gifts. After Uros, we headed back to Puno and our hotel. I can’t believe how different the two worlds were: the island villages and the city of Puno. Such a drastic change in such a short distance..

Friday was spent all day on the bus back to Cuzco. It was so nice to “come home.” I really love my family in Cuzco! They were so happy to have us home and we spent our time together looking at pictures from our trip.

Best Family Ever!

I can’t believe I have been here for 6 weeks! As much as I’ve enjoyed my time – I’ve had some truly once in a lifetime experiences – I am so excited to return home, to Atlanta! I think that what I’ll miss most besides my wonderful family are the mountains and the sense of always feeling in the midst of an adventure. I have made some great friends and look forward to more trips in the future!

 

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