Two days ago we arrived in Puno; a Peruvian city situated at Lake Titicaca (the world’s highest navigable lake). From Puno we visited the floating islands and after that we went for a three hour boat ride to get to Isla Amantani, where everyone would spend the night with a local family. Practically nobody speaks English, only some of the natives speak Spanish, the majority don’t (the main language there is Quechua; only 40% of the inhabitants speak Spanish).
It was a lot of fun! Two others from my group and I were staying with a lovely family: Isidora (mama) and Alfredo who live with their daughter Jasmin and grandkids Franklin and Evelyn (funny how they all have English names and don’t speak it).
The rooms were very nice and clean, and luckily most of the family spoke fluent Spanish so I could act as the interpreter and bombard everyone with each other’s questions and answers.
After we had lunch we went for a hike up to one of the island’s two temples, built at 4132 meters if I remember correctly.
We were fed very nice meals during our stay. The people that live on this island (between 4000 and 5000, depending who you talk to) all grow their own food and live off that. This is what makes it so tasty, it is 100% organic. They mostly eat vegetarian food, only when there is a reason for celebration they slaughter a sheep or some chickens. They didn’t think my coming to stay was enough reason for celebration (I was extremely shocked and insulted as you can imagine).
At night after dinner Alfredo helped dress all of us up in traditional dress
Mama escorted us to the place where the party was going to be, and about 30 other locals started trickling in over the next half hour, along with a local band.
At the start it was real good fun; everyone just has to hold hands and dances in a circle. This goes faster and faster and the music goes faster and faster as well until you are nearly floored by the time the song finishes (though the fact that you are at 4000 meters above sea level might also have a slight impact on your fitness).
“Mama” seemed quite happy though, she kept getting offered glasses of wine which she gulped down as if they were water (much to my great amusement!) not once saying “no”. All was over within about 1.5 hours and we got to go back home, ready to go to sleep.
Alfredo had put little children’s potties in front of our doors, in case we needed to go for a wee in the middle of the night! They only had an outhouse and he didn’t want us to have to walk all the way over there. Even though I laughed at it at the time, I did end up using it in the very early hours… That’s TWO things in one night I hadn’t done since my kindergarten days!
The next day at 6 AM I was awoken not only by heavy rain, hail, thunder and lightening, but also by thunderous noises that sounded like canons going off. When I asked Jasmin about this she explained to me that the people are shooting at the clouds to break the hail that’s in them. I thought I had misunderstood what she was explaining so I asked our guide later that day. He explained the same thing: the people really believe that if they shoot at the clouds (using fireworks-type rockets) it breaks up the hail inside the clouds and then the hail won’t come down and ruin the crops.
They also purposely make big fires to create clouds if it takes to long for the rainy season to start around September, believing that these smoke clouds will then create/bring on the rain. It’s quite a trip to be talking to people that actually are truly convinced by this kind of logic. But then having said that, there are millions of intelligent people that still take bible stories literally in this day and age so what does that tell ya.
Overall I am glad I got to experience this stay, it was fun and the people we stayed with were exceptionally kind and sweet, and it was interesting to learn from their culture, their way of thinking and to experience their way of living. So there you go, it’s only good to step out of your comfort zone and try new things. It may alter the preconceptions you had on what something will be like, and might make you think twice about any unfounded opinions or ideas in the future.
Lake Titicaca is an included excursion on Tucan Travels Adventure and Overland Tours and an optional excursion on Tucan Travel’s Budget Expeditions. To view tours that visit Lake Titicaca, click here.