Sunday, May 26, 2013

Week 7: Puno, Uros Islands & Lima

Week 7: Puno, Uros Islands & Lima

Our trip has come to an end and we are richer for it. We saw a quote early on in our travels that said " the only thing in life that you can buy that makes you richer is travel" and how true that statement is.

Lake Titicaca, Puno in the background

Our last week in Peru consisted of visiting Puno where Lake Titicaca is located and a quick stop in Lima before heading back State-side. Lake Titicaca is on the border of Peru and Bolivia. By volume of water, it is the largest lake in South America and is often called the highest navigable lake in the world, with an elevation of 12,507 ft. Located in the lake are 42 self-fashioned floating islands called the Uros islands were per-inca people escaped from Inca rule. Currently, they are close to 2,000 people who live on these islands. The Uros use bundles of dried totora reeds to make reed boats and the islands themselves. The islands are made by interweaving the reeds and then are anchored with ropes attached to sticks driven into the bottom of the lake. The reeds rot away fairly quickly so new reeds are added to the top every months. The islands felt squishy underneath our feet.

The famous floating Uros Islands

Houses made of Totora Reeds

Inside a Uro House

Granny selling handcrafts

They can make anything out of totora reeds

The Uros' diet and medicine also revolve around the same totora reeds used to construct the islands. The reeds are called "Inca bananas" because they can be peeled like you guessed it a banana. They have a white flesh that is eaten for iodine to prevent goitres and taste like watered-down coconut.

Nate trying the totora reed. You can´t swallow it, because foreigners are known to get the Montezuma  revenge effect. 

Traditional reed boat
We spent about an hour on two of the islands and got to take a totora reed boat from island to island. From there we took a two-hour boat ride to Taquile island which is about 30 miles from Puno. About 2,200 people live on this island. The highest point of the island is 12,600 ft. and the inhabitants are known as TaquileƱos, who are southern Quechua speakers. Taquilenos are know for their textiles and clothing, where the men exclusively knit and the women make yarn and weave. The men wear what looks like a 1800s English night cap, like the one Scrooge wears in a Christmas Carol. Men who are married wear an all red one, men who are single wear a white and red cap and leaders wear a colourful one with a bowler hat on top. The structure of the community was very interesting, community leaders were not paid to avoid corruption, the market was a co-op and community members were all vegetarians because they don't have space for animals. We had a wonderful lunch there of quinoa soup and fresh caught trout.

On the reed boat

We're told that they fill the boats with plastic bottles for greater bouyancy... recycling!

The view from the top of Taquile island

Women´s attire in Taquile island

This is a married man (red hat). He was showing us how they make soap out of a plant. Really cool.

The next day we got lucky and saw another parade. It was a school's anniversary celebration and was just beautiful. The costumes were so elaborate. There must have been at least 150 groups of 30 paraders in each group with musical instruments and different outfits, everything from young children to older adults. We really enjoyed Puno, as we felt it was real Peru and not as touristy as Cusco. The food was good and cheap, the streets were filled of colourful outfits worn by women with their bowler hats and the atmosphere was lively and safe. Just a great ending to our time in Peru.

Nate finally getting his Guinea pig!

The classic English bowler hat that Peruvian (and Bolivian ) wear as a symbol of authority and respect in their communities. Doesn´t she look regal?

How women in Peru and Bolivia carry their babies

Our last bus ride was to Lima and took 24 hrs. So as you can imagine we were exhausted and spent the next day sleeping and catching up on our correspondence. We stayed in Miraflores, which is the more upscale part of Lima and walked around to the different parks along the coast enjoying being back at sea level. At night there was music in the park, craft booths, and art with a nice chill in the air, really just a perfect ending.

Lima´s coast

Now we return to the States and PR for a few weeks to visit with family and friends before moving to Bogota, Colombia where Nate has found a great job. We are looking forward to the next stage in our life and surely will keep the blog active during our first few months there.

Till next time.

In Peru they don´t just have corn, they have ALL the types of corn. Thanks Peru, we truly enjoyed you. 

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