This weekend was a vacation trip to Puno! At least in my mind it was, Puno is about a seven hour bus ride from the town of Cuzco and is a gateway to the beautiful Lake Titicaca. Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable piece of water but has also been the source of some tensions because it borders Peru and Boliva. The ownership of the lake seems to have been solved, although each side likes to claim they own more of the island.
The first place we visited were the Floating Islands of Uros, these are literally floating islands constructed out of reeds. The origin of these people who inhibit these man-made islands seems to be from the Andes. It is said that these inhabitants ran away to the lake to hide from the Incas. Each of these reed islands have elected a leader, and one greeted us upon arrival and did a miniature demonstration of their procedure. First they harvest the roots of the reeds for a base and then layer the upper part of the reeds on top.
On top of all of this, their houses and boats are made out of reeds. Most of their boats look like the typical boat but they have created another fancier boat (with the head of pumas) for tourists to enjoy. For a small price you can have a go around the lake to be transported to another island.
The second island we visited was the Amantani Island. Our guide explained to us that Amantani comes from the word â€œamanteâ€ or lovers for when the Spaniards arrived, the island was only populated by virgin women. However, our boat was greeted by our surrogate mothers for the night and they welcomed us into their homes. We were all quite shocked by the simplicity of their lives; there was no running water and electricity, they ate their meals sitting on benches (only having tables for the convenience of the tourists), and their kitchen compromised of a simple fire and pot. Even the type of food they eat are limited to their monthly or bimonthly visits to the mainland and what they can farm on this land (mainly potatoes) and their animals.
The island's natural beauty makes up for the simplicity the people live with. A portion of our tour took a hike up to the highest point of the island, Pachamama. The hike up was a steep one and easily put me out of breath, but with each step we saw more and more of the island. Usually, the townspeople make this pilgrimage once a year where they hold a festival. Shamans enter a blocked off building and the people walk around this sacred site three times before making a wish (usually a good harvest). However, we only walked around the site once before settling down to watch the sun set.
That night we also ended up seeing the Milky Way. It was one of the most gorgeous sights I have ever seen, whoever knew that the sky could hold that many stars.
The next day we went to Isla Taquile and hiked up for about an hour to the main square. Although there was a slight incline to this hike it was easily redeemed by admiring the local scenery. From there we went up to a small restaurant with an amazing view of the backside view and ate delicious trout. Then, full of food and scenery we headed back to the boat for a three hour boat ride back to Puno. A perfect way to lose yourself in the nature for a weekend; I couldn't have imagined anything more pristine.
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