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PERU - DAY FOUR - Lake Titicaca

Previous Blogs:

Day 1 - Arequepa | Day 2 - Yanque | Day 3 - Colca Canyon | Day 4 - Lake Titicaca | Day 5 - Road to Cusco | Day 6 - Machu Picchu | Day 7 - Cusco

Day 8 - Sacred Valley | Day 9 - Salt and Terraces | Day 10 - Rain Forrest | Day 11-12 - Rainforest/Lima | Day 13 - Paracus

Click photos for a larger image...

While we have heard several other travelers woe of Altitude Sickness, we have not had too much of a rough time. Sure the 16,000 foot day kicked our asses with a little dizziness, but since then we constantly been between 10,000 and 13,000.  The only real issue is each morning we wake up with blurry vision, like someone changed the prescription in our glasses. We are only able to see long distance through reading glasses. This fades away after a couple hours. Shortness of breath when hiking uphill is the only other symptom I have experienced.  Wendy experienced mild low grade headaches for a very short amount of time. A few aspirin and she was better in no time. And they say no drinking or smoking at high altitudes - hell, that's what's keeping us going! 

We are in Puno, a city of 250,000 located on Lake Titicaca which sits at 12,500 feet above sea level; thus making this the highest navigable lake in the world. To pronounce Titicaca the correct way...

tit - tee - KA - KA

If you don't emphasize the KA-KA emphatically enough, they frown at you.

The lake borders on two countries Peru and Bolivia. 5 major rivers feed into the lake and 22 smaller ones. The lake temperature is pretty much the same year round, about 52 degrees.

We were picked up at 6.45am for a short bus ride to the port. Our agent, after hearing us "complain" about really long days, made a few calls and got us on a much faster boat, cutting our 10 hour tour down to less than eight hours. We were very happy with this.

Unfortunately when morning dawned it was raining, so we had to buy rain coats ($1.70 each).  That broke the bank. We began with a 40 minute boat ride to a "floating island".  If the agent had not gotten us on a different boat, that 40 minute ride would have been 1.5 hours.

These island are made out of reeds and takes 6 months to a year to make one.  They are then anchored at a favorite spot and several families live on it permanently.

This has been a practice for hundreds of years and it is believed these people escaped to the water to get away from the Spanish conquerors.

Everything is made from reeds from the floors to the houses - which are single room occupied by an entire family.

Here they are harvesting reeds to maintain their homes. The islands and houses last for up to 20 years before they have to be rebuilt.

Finally the sun came out and it turned into a beautiful day!  For $3 a head, they took us on a 20 minute ride on their home made reed boats which are surprisingly stable and comfortable. They have other boats with outboards to get to the mainland for supplies and trading, the reed boats are used locally around their house for fishing and are driven by poles.

They are Catholic but speak their own language which isn't Spanish, and also incorporate a "Mother Earth" paganistic twist to their religion with the many festivals throughout the year.

They even have a pet kitty cat!

We then left for our next stop, the island of Taquile.

There are 2200 people that live on this island. As you can see docking is done on first come first served basis and everyone else rafts up.

There are no cars, no hotels only a few stores selling basic goods and then many restaurants that cater to the visiting tourists.

The Taquileños run their society based on community collectivism and on the Inca moral code: do not steal, do not lie, do not be lazy. The island is divided into six sectors  for crop rotation purposes, and sheep farming. The economy is based on fishing, terraced farming of potatoes, and tourist-generated income from the approximately 40,000 tourists who visit each year.

Directly opposite shore is Bolivia.

Terraced farming.

We were treated to a cultural display and then served lunch which was locally caught trout and very delicious. They have an interesting culture - the men knit and make the women's clothes and if they want to marry the couple has to live together for three years to see if it will work before they can get married (with a chaperone, of course).

Once married, the new bride cuts her hair and braids it into the multicolored tapestry belt for her new husband (Above left he is wearing it).  Women also wear black "cloaks" (Above Right) which resemble the habit of a nun, which the husband knits for her.

Even in the field they wear traditional dress

Safe harbors built for their boats

Once we got back we asked our driver if he could stop off at a liquor store on the way back to replenish our supplies.

Pictured on the left (together with the pretty animal our hotel had made from towels) is our haul.

1 liter scotch, 1 liter Rum, a bottle of wine and a six pack of beer. Cost? $31.00 - less than half you would pay in the USA for the same items!


And finally...

If you live on a reed island with no electricity, why not invest in a solar panel and stick it up on your roof next to the ducks you are drying out?  Duck Jerky!