|There are hundreds of companies selling tours of the Lake Titicaca islands, but there's no need to go through them. Instead we hopped onto the "collectivo" boat owned by the Islanders of Amantani. First stop was the famous floating islands built by the Uros people to keep a distance from the agressive land-based tribes. They consist of lake reeds and are renewed at the top as they rot away at the bottom. Amantani itself is a real island of predominantly farming families, without roads, cars or hotels. Instead, we stayed in a family house, room and board costing about USD 6 a night.
The people, like in so many Peruvian communities, have their unique way of dressing. The men knit their own woolly caps in incredibly complex patterns. Lots of them wander around with knitting in hand, while the women are more likely to be toting a spindle to spin more wool. The women wear embroidered black shawls, called chucus, often just draped over their heads to protect from the sun, which at this altitude and so close to the equator, is pretty fierce.
To say Amantani is quiet is an understatement. Heather (the American girl who has been travelling with me and Charlotte for the last couple of days) went out looking for some action- well, beer at least- and found the main square dark and silent at 8pm. In the end though, the silence was useful cos we could hear something going on somewhere and after ten mintes of moonlit wandering (no streetlights, in fact, very few houses have electricity), we managed to find the only game in town- the party laid on by the tour groups. Everyone was dressed up in the local clothes, the skirts looking very funny over jeans and boots, and being forced to dance. We had a beer and snuck off again, even gladder than usual we hadn't digned up with the tour companies.
The next day we took another collectivo to Taquile, a similar island, though the women's chucus had tassles on the corners instead of embroidery, and thence back the horrid old Puno for a night in a nasty hotel and to catch the bus to Cusco.