Since La Paz, I have met my GAP group and have travelled back to Peru. We are basd in a place called Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca (stone pemu in Quechan).
Yesterday morning, we took a boat excursion around the islands of the Lake. The first port of call were the Uros Islands. This is a group of 20 islands made of reeds, yes reeds, layers and layers of them. The people who live on these islands have polynesian origins, and their fist language is Quechan (inca language). They cook and everything on these reeds, it's amazing. I was so enchanted with the whole thing, that I bought their crafts, eventhough I promised not to shop until near the end in Ecuador. The weather was beautiful, the people all smiles, I loved it.
Next stop was a real island, called Taquile, we had lunch of grilled trout from the lake and it was just all pretty and gorgeous. The people on this island, as well as the other islands we visited, all wear traditional dress - red and white hats for single men and red and black hats for married men, so you know.
The last island was the island we stayed in overnight, called Armatri I think. We were split up at the pier, me and two others (Helen, Karen) were brought to a family home by the mother. She was small, like all Peruvians, but she flew up the hill, while the rest of us huffed and puffed after her. The altitude here is over 3.8 K by the way. I thought we would never get to this house, I cursed that I overpacked my overnight back pack I tell you. Eventually we made it, after half an hour, I had a big red face at this stage. The house was very basic, no electricity, plumbing, and has dirt walls with corrugated roofs. The 3 of us were led to a nice simple room, up a very rikety stepladder. The 4 children of the family stared at us a lot. The wee girl in particular took to us and followed us around. I played ball with her for a while. It's sweet how in some parts of the world, parents don't worry about their children hanging out with strangers.
In the evening, we had a meal of chips, rice and soup. Then we had to put on traditional dress. It was freezing, and the house had no heat, so we put them on over our fleeces and trousers. God we looked ridicolous and huge compared to the island woman. Then we met all the other tourists in the local hall for trad dancing. The dancing was very energetic, I couldn't breathe well as I was strapped in tight in to my costume, so between the altitude and squashed ribs there was more huffing and puffing going on. Anyway, the dancing warmed us up and it was a great way of mixing with the locals (who proably laughed at our effort of dancing).
So last night, I slept well, eventhough it rained very heavily on the corrugated roof. This morning, we had pancakes with sugar, some herbal tea and returned to Puno by boat. I almost cried saying goodbye to the family, they are so hospitable you could not be but touched. We were instructed to not give families money but goods instead. So we had brought our family sugar, rice, pasta, oil and apples. They were grateful. We also give them a gift of a wooden handcraft nativity scene we bought earlier on an Uros island, gosh the children loved it. The children were so well behaved, smiley all the time, and bless them they don't have lots of toys.
Tomorrow we head to Cusco, where the first language is Quenchan, and it was the last Inca city to fall to the Spanish. They held out for a tough 40 years, it's fall was the end of the Inca empire more or less. I am looking forward to it.