First thing, 7.30am, we piled into taxis back to Ithaca for a longish drive south for our first glimpse of Lake Titikaka, a truly vast body of water that has to be seen to appreciate the scale. However our first stop was Silustani, which is famous for its curious burial towers. The towers are in a beautiful setting overlooking a lake with glorious panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
We were camping in the grounds / car park of the museum which is open 6am to dusk, the curator of the museum said we could camp inside the museum, for 15 soles a person (about £1,50) which a number did, which meant sleeping with some of the preserved mummies from the site.
Not for us we were quite happy to sleep outside and just have access to the toilet facilities! Those that did said they were amazed at the lack of security as there was irreplaceable objects such as ancient ceramics in the museum literally just stuffed in cupboards. I guess ancient history is a long way down the list of priorities for a country like Peru still trying to recover from a damaging civil war.
Early start to visit the floating islands of Uros on Lake Titikaka, en-route we crossed a narrow part of the lake to avoid a long detour. Ithaca was loaded separately onto a “barge”, powered by a small outboard motor and made what looked a fairly precarious crossing rocking and rolling all the way.
We followed in small ferry boats and it was a choppy and very cold 10 minutes with a fierce cross wind that was whipping up the waves on the lake. Anyway we all made it safely across and continued south to Puno where we were picked up after checking into hotel, and taken to the lake for our visit. The Uros Islands give a glimpse of a lifestyle that is rapidly disappearing, mainly as the children have the opportunity for a proper education on the mainland and invariably choose to stay on the mainland rather than the islands.
The islands are completely artificial being cut out of blocks of reed as a base and then constantly refreshed by new layers of reeds that are placed on top several times a year. Once moved into position they are then anchored with ropes and stones to stop them just drifting off into the lake.
The island we visited has about 60 inhabitants, all interrelated families, living in simple reed huts. We were greeted by the “president” and the ladies of the island in their colourful indigenous dress and given a talk, on how to build an island and then a description of life including typical foods and lifestyles, which originally was a subsistence existence, you ate only what you caught mainly fish, ducks and eggs.
Vegetables have to be brought in from the mainland and are still sometimes paid for on a barter basis although money is increasingly required and the islanders generate income by catering to the tourists and selling their handicrafts. They drive a hard bargain and although all related are very competitive with each other but considering the time and effort required to produce some of the work it’s still an absolute bargain.
We crossed to another island for some refreshments in a reed catamaran, these are based on the traditional style of reed boat but the catamarans are purely for the tourists. It was a truly excellent experience and a glimpse into a fast disappearing culture. Back in Puno we had lunch and I started to feel unwell and retired to bed about 4.30 skipping dinner and feeling very sorry for myself.
Next day Karen developed similar symptoms – a few others had had a bug too – and so we stayed in the hotel and did some blogging / photo preparation. As a result we missed the trip out to the Sun & Moon islands as neither of us was up to it.
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