Saturday March 31
31.03.2012 - 31.03.2012
Up at 0500 (seems almost normal now!) to begin our drive south to the Altiplano and Lake Titicaca. Up and over the mountains south of Cusco following the Urubamba River eventually to its source in the high mountains that parallel the Altiplano and form the continental divide (north to the Amazon basin or south to Lake Titicaca).
We stop for snacks at a small town where the shop has enough ceramics of note to tempt Chris into buying a large green and white glazed bull - don't know how he plans to to pack that and lots of other souvenirs already bought (large ceramic bowl etc) back to the UK. This town, Dorito, is apparently where the practice of putting 2 pottery animals on your roofline for luck started - called "Doritos".
Stopped beside the river a little further on to enjjoy our packed lunches. Two little boys, presumably from nearby households, kicked along the riverbank past our party on the off-chance something might come their way, but we soon packed ourselves back into the bus and continued toward the Altiplano.
Once up on this high sparsely-covered plain between two high mountain ranges (passed many llamas and some vicunas) the road straightened and our speed increased toward Lake Titicaca.
Near the lake we passes through a very dusty working city, Juliaca, which is growing very quickly (trucks and construction everywhere) and followed dirt roads out along a peninsula to the south where we met the passenger boat to take us and our overnight packs to Isla Amantini for the night's homestay.
The boat owner (and principal deckhand) was 75 and very spry, and the captain was his youngest daughter. We enjoyed a beautiful ride of an hour or so out to the island, eventually against a steady breeze and 2-3' waves, to arrive at the main dock on Amantini.
We were greeted by some of our host home parents who walked (effortlessly in the 4000m air) with us (labouring mightily) up and up to the garden terrace of the senior host home parent for tea and to meet our various hosts. Bernie easily makes a new small friend while we are all introduced around.
We found the beautifully rock-paved paths quite steep and were grateful for the reviving effects of the bunch of peppermint sprigs we were each given and advised to sniff. Lake Titicaca is South America's largest lake (170kmX60 km) forming part of the border between Peru and Bolivia. According to legend, the first Inca, Manco Capac, son of the Sun God, Inti, emerged here.
After being shown to our rooms for the night at Daniel and Augustine's home near the lakeshore,
most of us joined Juan for a walk up the smaller of the two hills on Amantini, Mother Earth, to see the temple and amazing views on top.
The islanders live cooperatively, sharing tasks like walkway building and dividing the terraced slopes for subsistence farming among the several separate communities dotted around the shores, totalling some 2000 people altogether. Arches on the paths announce the various communities' ownership and responsibility, and work goes on literally from dawn to dusk.
No wired electricity is used by islanders (there are some small solar arrays) although a former Peruvian President installed underwater cables and light standards some years ago. They don't need or want it, and can't afford it anyway, for their cooperative subsistence lifestyle. Life expectancy here is 80-85, probably a result of their extremely simple and active lifestyle.
The people produce beautiful woven pieces and hosted a folk craft festival on the island in 2009.
Back at Daniel and Augustine's, Chris, Nat, Ric and I are invited into their cosy cocina (kitchen) to meet their daughters, Lehaina (sp?) and Mariella, and watch our supper being prepared on a wood-fired clay oven: soup, rice and vegetable stew with mint tea. Daniel, but not the ladies, eats with us and then joins his family in the kitchen. Belatedly we notice the relative lateness of the hour at about 8:30pm and turn in quickly so they can do so as well.
Very quiet and dark overnight, especially if you need to visit the outhouse in the courtyard below!