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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Lake Titicaca, Peru and La Paz, Bolivia

After leaving Cuzco I spent two days touring Lake Titicaca. As I was leaving my hostel I ran into Jon from Canada (living in Chicago) who was on my bus and also going to do tour of Lake Titicaca. So we booked a tour together once we got to Puno, the port town on the Peru side of the lake. Lake Titicaca is a huge lake inbetween Peru and Bolivia with small and bigger islands all around. I was only on the Peru side. My tour was one night two days. The first day we left on a small boat with 25 passengers. On the boat I ended up meeting lots of people. I ended up spending a lot of time with some girls from Germany, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland. The boat first stops at the floating islands which are islands made completely out of reeds and all the houses and structures on them are also made of reeds. Here is an example of one of the houses.

These people live on these tiny islands and if they have electricity it is just what can be run on two tiny solar panels. In recent years their lives have been taken over by tourism and they rely on selling crafts to tourists as their main means of survival. The islands are really cool to see but also felt like you were invading someone's home, seeing as only two or three families live on the smaller islands.

Our next stop was a bigger island, Amantani where we spent the night with host families. The boat we were on was soooo slow and so it takes about three to four hours to get there although it is not all that far. The boat ride was freezing and everyone bundled up in all their layers and crowded into the inside part of the boat. In Amantani we were met by the host mothers who took us to their houses. Each house has a separate room with about 4 beds to host tourists and then they serve you three meals. Jon and I stayed with a woman named Justa and her seven year old son Henderson. None of the houses on the island have electricity and they are all constructed simply with mud and sticks or concrete and have outhouses in the back. The whole experience of staying with a family was slightly awkward. The families rely on tourists as a huge source of money and so have people stay at their houses once a week this time of year, and a few times a week in the high season. And so whereas we were there to experience the culture and talk to the people, they are really only doing it for the money and so have no interest in talking to us. When we were called down for meals we would try and make conversation by telling them about ourselves or asking them questions, the questions were always answered with a simple yes or a no, which made it clear they didn't want to engage in conversation. After a really good, but slightly awkward lunch we met up with the rest of our group who had all had similar experiences talking to their host families. Our guide took us on a hike to the top of the island were there were some ruins and great views of the lake. This picture is at the ruins just about sunset with two of the Norwegian girls, the Icelandic girl, and Jon from Canada.

Henderson, the boy who lived in the house we were at was very excited for us to take pictures of him so here is a picture of us.

So, we were told that every night, all the tourists go to a party that the host families have. Our guide told us that our families will give us the traditional clothes to wear and we wear these to the party. We all felt slightly wired about dressing up in the traditional clothes. Basically it is a party created for the tourists where they play traditional music, you do traditional dance and wear traditional clothes, so it is like this fake show of the culture for all the gringos to experience. Anyway, it was rude not to take the clothes so all 50 or so tourists were dressed up. My host mother would come up to me during the party to do the traditional dance with me and while dancing just had the most plain, bored expression on her face. Can you imagine doing the whole thing at least once a week, they must get sick of it. Anyway we had fun. Here is a picture of me and the three German girls on the left and the Swedish girl on the right all dressed up. They tied the skirts on so tight and then wrapped the sashes around your waist even tighter that it was slightly hard to breath.

The next morning we left on the boat and went to Taquile, another larger island. We walked around this island, visited the local craft markets, and had lunch. After we left the island we had another three hour boat ride back to the city. This time however it was hot out and so most people were sitting outside, and I sat on the roof deck. At some point a girl asked the guide if it was possible to stop and jump in the water for a minute. He warned that it was cold but we didn´t care and so the driverstoppedd the boat and seven of us jumped off of the roof deck into the really cold water for about a minute or two before we all quickly got back in the boat before we becamecompletelyy numb. Very nice and refreshing.

I decide to go to Bolivia which was not part of my original plan. I had heard that La Paz was fun and the salt lakes south of La Paz are supposed to be amazing. So I am now in La Paz, I came here with Jon and Heida who is from Iceland. I am only here for a day and a half, I am leaving tomorrow morning. It has been fun to just walk around the city. It is a big city and you can buy anything here. Today I went to the Cocamuseumm. Coca is a plant they have all over Peru and Bolivia and you are supposed to drink tea make with it or chew the leaves to help with altitude sickness. The tea is served everywhere and so I have had ita lott. It is also the plant that cocaine is made from. Themuseumm gives a whole history of its uses including drugs, medicinal purposes, altitude, and Coca-Cola (notice the name). We have all heard that Coca-Cola used to have cocaine in it but doesn´t anymore, but what I didn´t know is that it still has coca leaves in it for taste. Also, Freud discovered the chemical in the plant that is made into cocaine. I spent a while walking around the city, through the black market (that is officially what the area is called) where you can buy anything, and through other markets. I also walked through tcemeteryary. Tcemeteryary here is not like acemeteriesies I have seen in the US. It is filled with these above ground buildings where coffins are inserted and then the family creates an alter in a window in front so that you have these buildings with a grid of hundreds of alters decorated with flowers, saints, objects, etc. Across the street from tcemeteryary is a big flower market so that people can go buy flowers to bring to tcemeteryary, anyway it was very interesting. So La Paz has been fun, although it has been raining on and off so you get pretty wet walking around the city. I´m off to meet some people for dinner and then catch an early bus tomorrow morning to Uyuni where I will hopefully find a tour to the salt lakes.


At 6:48 PM, February 09, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...


It's great following your travels. How wonderful to have the time to follow your heart and meet great companions to share your adventures.


At 5:13 PM, February 12, 2006, Blogger sonja said...

sar!! so incredible! my favorite is the picture of you in the traditional garments!

At 8:18 PM, February 17, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i got your postcard today!!!! basically, you're fabulous. i miss yooooooooooooooooooooooooooooou. love, t

ps. your rug is doing just fine. s/he says hello :-)


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