A seagull is quietly floating on the dark blue waters, when it suddenly catches flight. Women are working the fields and it seems that the heat doesn’t affect them under their elaborated and colorful clothes.
All around is green and quiet: there are no cars here, not even dogs.
Lake Titicaca is immense. Sitting outside the local restaurant in the island of Taquile and eating a delicious fresh trout, it feels like I am somewhere in the Mediterrean.
Trumpet-shaped pink flowers grow in almost every street, making the feeling even more realistic. Even the little church in the main square reminds me of some small village in Sicily or the Amalfi coast, but a wooden sign reminds me that I’m over 10,000 km away.
The sky is incredibly blue and the sun is burning my skin. At almost 4,000 m.a.s.l., Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable body of water in the world.
The colectivo boat to the islands leaves Puno every day at 8.20 AM. For 30 S, you can get to both Amantaní and Taquile islands, and spend a night there –or more.
The first stop are the world famous Uros islands. There are around one hundred of these little floating islands built on the totora reed that grows everywhere in the lake. Their peaceful inhabitants first moved here to escape from the aggressive Collas and Incas in Puno, and do not plan to go back to the big city.
The islanders used to trade fish for other goods, while now their main income comes from tourism. We visited the Isla Corazón, inhabited by three families (around 17 people), where Mr. Martín explained us how the islands are built and more about their culture. Former president Fujimori donated a few solar panels to the inhabitants, so that despite living in the middle of nowhere, they can watch TV from their basic huts.
Three more hours into the lake, you reach the island of Amantaní, inhabitated by 4,000 people, all still wearing their traditional clothes. Since there are no hotels nor restaurants, your only solution if you want to spend the night here is a homestay. For 45 S, the captain will find you a local family that will provide you with food and accommodation.
Efrain, a 61 year old man from Lima and I were hosted by Mrs. Epifania and her daughters. They only grow quinoa, potatoes, and broad beans, and that’s what we had for lunch, together with delicious fried cheese and mate de muña.
After that, we set to discover the temples of Pachamama and Pachatata. We watched the sunset with the other passengers of the boat and then, tired and cold, we went back home for dinner.
I was in bed by 8 PM, when Epifania came to wake me up. She dressed me up with her own clothes and I joined Ana Lucía, Isaac and the captain at the peña turística, where a bunch of locals and tourists were dancing traditional dances in traditional clothes.
The next day we left for Taquile following a delicious pancake breakfast. Here, similar to Amantaní, life goes by slowly and quietly.
From the age of 18, men wear typical hats called chullos– red if they’re married, red and white if they’re single. Divorce is not allowed in the island, and people mainly marry among themselves.
The local custom is to sew a belt before the marriage – half of it is sewed by the woman, who mixes her own hair with sheep wool, and the other half by the man. On the wedding day, the two parts are sewn together and the belt is used to help carry weights up to 80 kg.
The Belén brought us back to Puno at around 3 PM. I spent the night with my new friends Ariel, Tristan and Daniel, and then happily reunited with my dorm bed.
The next morning, after another change of plans, Ariel, Tristan and Lauriel joined me on a hike to Sillustani, an archeological site famous for its funerary towers.
We had a delicious pic-nic with fresh cheese and red wine while sitting on the golden grass overlooking the Umaru lake. On the way back to Puno, we hiked downhill to the village of Alluncosta, where a local invited us to visit his house and offered us the local edible clay that I was so looking forward to try. The setting sun was illuminating dozens of peaceful lamas and alpacas, casting our shadows long alongside the dusty road.
Bus Transzela Cusco to Puno: 35 S
Inka’s Rest Guest House in Puno with breakfast: 23 S
Menus around Inka’s Rest GH: around 3 S
15 day transportation ticket among the Lake Titicaca islands: 30 S
Homestay in Amantaní: 45 S including accommodation and three meals
Entrance in Sillantani: 15 S
Bus San Cristobal del Sur Puno to Arequipa: 15 S