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Culture Abounds on Lake Titicaca

I’m baaaaaaaack! Thanks for all the well wishes the past week. Sickness was inevitable, but I didn’t think it would strike so suddenly. Let’s just say I will be much more careful when eating…no more buffets!

After our journey to Machu Pichhu, Greg and I boarded a bus early the next day to Puno, Peru. There isn’t much in Puno, but it is the launching point for adventures on Lake Titicaca. This lake interested us because it is the highest navigable lake in the world at 12,500 ft above sea level (and it has a hilarious name).  It is located on the Peru/Bolivia border. It also contains 41 different islands making it feel and look more like an ocean.  To give you an idea of Lake Titicaca’s size, here is a comparison to some familiar lakes (one acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre to a depth of one foot):

  • Lake Michigan - 3,987,456,000 acre-feet
  • Lake Titicaca - 723,148,586 acre-feet
  • Lake Wilson (Kansas) - 235,000 acre-feet
  • Lake Monroe (Indiana) - 182,250 acre-feet

Having arrived in Puno, we made plans for a 2 day / 1 night excursion on Lake Titicaca. I was still on a “wrapper food” diet and wasn’t feeling great the day of our scheduled departure. So we decided to take a day to relax before venturing out to the lake. Fully rested, we boarded a sleepy boat at 8am full of tourists from France and Spain. Our first stop were the much anticipated islands of Uros.

Floating Island of Uros  Authentic Uros Attire    

 

 

 

 

 

 There are 42 of these tiny artificial islands, only five prior to tourism. The inhabitants live on these islands made of ½ reeds and ½ their roots found in the shallow areas of Lake Titicaca, adding reeds as necessary. The original purpose of the islands was that of defense. They would move their floating homes whenever they felt a threat arise. Home on UrosThe people live, sleep, and cook in small reed huts about the size of a dorm room. By day, the men fish and gather reeds while the women cook, weave, and tend to the family. The islands are also self sustaining. They have a school through Junior High, barter with land dwelling people for grains, and drink potable water straight from frigid Lake Titicaca.

After Uros it was a two hour boat ride to Amantani, a volcanic island. Though not as impressive compared to Uros, we were able to closely interact with the local people. We were introduced to our host, Wecelia, then ushered to her family’s home for a unique lunch of lightly fried minnows, potatoes, and vegetables. Upon seeing the minnows, my stomach immediately churned while Greg gladly, then regretfully tried one. Our room for the night was made from mud-bricks and the door was miniature, only coming up to Greg’s chest. Nevertheless, we were thrilled for the opportunity to live like a local for one day.

Greg's Better Half Lake Titicaca

 

We hiked one hour to the pinnacle of Amantani then made our way back down just in time for dinner. Lacking electricity, we ate our dinner of fried potatoes and rice by candle light. We sipped some warm coca tea, then Wecelia and her husband dressed us in their traditional clothes so we could attend the native fiesta. With a flashlight guiding our way, we made our way through town just in time for the fiesta to begin. Mmmmm... Not so much According to Greg, it is the most sober fun one can have in a concrete bunker. For about 2 hours, the locals and tourists alike danced to authentic Peruvian music. Greg said it reminded him of the Wedding March my Miller family likes to perform at weddings… Miller’s, hopefully this frames the evening for you! After the fiesta, we made our way back to our little mud-brick room for the evening.

After an early morning breakfast we boarded the boat en route to another volcanic island, Taquile. In this case, Juan Carlos (guide) did not save the best for last. It had beautiful scenery similar to the previous islands, but lacked something unique. I was still not feeling 100%, so I was anxious to get back to Puno and a nice warm bed.

How the people lived on Lake Titicaca reminded me of the simple things we take for granted. Showers, lightswitches, flushing toilets, baking oven – none of these appeared in Wecelia’s humble abode. Though they must be doing something right… life expectancy on Lake Titicaca is rumored to be over 90 years old!

- Ash

Tips

  1. Visit 2 or 3 travel agencies before booking a group tour. Every agency offers similar excursions, so find one that will negotiate with you. Price, included meals, and lodging are all fair game for haggling.

  2. Multilingual guides can get scatterbrained and forget to translate important pieces of info. Before partaking in activities on any tour, make sure it is included, and if not, find out the cost. We took a 10 minutes boat ride around Uros we thought was included and $7 later we learned our lesson!

  • Ryan K.

    Guys,

    If that's not your kid I don't know whose it is. It's a dead ringer for the both of yous.

    Keep the posts coming.

  • jamesflege

    Greg and Ashely,

    Sue suggested that we check out our blog, and I'm glad I did. You are putting a lot of time and effort into it, and the results are quite good. Informative as well as entertaining.

    We have a little secret to share with you.

    When you do something that to everyone else seems like the absolute best idea ever, paradise rolled up in banana leaf, people expect you to be deleriously happy every second of every day. But that's just not the way it is. Even paradise has it's drawbacks from time to time.

    It's not clear how much of this voyage of discovery is for you, and how much is for the folks back home (or, for your future selves , immobilized senior citizens 50 years from now). Whatever may be the case, just remember: Every day doesn't have to be great!

    Enjoy, but not on anyone else's schedule.

    Jim and Tullia

    Lazio, Italy

  • stacykromenhoek

    I know you guys hear it all the time, but I am so proud of you…and so jealous! I honestly am moved to tears when I read your updates. Experiencing the world is incredible, but you are managing to experience the people of the world – amazing. I know in my travels abroad, I have heard the same message about 'rude Americans' – but I am thankful that you are out there representing all of us. I couldn't have picked a better couple to do that!

    Have a blast – and we love you!

    Your cuz,

    Stacy K.

  • belindaconnell

    loved the pictures… That little kid is to cute, you should have taken Ellie with you! ha
    Greg you were crazy to eat the minnows but the worse case would have been Ashley trying to cook in their clay ovens and you would have to eat that! ha
    How do they keep the reed strong enough to build on it?? that just seems unreal. what is the temperature there?
    LOVED seeing both of you last night, look forward to the next one.

  • fofs

    Jim & Tulia – What great advice! Yes, everyday isn't peachy and
    regardless of the exotic local there is laundry to be done, bus
    schedules to navigate, and the occasional toiletry run.

    Ashley would be the first to admit paradise has its drawbacks…
    beginning with Yours Truly!

    Hope all is well in Italy.

    - Greg & Ash

  • stacykromenhoek

    Oh, wait – I forgot about J&K….I may have to retract my statement. Massive reproduction scores pretty high in my book :)

    We are glad the rough living hasn't damaged your sense of humor!

    Peace out! Love you guys!

    Stacy & Jack

  • Anonymous

    Ryan – You will have the incredible opportunity to meet Anthony (he goes by “Puma”) in Buenos Aires next month.

    - Greg

  • Anonymous

    Stacy – Thanks for the kind words. America voted and we narrowly beat out John & Kate Gosselin as the couple to represent the Red, White & Blue.

    - Greg & Ash +0

  • Anonymous

    Nina – The men gather reeds then weave them on their islands every few weeks as the existing reeds rot. It was a bit chilly when were there, maybe 65 F during the day, then dips in the evening. It was interesting to see how they live on so little, though they have solar power compliments of the Japanese government.

    - Ash

  • fofs

    Jim & Tulia – What great advice! Yes, everyday isn't peachy and
    regardless of the exotic local there is laundry to be done, bus
    schedules to navigate, and the occasional toiletry run.

    Ashley would be the first to admit paradise has its drawbacks…
    beginning with Yours Truly!

    Hope all is well in Italy.

    - Greg & Ash

  • fofs

    Ryan – You will have the incredible opportunity to meet Anthony (he
    goes by “Puma”) in Buenos Aires next month.

    - Greg

  • fofs

    Stacy – Thanks for the kind words. America voted and we narrowly beat
    out John & Kate Gosselin as the couple to represent the Red, White &
    Blue.

    - Greg & Ash +0

  • fofs

    Nina – The men gather reeds then weave them on their islands every few
    weeks as the existing reeds rot. It was a bit chilly when were there,
    maybe 65 F during the day, then dips in the evening. It was
    interesting to see how they live on so little, though they have solar
    power compliments of the Japanese government.

    - Greg

  • fofs

    Jim & Tulia – What great advice! Yes, everyday isn't peachy and
    regardless of the exotic local there is laundry to be done, bus
    schedules to navigate, and the occasional toiletry run.

    Ashley would be the first to admit paradise has its drawbacks…
    beginning with Yours Truly!

    Hope all is well in Italy.

    - Greg & Ash

  • fofs

    Ryan – You will have the incredible opportunity to meet Anthony (he
    goes by “Puma”) in Buenos Aires next month.

    - Greg

  • fofs

    Stacy – Thanks for the kind words. America voted and we narrowly beat
    out John & Kate Gosselin as the couple to represent the Red, White &
    Blue.

    - Greg & Ash +0

  • fofs

    Stacy – Thanks for the kind words. America voted and we narrowly beat
    out John & Kate Gosselin as the couple to represent the Red, White &
    Blue.

    - Greg & Ash +0

  • fofs

    Nina – The men gather reeds then weave them on their islands every few
    weeks as the existing reeds rot. It was a bit chilly when were there,
    maybe 65 F during the day, then dips in the evening. It was
    interesting to see how they live on so little, though they have solar
    power compliments of the Japanese government.

    - Greg

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