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Day 12 – Lake Titicaca

(Monday September 2nd )

After breakfast in a freezing cold dining room, we were picked up and taken to the docks for our boat trip around Lake Titikaka. Then it was off to pick up the upgraded lot from their own private hotel dock. We thought it sounded posh – but in fact it was a tatty little tumbledown quay that showed all the signs of collapsing as they clambered aboard.

PS. I’m beginning to get a cold – not ideal, as it’s difficult enough to breathe at 4000 meters.

Umo Floating Islands

First stop was the Umo Floating Islands. There are between 40 and 70 islands, depending on who you ask. The number keeps on varying, as new ones are put together (and I assume old ones are left). There are between 2 to 8 families per island – apparently at regular intervals the groups split and reform, ensuring that everyone on an island gets on. I.e. if your face doesn’t fit, you’re asked to move off! As our guide says, they could cut off your section of the floating island and tow you to another! (I think he was joking…)

The islands take it in turns to entertain the tourists. On the island we stopped at, we were shown how the islands are built by the men, then taken through the ‘bargaining process’ between islands and mainland people by the women. At all points it was stressed that theirs was a bargaining culture and they weren’t interested in money.

Then one of the ladies took each of us into their huts to show us how they lived. Then took us outside where they all tried to sell us overpriced mobiles made of reeds and embroidered wall hangings. So much for the ‘no interest in money’ – they got quite upset when we said we didn’t want to buy anything!

Next we were offered a ride on one of the reed boats to another island – 10 sols each (but they’re not interested in money).

All in all it was very theatrical and entertaining. The ladies wore bright clothes, the babies were cute. There were lots of opportunities for photographs.

Tip: After the islands we had a little panic – one of the ladies couldn’t find her purse containing all her cash and credit cards. She didn’t think she’d left it in the room, and thought she’d brought it with her. No-one on the island had seen it. She did eventually find it back in her room, but it was a timely reminder to make sure that you split your cash and credit cards over a few places, and keep your passports safe.

The island of Taquile

The boat ride to the island is between 1.5 and 3 hours, depending on the speed of your boat. We were on a fast one, so were there reasonably quickly.

There are two main jetties on the island, on opposite sides. We landed on the far side, then had to walk about half way up to where we were to have lunch. This wasn’t high, but we were all suffering from the effects of altitude – not exactly sick, but very breathless. Everything was hard work. On top of my gradually worsening cold, this was not a good combination.

Lunch was simple, but very nice. A hearty, hot local soup (needed – it’s sunny, but not so warm up at altitude) followed by grilled trout with chips and rice. Then a coca tea to finish.

After lunch, everyone except Art continued on uphill to the main square. We had missed the hoards of tourists who had been there, and it was lovely and quiet. There’s a two-floored building on one side of the square where the locals sell their handicrafts. And these really are hand-made. It’s the place to buy hand-knitted hats and headbands etc, and hand-woven runners for reasonable prices.

One of the memories I will take back from the island is of seeing the young girls and women spinning as they walk. They have hand spindles, and spin as they walk. They’ve obviously had a lot of practice at it as they make it look so easy!

Across the other side of the lake is Bolivia

Back at the hotel

We had a quiet evening. Art was in his element – tomato soup and pepper steak in the restaurant.

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