Wednesday, April 12, 2006

April 12, 2006

From Cusco we again borded the Perurail and headed south to
Puno. The 10+ hour trip provided much time to enjoy the
locals plowing their fields by hand, gathering their crops
and herding their wandering livestock. It would continually
amaze me how far away from a village these men, women and
children would be. The train climbed continually to its
peak at La Raya at over 14000ft. You could feel the
altitude creep in as the headache and headswing set in.
Once again, a call for the coca tea and balance came back.
From the surrounding snowy peaks we decended continually
out into rolling hills, pastures and mountains. How the
hillsides gave me a smile as it appeared as a planting
patchwork quilt of all shades on the steep slopes.
We came into the city of Puno, which is the main port city
to Lake Titicaca (pronounced tea, tea, ha, ha...we were
reminded time and again). It translates to grey or stone
puma as per the shape of the lake. The following crisp,
clear morning, we headed to the docks and out the Islas
Flotantes (floating islands). Now these were something so
unusual, so unique that I will never cease to be amazed at
the originality of it all. Litterally, the totora reeds
that are in and all around the lake are the essence to the
people. Over many, many years, the Uros people have
layered, tied and grouped together these totora reeds to
make a floating island or city that they live on with about
10-15 families per. It is so absolutely amazing. You get
off the boat on this floating village and it is kind of
spongy like and soft (for you farmers, like being in the
silage). They make everything out of these reeds...their
homes, furniture, boats, look out towers,,
so much talent. This is how they live and function on
hundreds of these islands around the lake. What they do is
continue to put additional layers on top as the bottom rots
out and with their homes, they pick them up, put more reeds
down and there you go! I cannot wait to show you all
pictures of these amazing people and culture. From there,
we continued on for a couple hours on this highest
navicable lake in the world to Isla Taquille. It reminded
me of what I believe the Mediteranean looks like. Clear
blue green waters, the 7km long islands rolling hills
filled with flowers, traditional and yet colorful mud brick
home of the Amarya people and the mountains in the
distance, sun shining in a blue sky. We walked the whole
island and took in the people, the small villages and the
scenery. Uniquely, you can tell if men and women are
attached here by what they wear. Men all wear black
trousers and vest with a white shirt and woven, colorful
thick waistbelt, yet it is the hats they weave that are
unique. They are the woolen ones with the earflaps and men
are seen knitting around the island. If the hat is all red,
with multicolors, they are married. If red with white and
maybe a few colors, single. Women wear multilayered dressed
with leggings and bowler hats and a colorful shall or a
black one over their head. If married, the skirt is black
and if colorful, single. The final decent of the island
back to the boat took us walking through the stone arches
that overlook the lake and make for beautiful pictures. As
we made the 3 hour trip back to port under a spotless sky,
I couldn´t help but smile and pinch myself at the two very
unique and unbelievably wonderful traditional long standing
cultures I had just witnessed.
After a walk to the port and a climb up to Falcon Point at
4200m early this morning (which gave us some altitude
problems) overlooking the city of Puno and Lake Titicaca we
climbed aboard a very interesting local bus which took us
over the mountains and into Arequipa with the active
volcano El Misti and snowcapped peaks looming over the
All my best,