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October 14th 2018
Published: October 14th 2018
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Waking up on Amantani with an early morning run down the stairs, in the cold (35 degrees) morning, across the courtyard, grabbing a bucket of water to flush to the outdoor toilet, washing my hands in the outdoor faucet was enough to wake me up. It was dawn and I ran back up and grabbed my camera to photograph the beautiful sunrise over Lake Titicaca. Since I was unable to photograph the famous sunset from the top of Pachamama, at least I got points for the sunrise.

Flavia had breakfast on the table at 6:30 AM. Hot muna tea, warm potato pancakes with homemade strawberry jam fueled our bodies for the hike down to the boat. I know the altitude didn’t add to my ability to concentrate so after saying my thanks and goodbyes to Flavia and David, I joined the others on the long trek down to the boat. On that crisp sunny morning I photographed children with a herd of sheep, some donkeys and the next host families (the black skirt community) assembling for their turn to host. Thankfully Dolly went with us to the pier because, in my oxygen deficient brain, I had forgotten to
Leaving Amantani IslandLeaving Amantani IslandLeaving Amantani Island

Look at the beautiful blue color of Lake Titicaca!
give the family a tip. Mission belatedly accomplished.

We waved farewell to Amantani and our families, and boarded our boat heading for the hour long ride to Taquile Island, one of the last locations in the Inca Empire to fall to the Spanish during the conquest of Peru. Luckily the waters were calm enough to enjoy a restful half hour journey on beautiful Lake Titicaca. Most of our group got off the boat at the first stop on the island and hiked the half hour climb uphill to the famed Taquile market. I had been having trouble breathing with bouts of altitude sickness so no matter how much I wanted to hike, I knew I really shouldn’t. Kathy, another victim of altitude sickness, and I stayed on the boat that, after a time, sailed to the other side of the island where we could get off and hike, not so far but still quite steep, up to the restaurant where we would have lunch.

Kathy and I began the hike up to the restaurant from the boat dock. It was quite steep but at least it was short. We followed the winding stone path shaded by Australian eucalyptus trees, taking in the blue and white row boats that were anchored in the little coves below. The stone path wound upwards around the edge of the hill and at each crest we passed through a stone arch where I would pause to take in the beauty and catch my breath. At one point when I paused I looked behind me to see a young man and his wife climbing with heavy bags. She was carrying what looked to be a heavy cloth on her back called a chuco. It wasn’t long before they passed us and turned into the next stone arch to the restaurant.

As Kathy and I walked through the stone entry we were blown away by the spectacular view before us. Stone walls enclosed the patios where long tables were covered with colorful woven table cloths. The restaurant itself was perched on a bluff overlooking the deep blue waters of Lake Titicaca. It was breathtaking! I thought I was in Corfu! We walked up through another stone arch to a longer table sitting on a patio under a cerulean blue canopy echoing the blue lake below. Bright yellow and
Taquile climbers beat me up to the restaurant on Taquile Island Taquile climbers beat me up to the restaurant on Taquile Island Taquile climbers beat me up to the restaurant on Taquile Island

Looking at this poor woman bent over, carrying her load, made me more appreciative of the hard work of women in these cultures.
red flowers punctuated the scene with color. I was more than content to quietly enjoy the peaceful beauty of this scene before our group returned.

Before long, I looked up the steep hill behind the patio to see the rest of the party as they began trickling in with with tales of great beauty and steep, hard climbs. The people of Taquile are noted for their textile art, that goes back to the ancient Inca, Pukara and Colla Civilizations and is still being created and worn by all community members today. UNESCO World Heritage added them to their list of Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2005 for their accomplishments in weaving sheep wool and using natural colors to dye the wool. Tales of these beautiful and iconic items displayed for sale in the market made me almost wish I had made the climb.

Once everyone in our party arrived, Roger and a young man from Taquile told us about Taquile community life and their collective decision making elaborating more about details about their unique culture. The most characteristic garments are the men’s knitted hats with an earflap called the chullo (the design and location of how the hat falls determines whether he’s single or married) and the calendar waistband that is worn by a married woman is decorated with woven scenes depicting important events, added as they happen in the couples lives. When two people decide they like each other and are considering marriage, they must live together for two years before making the final commitment. If they are not happy they may end the relationship before the wedding takes place. There is one caveat: it the woman becomes pregnant the marriage is nonnegotiable. This method results in fewer divorces.

The young man from Taquile demonstrated their wool cleaning technique using a local herb called chujo. Within minutes, the dirty sheep wool went from brown to a startling white. This cleansing herb is also used for personal washing and we were told that the women use it to wash their hair claiming it keeps them from getting gray. Several of us asked where we could buy some and were told it was not for sale. I guess we would have to take up residence here to be able to use these obviously organic products.

The aforementioned beautiful Munay Restaurant (also referred to as Rural Mirador Alsuno or Willy Restaurant or Munay Rosas) with its spectacular views of azure-blue Lake Titicaca and Amantani Island in the distance, served very good food. Franco said the word Munay can mean love or beautiful, either way I totally agree. I had to tear my eyes away from the view to the food that was being served. We started with the popular Muna (mint) tea, always a great idea at altitude I am finding, the ubiquitous quinoa soup, hunks of bread, a dish of very spicy salsa and finally the main course: local trout from the lake served with lime, rice, (French fries of course), and a tiny “walk-through” of green beans and carrots. There was an omelet option for those who didn’t want fish but from what I heard they wished they had chosen the fish.

I was in no hurry to leave this beautiful spot but our captain announced it was time to go. A long line for the bathroom perched on the edge of the cliff postponed our fast departure. I bought a bottle of water (5 Soles) from the restaurant to take with me for our two hour ride back to Puno (unfortunately the boats don’t provide water or even an option to purchase water onboard, maybe someone will read this and offer water for sale on future boat trips). As we motored back to Puno I craned my neck to barely make out the mountains of Bolivia in the distance. When got closer to Puno I could see golden reeds, beautiful against the deep blue waters, some reed houses, brilliant in the sun, and in the mountains I saw what looked like hoodoos growing out of the sides of the rocky mountain edges. Spectacular scenery!

I was anxious to get back to the hotel to find out how Dave had fared in my absence. He was glad he stayed and after my challenges, I think he made the right decision. Neither of us had much of an appetite and were not excited about braving the cold so we chose to have dinner at Taypicamana, our hotel restaurant. I felt that by now I was a bit of a connoisseur of quinoa soup and decided to try this here. Sadly it did not measure up. Dave ordered the tuna salad on lettuce that was passable but I chose pasta because I had been told to eat light at altitude. The ravioli with herbs was so bad I couldn’t eat more than one bite. Up to bed we went counting the hours until we could begin our descent the next day.

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