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Published: January 9th 2016
PERU...Lake Titicaca Homestays.
I've been robbed of my money and passport when travelling, had numerous slips and falls, even rolled a car upside down in a creek, travelled with a necrotic leg, been locked up, nearly drowned countless times, been freaked out in the deepest dark caverns, hung onto various cliffs for dear life to avoid being blown off, had food poisoning, bites, stings, disappointments that would crush many men.
But nothing...I mean nothing...comes close to suffering camera failure in Peru.
I'm a tough old rooster.
But camera failure when the sun is smiling...no clouds in sight potentially crying...no dropsy or accident to explain it.
There I was taking a portrait photo in Ollantaytambo and the camera wouldn't focus.
Talk about a disaster.
Fortunately I have the world's most understanding dance partner.
Fortunately I bought Denise a new camera with a 50mm lens for this trip.
Fortunately she prefers to use her iphone.
Fortunately she didn't mind me commandeering her camera.
Fortunately it was not any of the cameras that had ceased to function.
Unfortunately...it was my 18-200 mm lens.
we are heading into some of the most pristine locales on the planet.
Now that truly is a disaster.
How about we drown our sorrows in the world's highest lake?
Might even have a dance or two to cheer me up.
So we hired a car to take us to Cusco...so we could catch a bus to Puno...so we could catch a boat into Lake Titicaca...so we could stay on an island...maybe long enough for me to grow a ponytail.
Ain't gonna be any camera stores out there so no point in moping.
Let's get on the road and make the most of it...says Denise hoping.
****** The long road from Ollantaytambo
Niall had headed off to Machu Picchu, Mirinda walking the mountains again, Mark here contemplating geology, drawing tree bark and petroglyphs, Denise & I heading off to Titicaca after a prolonged but ethereal stay in this Inca stronghold.
Hugging Roberto, Stephen and Sonia who made our stay at Casa de Wow so memorable.
Travelling is full of fleeting meet ups...characters that populate the planet weaving in and out
of our lives...wondering and hoping we may one day communicate again.
Knowing more characters are waiting to be met...further down the road.
The policeman in traditional dress my parting memory.
My camera still not focusing my parting thought.
The taxi driver waiting in the cobbled Plaza de Armas...the Incan ruins smiling at us one last time.
Really glad we'd visited the Travel Agent down the road last night.
All travel, digs, even booked a homestay on a magnetic island.
All we have to do is enjoy the ride.
Yep. We stopped off in Cusco.
Kinda had to as the bus to Puno did not leave until 10:15pm.
Killing time in Cusco toured The Cathedral and religious art museums.
It was there we saw it in black and white and technicolour.
I wrinkled my brow and was perplexed.
Serendipity crossing our paths yet again.
As we sheltered from the biting night cold in Santa Domingo Cathedral...priests tapping microphones...evening Mass beginning...the chants confirming a totally unexpected path was opening before us. Puno
overnight bus is like an inferno...unpleasantly hot.
Every now and then the bus stops and the lights go on and men come aboard yelling...then alight when passengers yell back.
The movie stops each time the bus stops then restarts from the beginning. Never did see the ending.
At 5 a.m. a guy snatches our blankets away and we arrive in Puno at 5:15 am.
The bus terminal toilets are the filthiest on the planet so we just sit and wait.
The guy from Los Pinos Hotel arrives and is like a sunrise.
Gives us a room to shower, stores our gear so we only take day/night packs, simple breakfast, promises same room on our return and arranges for someone to take us to the boat pier at 8 a.m.
All with a smile. Just for us. Very cheap digs but all included...all no fuss.
Boy are we glad we visited the Travel Agent in Ollantaytambo.
They arranged all transport and accommodation from Cusco to Puno, touring Lake Titicaca, homestay on an island and digs in Puno for only 481 soles for the two of us.
Use a hairdryer on my
recalcitrant 18-200 mm lens...hoping it springs to life again...an albatross around my neck for the rest of our holidays as it turned out.
****** Slow Boat on Lake Titicaca
Our altitude build-up paid dividends...spring in our step.
Crossing four wooden boats before they say this is ours...at least 20 of us...no empty seats at all.
Explanation in Spanish then shortened version in English just for us.
Then we are off.
Pretty obvious this is no fast boat.
Through a reed channel...floating islands of humanity with reed huts and reed boats...scrambling to take pics with my camera but it still won't focus...too far away for Den's camera.
About an hour out we stop at a tiny floating island and all pile out.
A toddler sits on the reed floor. Smiling girls in bright clothing greeting us in a column of welcome. Older women rushing around laying out tapestries. Their men noticeably absent.
Practicing our Quechua words for "Hello", "O.K" and "Thank you".
Sitting in a circle as our guide explains the culture and has us chewing reed shoots...their staple diet...toddlers sitting on our laps playing
with our iphones...lining up for lollies...biggest smiles on their faces.
Twelve of us hop aboard a reed boat and we circle the floating island for 10 soles...boatman using a long pole...showing us their fishing nets...life not much brighter than dull.
Glad we could help them with our token visit.
The older women not so lucky as their weavings were expensive...bargaining useless.
Left feeling if their prices were a tad lower they would have done well.
No one bought anything that I saw.
The young girls still smiling...the older women not so.
We putt putt on and on.
The lake is like a massive inland sea.
Arrive at The Island of Mystery, Amantari at 2 p.m.
A crowd awaiting in traditional dress.
Names called out...dividing us into groups of three...like a schoolyard pick.
And then there are just three left...yep the two Spanish non speakers...Denise & I...and one last name read out "Maxim".
Maxim was French...in his mid twenties with perfect English, French and Spanish...the best company we could have had as it turned out.
Our home stay host is Esther...no
English...Maxim more than happy to translate for us.
Walking up a rocky path to her home.
The island is self supporting...crops of quinoa, corn & potatoes in fields with stone walls, sheep, cows & donkeys here and there.
The families have to register with the government to have tourists on homestays.
50 soles the monthly fee.
Esther receives 30 soles per person so if she is lucky enough to get one group a month she makes 40 soles profit per month.
Barely enough to cover the fees.
The families take turns to host.
As there are twelve districts on the island, Esther is lucky if she can average one turn a month.
In High Season she may score two lots of guests per month.
Her house surrounded by gardens of quinoa, flowers, corn and a stone wall.
A simple cottage with two decorated rooms for guests up some stairs with a landing overlooking a small courtyard.
A kitchen below where her mother Angela is cooking.
Toilet with bucket and simple showers.
Simple...but everything we need.
Other smiling faces...extended family living as
Esther's sisters and brothers and their spouses and children...communicating with smiles as Spanish wasted on us.
But with Maxim that's no problem.
Lunch in the tiny kitchen...quinoa soup, cucumber, cow cheese on boiled potatoes, tomatoes and corn followed by tea.
Esther has a teenage daughter. Her husband left when she was born.
She manages she says...but her eyes are forlorn.
She manages she says...'cause this is the only life to which she was born.
The rest of the group climb the mountain to the Incan Temple of the Air, the temple for men.
The number of steps up makes our heads swim.
So we leave that to Maxim while we follow the stone walls like a maze...and explore the island.
Just us with our thoughts...and each other.
Pinching ourselves with the words "Where are you now?"
Always makes us smile when we say that.
****** Fiesta...Amantari style
We sit in the kitchen as Angela prepares dinner...night descending.
Then Maxim returns.
Esther springs to life announcing that at 7:30 pm we are going to a fiesta...and
Friends for Fiesta
France, Peru, Australia, Brazil
we are going to be given clothes to wear.
There a two Aussies, James & Kimberley and an American staying with one of Esther's sisters...in traditional outfits...looking fantastic.
Then it's our turn to dress.
Ponchos and headpieces for Maxim & me...a dress, belts and top for Denise.
Esther then leads us on a long walk by torchlight...on and on.
Then we hear music...frenetic music...stamping and drums.
Memories of dancing in Mali, in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Zanzibar, the desert of Dubai, Java, China...somehow feeling as if I'm in Tibet.
Then entering...excitement anew.
We are about to dance frenetically...in Peru.
Esther grabs our hands and we enter the throng.
All the tourists in our group...and heaps of others...locals...all in traditional dress...forming long conga lines then running in circles...weaving in and out...hearts pumping in overdrive...like trains out of control...the band playing on and on.
Coca-cola, beer and water being sold.
I don't know if it was the altitude...we were at about 4,000m...but it was exhausting.
Short rests...then hands grabbed...off again...like trains careering down mountains...animated...laughing...very much out of control.
The World meeting in that
room that night.
The two other Aussies James & Kimberley from the northern beaches of Sydney not far from where we live, Peruvians, Brazilians, Argentinians, French, Germans, Scandinavians to name a few.
Amantari is a magnetic island...on a magnetic grid...connected to other religious sites in South America.
One of those places in the world where magic happens...like Machu Picchu...Ollantaytambo...the Nazca Lines in Peru...like Stonehenge in UK.
I was shown the maps.
There was energy in that room...like a spiritual awakening is stretching it...but hey...we were there and you were not.
Whatever the explanation...we had a magic time on Amantari.
One of those experiences you only dream of.
Up at 6:15am, B/F, no shower, down to the pier by 7:30 a.m.
Esther sad to see us go.
Then off to Taquille...a nearby island UNESCO listed as famous for it's tapestry.
Lake Titicaca is the centre of a giant volcano...fed by six rivers...but no rivers flow out of it.
Taquille is the tip of a mountain rising out of the lake.
The path from the pier rises steadily through occasional stone arches overlooking
a crystal sea.
And it was up there I saw my first water tornado.
Snaking and climbing...twisting into clouds of grey.
Where's my 18-200mm lens when I need it?
Guess Den's 50mm will have to do.
We arrive at the Plaza de Armas with stone buildings that remind of Spanish architecture elsewhere.
Then to a restaurant where the skill of the weaving in Taquille is showcased.
Yet the modern world has caught up with this remote island in the middle of the World's highest lake.
The weavings and tapestries are made from synthetic fibres.
I'm probably more blown away by the fact they don't use natural fibres...like wool, hemp or cotton...than the skill of the artisans.
It's a funny world we live in.
What will we discover next?
Relax & Enjoy,
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