PERU...Lake Titicaca Homestays...the best remedy for a disaster

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January 9th 2016
Published: January 9th 2016
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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.

Fair go.

I'm a tough old rooster.

But camera failure when the sun is clouds in sight potentially 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. was my 18-200 mm lens.

And 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.

Lake Titicaca.

So we hired a car to take us to we could catch a bus to we could catch a boat into Lake 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.

Tickling enquiry.

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.


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 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 least 20 of 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 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 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 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 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
a group.

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 FiestaFriends for FiestaFriends 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 traditional outfits...looking fantastic.

Then it's our turn to dress.

Ponchos and headpieces for Maxim & me...a dress, belts and top for Denise.

Looking grand.

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 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 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 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 Machu Picchu...Ollantaytambo...the Nazca Lines in Stonehenge in UK.

I was shown the maps.

There was energy in that 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.

Amazing weavings.

Incredible skill.

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 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,

Dancing Dave

Additional photos below
Photos: 92, Displayed: 30


9th January 2016

I feel your pain!
Camera failure is one of the few things that can really phase me when I'm travelling! Us travellers are made of sturdy stock but when our ability to capture and permanent our experiences wane so does our sturdiness. I'm glad you found good remedy in the home stays and the people you met. The people, the food, the culture, the sights and all the wonders, it's what keeps us going, ever traversing forward to see more, experience more, learn more, live more. Another great instalment in your's and Denise's dancing around the world.
9th January 2016

I feel your pain!
I was unable to properly feel our daughter's pain when she told us of her camera being stolen from her bag in Cusco just after she had completed the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, as unless it happens to you you cannot adequately understand. Yet I could feel her anguish and empathize. Memories of India, Nepal, meeting her brother in Canada & USA, adventures in Equador & Peru lost forever.My experience of camera failure of course pails in significance. Your insightful comments appreciated as always Per-Olof.
9th January 2016

One of my *next* destinations, another lifelong dream in your pics...This line is pure poetry Dave - She manages she says...'cause this is the only life to which she was born. Puts a lot in perspective doesnt it - thank you.
9th January 2016

Thank you for your kind words Cindy. Words are probably our most important form of communication. They can make or break relationships. I sometimes regret the impulsive, reactive words that cannot be withdrawn, yet spontaneity can also be priceless. The following words were measured and considered before I penned them. I'm glad they spoke to you. Our homestay host was a gem but these words described her for me, "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."
9th January 2016

Inspiring...Fulfilling lifelong dreams
Cindy this is for you. If Peru and it's highlights are among your lifelong dreams may I encourage you to fulfill them...sometime...some day...but definitely. My next blog is about a dream I had when I was 10 or 11 that took me too many years to attempt to fulfill. Take your moment when you can Cindy. Yep...while you can. Then measure your smile...if you can!
10th January 2016

Sorry about your camera...
but your pictures are still fantastic with a 55 mm lens. And thanks for the memories. We had to eat a lot of coca leaves to make it up that hill.
10th January 2016

Sorry about your camera...
The pictures are not as good as they should have been but that's just me speaking. Some of Denise's iphone shots are better (sigh), I can just picture Linda & you climbing that hill Bob (presume you mean Taquille)...without me to push you!
10th January 2016

hi Dave Homestays get you right to heart of things wherever they are .... I have been doing house swaps and hospitality swaps for about 25 years ...meeting such kind and generous people. Ans yes I am exhausted just reading about all your escapades. cheers ...look forward the the next episode.
11th January 2016

Sounds like you are the Queen of Homestays Lynne. Esther was such a wonderful hostess who did not have much but was willing to share what she had with an open heart. We highly recommend the Amantari experience.
10th January 2016
Water Tornado over Titicaca

Water tornado
I'd really like to see one. What a shame that your camera broke when you see something as awesome as this!
11th January 2016
Water Tornado over Titicaca

Water tornado
One of those moments in traveling Harold that makes the heart skip a beat.
16th January 2016
Friends for Fiesta

A tough old rooster
Camera failure sucks....nothing more can be said....and in Peru...holy crap. You have a good, good woman who will give up her lens for you. Guess buying those baubles in Honduras paid off my friend! You always end up in the right place. People make the travel worthwhile. A beautiful blog.
16th January 2016
Friends for Fiesta

A tough old rooster
I can tell an MJ from 50 paces...rings on her fingers...bells on her toes. More the rings than the bells but whose counting? Here's to you MJ. Yep...can't hold an old rooster down.
23rd January 2016

Lake Titicaca
I did look at doing a homestay in Lake Titicaca but opted for more time in Lima, I now regret that decision after reading your blog. I am travelling solo so decided to do Machu Picchu through a tour operator. Perhaps I should have been brave and did it alone. Shame about your camera, but still very good photos. The Amantari fiesta looks amazing
24th January 2016

Lake Titicaca
I hear Lima is a must for fusion food Alan so I suggest you check that out. As a solo traveler I reckon you are wise to get the most out of Peru by checking out what tour operators have on offer. At least visit some travel agents when you are there as local knowledge is priceless.
3rd June 2016

Popping colours
I know...I'm a little late. Am doing some catching up! Anyhow, I loved this photo - the colours really pop. So whichever working camera you were using, it's a good one!
3rd June 2016

Popping colours
Hi Rachael. Titicaca fashions for the ladies are bright colours one day, bright colours the next. Not easy to capture with a small camera as the light is so intense. Glad you have joined the ride...never too late!

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