Lake country.


Yesterday we arrived in Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca. We checked into our hostel, los Uros (the floating islands) and set out to explore the city a bit and get some dinner. First we hit a small market and bought some fruit to give to the host families that we will be staying with on the islands. After that, we returned to the hostel to drop our bags off and to call our contact for the next days' stays. The man working the front desk offered to make the call for us, and, to our surprise, told us that Richard, the owner of the hotel on Amantani, would be there to meet us in 30 minutes. We went to our room to read and wait.
When he arrived, we were both surprised to see that Richard was about our age. We later learned that he had gone to school for hotel and tourist services, and that he had raised the money to build his own hotel by working in other hotels and as a guide. Richard now runs the hotel with the help of his parents and seems to be doing quite well; next, he wants to get a hot water hookup and solar panels for the place.
After working out the details for the next couple days, Claudia and I went back out into town to look around at shops and get dinner.
We didn't buy anything but we did manage to find an amazing place to eat. Claudia had stuffef rocoto peppers, which were both sweet and really hot. I had an amazing soup that was made of wheat, quinoa, pumpkin, potato, beans, some meat, and various other veggies. We also shared a plate of local cheese and some beers.
After dinner, we returned to the hostel, read, and tried to get some sleep... tried being the operative word. Puno, and the lake in general, are at the highest elevation that we'll encounter on this trip (between 3,800-4,000 meters); due to this fact, Claudia and I dealt with some minor symptoms of altitude sickness, such as insomnia, shortness of breath, and general discomfort. Despite this, we got some sleep, and were up at 7:30am to leave with Richard.
The boat ride was fairly nice. We stopped at los Uros or islas floantantes, which are artificial islands that are made entirely of reeds and their root structures. Richard explained a bit about the history and culture of the inhabitants of the floating islands, and we did a bit of shopping before moving on. The trip from los uros to Amantani took about an hour, so Claudia and I caught a bit of a cat nap.
Upon arriving at Amantani, those who were staying overnight were divided up between the different families while Richard took us to his hotel where his parents had lunch already prepared. The meal was awesome, as was the hour he gave us to chill before hiking.
Around 4pm, we left to hike to the top of the island to see the sunset. Needless to say, the steep walk up to about 4000 meters was rough on our unacclimatized systems, so we took it slow. The result was well worth the effort; the sunset was absolutely spectacular, as were the views of the lake and distant Bolivian mountain ranges.
On the return trip, my hands began to feel as if they were frostbitten; when I got back to the room, I found that they had swollen up due to the altitude. I took some advil and managed to get them to shrink down a bit, but not before I managed to take a couple pictures!
Dinner was a more casual meal of spaghetti, Amantani style (veggies and local cheese mixed in). Afterwards, we donned native clothing and headed out to a dance.


We woke up at 630am, after a night of song and dance. Claudia and I were informed at dinner last night that Richard's mother would be following us up after the meal to help us dress. We weren't too sure about the idea of being two tourists parading around in native garb, but because the nice old lady was set on dressing us, we didn't want to disappoint. At the least, we could provide her with some laughs at our expense for her troubles on our accounts.
The experience of the dance was something that I can never forget, but completely failed to capture on film. We were all crowded into a small courtyard that was draped with flowering vines, and open to the starry night's sky. A small campfire in the middle of the cobblestones was all that was needed to illuminate the scene of musicians, villagers, and tourists, all clad in brightly embroidered fabrics.
Even though Claudia and I went with the intention of not dancing, it soon became obvious that the villagers would not accept this as an option. So, we danced... or more like shuffled, though a few songs, and spent a lot of time talking to members of a British tour group that was at the party with us. It turned out to be a fun night after all, and we both slept pretty well after.
In the morning, we had a quick breakfast, thanked our hosts, and left for Taquille.
On Taquille we had to climb a bunch because the people there preferred to build near the top of the island, rather than the shore. Again, the view was beautiful, but the going difficult due to the altitude. Though I really enjoy being in the islands, I am looking forward to going to a lower altitude where I feel a bit better than death warmed over.
As I write, I am sitting on a little beach in the cold sunshine; all would be amazing if it wasn't for the headache that has been plaguing me since we got here. Hopefully it will subside soon, and the return trip to Puno will restore my health a bit.
When we return, we are going to buy tickets to ride the train to Cuzco, and then relax until we leave at 8am Monday. That’s all for now!!


Headache didn't subside, so I went to a clinic and saw a Dr.. As I expected, it was the altitude, so he prescribed a couple meds. After taking the first dosage, I now feel human again. I just wanted to mention how awesome and cheap the medical service was at the clinic. If this had happened in the states, I'd still be waiting to be seen and the whole process would have cost me an arm and a leg. I was in and out in less than a half hour, and everyone I dealt with were extremely kind.

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