UPDATE#24 08/30/08

Howdy Everybody,

Our numerous adventures from 2006, 2007, and through 08/29/2008 have been published on the website.  We now continue with this latest edition.

UPDATE 2008 #24   08/30/08

At last update, we were overnight in the city of Puno following our overland trip from Cusco. 



     It was 5:45am when I switched off the alarm clock.  The showers at the Hotel Buho were wonderful and hot.  All packed up, we phoned the bellman to come for our luggage.  Taking only the bare essentials for our two-day excursion, the hotel would be securing the rest of our bags until our return.  Included in our hotel price, we enjoyed a nice breakfast.

     At 7:40a, Willie from All Ways Travel Tours came to the hotel lobby to accept our payment for the tour.  Ten minutes later, we were aboard their bus to pickup the rest of the group going on tour.

     When the bus was filled to its 30-passenger capacity, we headed for the boat docks on Lake Titicaca.


     With the same capacity of 30 passengers, we climbed aboard our tour boat after stepping across the sterns of several other boats.  Notice the tightly packed, bus-type seats in the boat.


     Fully enclosed, we had to take our pictures through the glass windows as we motored out of Puno harbor.


     As soon as I could, I headed topside to the roof deck for a better view of the beautiful lake.  Access outward to the main part of the lake is through canals cut into the tortola reeds.


     The descendants of the ancient Quechua and Aymara cultures still conduct life much as it was many years ago.  “Row, Row, Row Your Boat, Gently Down The Stream; Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Life is but a Dream…”


     Of course, some of the old ways have been modernized significantly. 


     The canal ways led us to a more open area of the lake.  These are the famous “Islas Flotantes, or Floating Islands of Uros. 


     The islands are totally unique and cannot be found anywhere else in the world.


     The mainstay of these islands is extensive tourism.  The friendly people of Uros welcomed us to their floating homes on Isla Summa Willita.


     The women are excellent, experienced docking hands.


     Life on these floating islands is much like it has been for centuries.  It is a strange feeling when you first step onto the soft, spongy layers of tortola reeds.


     With demonstrations by this Uros man, our guide explained the unique construction of the islands.  Every one of them was built by hand and consists of many, many layers of the Tortola reeds that have been packed on top of each other.  Notice the very thick base of reeds making the floating subsurface.  As more and more of the reeds rot away on the bottom, more stacks of fresh reed are layered on top.  It is a continuous process will last less than a month at any time.


     Everyday life is totally interwoven with the tortola reeds that grow naturally throughout this area.  Their homes, their boats, their crafts, and, of course, their islands are dependant on the reeds.  The base of the reed is the edible portion.  Interestingly, the Uros people do not use toothbrushes; instead, they use the tortola reeds to clean their teeth.


     We gave them the taste test and, as you might imagine, the flavor was pleasant but bland.  I don’t think I’d enjoy them at (or after) every meal; after all, they don’t come with fluoride or mint flavor like Crest does.


     After centuries of intermarriage with the Aymara-speaking people, any full-blooded Uros have long since passed.  The Aymara language is now the common language of these indigenous inhabitants.


     Age-old methods of cooking in earthen pots over an open fire are the everyday way of life.  The pot on the left is chock full of Ocas being simmered in traditional style.


     Many centuries ago, the Uros ancestors began constructing these unusual islands in an attempt to isolate their existence from the aggressive nature of the Collas and the Incas that sought to enslave them.


     “Honey, does this outfit clash with my blue eyes?”    To answer the question directly, I would say, “Absolutely not, honey, you look lovely tonight!”   You know, I don’t think you will ever find this particular style in the Martha Stewart Collection at K-Mart.


     Was it love at first sight? 


     Interesting vessels are fabricated by tightly lashing together bundles of the ubiquitous tortola reeds.  Rotting from the bottom up, the boats don’t last for a very long time.


     As we departed, the wonderful people of Isla Summa Willita bade us farewell with a song.


     For a small fee, we had the delightful opportunity to be rowed across to another floating island.


     In a wonderful style of tourist entertainment, this little girl sang to the travelers.  She has learned familiar songs in English, Spanish, German, and French.  You can bet she did very well when they passed the hat.


     Another skilled dockmaster grabbed the lines from the arriving boats.


     Made primarily of tortola reeds, this interesting observation deck resembles a giant bird.  Of course we climbed into it; one person at a time please.


     The boats are beautifully designed and expertly crafted.


     The large figurehead on our boat was very interesting.


     Goodbye, Farewell, Auf Weidersehen, Au Revoir, Arrivederci, Adios, So Long, and See Ya Later Alligator….


     Our tour boat, the Wayracusi, had ferried over to this island to pick us up.  That is our fabulous guide, Cesar Flores, in the reddish shirt and beige pants.


     Traveling further through the reed-lined canals, we entered into the main body of Lake Titicaca.  At 12,507 feet above sea level (3812m), this is the highest, commercially navigable body of water in the whole world.  In South America, Lake Titicaca is the largest lake by volume and second largest by area.  Ranging approximately 120 miles in length (190 km) and 50 miles in width (80 km), the lake covers approximately 3200 square miles of both southern Peru and northern Bolivia.  The depths average between 460 feet and 600 feet with the deepest point in Bolivia at 920 feet.  The 56 degree F water temperature at the thermocline level (66’) only drops another 4 degrees F at the greater depths.


Well, it's not far down to paradise

At least, it's not for me

And if the wind is right

You can sail away

And find tranquility

     Oh, the canvas can do miracles

     Just you wait and see…

                       Christopher Cross


     Our destination, the remote island of Amantani loomed on the horizon.


     Local residents of Amantani were on hand to help with the boat docking.  These tour boats are rather strangely configured.  Powered by automotive diesel engines, they do not have reverse and they do not have neutral.  The captain has to plan his approach by shutting off the engine at just the right moment and gliding up to the dock.  Sometimes, he has to use a long pole to fend off and guide the boat in.  Good dockhands are a necessity in these instances.


     Host families wait patiently for the arrival of their guests.  The island has eight communities that share the hosting of various tourist groups.   The tour guide has assigned each of the guests in our group to their respective family.


     Following our host, we were led along a lengthy, dirt pathway.


     Judy paused for just a moment at the gate to the adobe building that would be our family homestay for the night.


     Rustic indeed, however, these accommodations were far nicer than either of us had ever expected.  This family would be hosts to Judy and me, along with three other people.  Interestingly, the five us now claim Texas as our residential homes.  The others, Paul, Amy, and John Paul, took the room across the deck walk.  The father, Paul, was born in Chile; the mother, Amy, was born in Hong Kong; their son, John Paul, was born in the US.  The son, Judy, and I were the only US born people in the whole tour group.  The rest of the group, who were staying in various other homes, hailed from South America, Europe, Britain, and Australia. 


     This was the deck fronting our room.


     We definitely had a “room with a view” of both the mountains and the water.


     Who’s that knockin’ at my front door?


     In a small dining area that shared a little table with the cooking facilities, we enjoyed a nice lunch of typical local fare.  There was rice, two small potatoes, some Peruvian ocas, and a piece of fried cheese. 


     It is customary for guests to bring some small gift items to the host family.  Some of the visitor groups simply brought fruits and vegetables.  We had learned from another writer about the gifts custom and decided to bring some items from Stateside.  They seemed genuinely delighted with the package of 8 colorful mechanical pencils and another containing 10 colorful razors.  His name is Nestor and her name is Analin.


     Analin was very pleased with the packages of 4 toothbrushes that we brought for them.  Of course, we also brought some fresh fruits, bananas, apples, and some tomatoes since those items are not grown on the islands.


     Because the nights get very cold here, they lent us these fashionable, alpaca woolen hats that would also help them to identify us later. (As you know, all “those gringo people” look the same).


     If Judy had been born here on this island, she would have known very well how to use this traditional field plow.


     The Papa was a very spry and energetic family patriarch.  We had bit of a tough time keeping up with him as he cheerfully led us around the island.


     At 3:30p, Papa led us to the village center and up to the soccer field.


     The islands are steeped in native history.  Legend has it that the founders of the Inca dynasty, Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, the children of the Sun God, Inti, emerged from this lake. 


     Although both the Quechua and Aymara languages are spoken here on Amantani, most of the traditions cling to those of their Aymara ancestors.


     It was pre-arranged for the entire group to meet up at the soccer field for a rousing match of Tourists vs. Locals.


     The European lads were fierce competitors, however, with late arriving support, the locals barely defeated the visitors 2 to 1.  At these high altitudes, the visitors were at a definite disadvantage.


     Following the soccer game, we all headed up to the highest point of the huge hills to get the spectacular view of the surrounding area and the setting sun.


     Part of the walkway had to be shared with the local flock of sheep.


     Not knowing the way, a bunch of us inadvertently took the tougher, rougher way along a gravel path for a portion of the hike.  Fortunately, it all ended up meeting with the improved pathway.


     Notice the long, improved pathway that leads up through the terraces to the hilltop.


     Numerous lovely stone archways grace the stairways and pathways on the climbing hike.


     Finally reaching the top, we passed under the archway leading to the ruined Temple of Pachatata (Father Earth) dating back to the Bolivian culture of the Tiahuanaco that inhabited this area from about 500 BC to 1000 AD.


     We were feeling pretty good about succeeding at the long climb.  Meeting him at the top, our friendly guide, Cesar, informed us that we now needed to walk all the way around the temple three times to honor Pachatata.  The scenery was beautiful with clear views that reached all the way to the Bolivian mountains.


     The sunset was an important time for the ancient cultures because they worshiped the Sun God as their highest deity.


     After sunset, we started the long walk back down to the village.  At the recommendation of another writer, we had brought our flashlights and had a couple of bright, LED-type headlamps strapped around our foreheads.  They worked quite well, although I preferred to travel most of the way in the dimmest amounts of natural light.  It is amazing how well we see when our eyes are adjusted for night vision. 

     To keep warm at night, our beds were piled with three heavy alpaca wool blankets over sheets.  They did an amazing job of holding the body warmth.


     Dinner was being prepared for our arrival.  Coming directly out of pottery crock, Analin was dishing up the absolute best Quinoa soup.  It was so good that I ate a bowl and a half of the delicious concoction.  There was rice and a vegetable stew to further tempt the palate.  I sure wish I had her recipe for the soup.


     Now tell me, is that what they mean by, “the pot calling the kettle black”?


     After dinner, our hostess helped Judy get all decked out in the local style, traditional clothing.  The various colors, materials, and patterns all help identify the particular community to which the people belong. 


     Obviously, we are easily identified with the Amantani island community of Ville Orinojon.


     Dressed to the hilt, we were invited to join in for some music and a dancing extravaganza at the community social center.  Without electricity, the room was dimly lit with Coleman type lanterns.


     Good evening, Lil’ Miss Hot Stuff…  May I have the pleasure of this dance, please?


     The local band played on using traditional instruments.  I’d have to give this song a “five”; it had a good beat but was tough to dance to.


     “Well, it’s one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, now Go Cat Go…”


     …The smiling faces of our fantastic guide, Cesar, and the lovely maiden, Judy.


     “I could have danced all night, I could have danced all night, and still have asked for more…”


     The local folks got together on the dance floor and showed us all how it’s really done.


     Somehow, they made it look so much more elegant than the visitors.


     With baby strapped on her back, it was time for our hosts, Nestor and Analin, to lead us home.  With no streetlights or electricity, you should have seen the billions and billions of stars filling the heavens.  We actually got to see the stars forming the famous “Southern Cross”.


     Back at the family home, we made a visit to the outhouse before heading to bed.  Judy was glad to get out of the traditional outfit as she found their clothing to be quite uncomfortable.  I must admit that the poncho or sarape was very warm.  All in all, I still prefer my warm jacket.  I suppose if I had to be stuck outside in the cold tending the sheep, the serape would provide more overall warmth in the seated or crouched position.

     With no electricity on the island, a single candle was our source of light for the room.  With no power or heat, I would guess that might qualify this house as a real, energy efficient home.


       Please let us know if you have any special suggestions and thoughts.

     Thanks for allowing us to share our life and adventures with you.

Lotsa Luv,

Fred Reed and Judy Law



 "AMARSE".  is pronounced "AM-ARE-SAY".

  Our website is:   www.amarse.net   .