Alarm went off at 6. And we were wishing we hadn’t agreed to this. But it is always worth the full days. A pleasant surprise was that our room stayed very warm all night. Between good blankets, the space heater, and keeping the door to the bathroom shut we were very comfortable all night and in the morning. We checked out and our car picked us up to take us to a boat on the lake. We learned that the name Titikaka is from the Aymara words Titi meaning Puma and Kaka meaning gray or stone colored. They thought the lake was shaped like a puma and so they named it that. Probably also worth noting the Puma represents the middle tier, the human world, of the three tiers of their culture so it wasn’t a random choice. This is also a sacred lake to the ancient cultures who believed the children of the sun emerged from the lake to show them how to be more advanced civilizations and learn agriculture and keep livestock. Apparently even now some people will offer coca leaves to the lake before they cross it to show respect.
The first stop was to the floating islands of Uros. We learned how they make the islands, got to try eating the raw reed, learned about all the uses of reeds, the lifestyle on the islands, and how to cook on the islands without setting it on fire. One of the women invited us into her house and let us sit on her bed which was very comfortable for being nothing more than stacked piles of reeds. She had solar panels and some electric lights inside, and the island has a shared kitchen hut. They were very friendly and had some embroidery and other wares for sale, and they even sang for us as we were leaving. We had the option to pay for a ride on one of the reed boats but we declined. The history of the Uros people is really interesting and the work to make and maintain those floating islands is crazy. I really enjoyed the visit we had with the women of Uros.
The next island we visited was called Taquile. This one is a natural island, several kilometers in all directions. Before we arrived our guide gave us some background on the culture. This island is actually Quechuan even though most of this area was Aymara. They have a bit over 2000 people living there and no police or law system. They apparently follow an Incan moral code that says don’t lie, don’t be lazy, and don’t steal. They all trust each other and live peacefully. We learned about their marriage customs, and that this island is mainly textile based. All boys and girls learn to knit and weave respectively by age 6 and if they cannot then they will never marry. Their marriage traditions are so very different than the main land it is hard to imagine. There is a required 3 year period of living together before anyone is allowed to marry so they can see if they get along. If so, they will marry, if not they will split up again. And on the wedding day they provide food and fun for all 2000 some inhabitants of the island, but there is no fun for the bride and groom. They must sit separately and quietly and reflect on all their past mistakes. They don’t eat or drink or even move a millimeter for 24 hours while they reflect and prepare for their new life. They also do not exchange rings, but rather the woman weaves a belt that shows all the promises the man has made to her (a home, children, animals, love, whatever he promises) and the man wears it as a contract that he will keep his promises.
We had a great presentation on the island about how their clothing projects if they are married, single, happy, sad, their dreams, and their calendar year. We saw some of the tools they use for crops and saw how they use a plant that grows there as a natural soap. I was shocked at how it actually foamed up and cleaned some dirty alpaca wool when the man demonstrated, just like our soap does. I bought a headband/ear warmer from him that he knit from alpaca wool with a llama design on it. I was thrilled to find something locally sourced and hand made that I would actually use! And before we left the island again the people performed some music for us. I believe one of the men was even the local chief as he was wearing the hat that indicated so.
We then had a little over an hour ride across the rest of the lake to Isla Suasi. The lake was kind of rough which I thought was great fun, but Eric and others on the boat seemed to be less thrilled with the roller coaster ride. We arrived to the island and got checked into our room just before lunch. They served lunch out on the lawn and offered tomato soup with bread followed by a barbecue of beef, chicken, trout, vegetables, and potatoes. It was very good. Eric and I just traded the meats we didn’t want. Great view, great food, very relaxing.
This hotel is an eco lodge that runs on solar power. There are no electrical outlets in the room, and the electricity in the room is shut off during the day. They offer free wifi in their main lobby and a large power strip where guests are invited to leave their devices to charge whenever they like. They also offer activities such as guided kayaking in the lake, a walk to the island owner’s house that serves also as a museum, and a guided walk to the other side of the island to watch the sunset. Or you can just relax in your room or around the island. There are also wild vicuñas on the island, many different birds, and what they call rabbits but look more like hyraxes with long curly tails.
We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening wandering the grounds immediately around the hotel and moving from chair to chair relaxing in the sun. It was quite nice compared to the crazy pace we had been keeping so far. We tried to see the sunset over the lake but low hanging clouds sort of obstructed it. I think we even took a long nap before dinner. At 7:30 someone came to the room to start the wood fire in our stove to heat up the room while we went to dinner.
Unfortunately, our first dinner here did not go well. They start serving at 7:30 and we came in around 7:45. And there seem to only be like 4 or 5 groups staying here period so we were the third group to show up for dinner. The host told us our food would take 30 minutes to come and we said that was okay. We each ordered soup and a main dish, and had bread with very nice butter and some water while we waited. But soon we realized other groups were getting their appetizers, and eventually main dishes, and some even leaving and it had been almost an hour since we arrived and still no food. The host came by to apologize and offer us a free beer or wine if we wanted and more bread. So we accepted, and waited more… Eventually the soups came out, but mine was wrong. He brought tomato instead of potato. I sent it back and within a few minutes he brought the correct one. But it looked nothing like the potato soup Eric had. His was a potato purée while mine was very thin and liquidy with a layer of oil on top. We had them just take it away and awaited our main dishes. To be fair, when the main dishes came out they were quite delicious. Eric had the Lomo Saltado and I had a penne pasta with trout that was just amazing. However we had been sitting there for about 90 minutes with very little actual happening, and even the kitchen staff had gone home as soon as they delivered our main dish. We were not impressed, but the host came to the table after we finished and said the entire meal would be free for all the trouble. We let him know that the main dishes were great and thanked him for the service. Hopefully tomorrow will be smoother.
We went back to the room to find the fire had not only burned out but appeared to have done so very shortly after we left. The wood still looked completely brand new in the stove. Eric went to find someone who may be able to restart it as otherwise it would be a very cold night. A nice man came by shortly after with more kindling and some matches and started the flame again. We think they just didn’t do a very good job the first time and the paper burned up but the logs never caught. We kept it going ourselves after he started it the second time. We also found that they had placed hot water bottles in the bed sheets for us which was really very pleasant as well. And for once we did not have an early wake up planned. We planned to just relax and sleep in and try to enjoy our time here before the second half of the trip.