Franz picked us up from our hotel after breakfast at 8. We had our overnight bags packed and checked the rest of the luggage at our hotel.
And here the adventure begins! You see, our transportation was by local bike taxi. Very practical for getting through the city centre and down to the pier, but a little hairraising at the time!
Down at the pier we stopped to buy gifts for the home stay family. We got some rice, pasta, sauce, corn flour and fruit. After that quick stop we were off to board our boat. Quite a comfortable lake cruiser with lots of room for the 10 of us plus guide and captain.
Our first stop was the Uros Islands. These are reed islands that float in the lake. There are over 80 islands housing 5-8 families each. We were greeted by smiling women in colorful dress.
Here we learned about the history of the islands ( the Aymara people were trying to escape capture by Incas – while their house were family prominent, when they saw invaders combing they could escape into the tall reeds and not be found). We learned how they were built, and how they live on a day to day basis.
Finally each woman invited couples to see their homes ( one room that would house the entire family!). Interestingly, almost every home had a solar panel that would provide enough energy for electric light ( one bulb), a small tv and/or radio and an outlet. (You guessed it, it was to recharged their cell phone!). It was quite something to hear a cell phone ring and see one of these women all decked out in tradition dress reach into her pocket and answer her phone!
After the home tour, a small market was set up where one could see / buy their handicrafts. Some lovely, brilliant colored embroidery and reed weaving on display . Btw I learned that all these bright colors stand for happiness!
After the market, we gathered again to see a demonstration of their barter system, and listen to some local ( and not so local) songs while the small children, not in school, danced.
We then boarded a reed double gondola type of boat and visited a small island that’s main purpose was to serve as a cafeteria / refreshment stop. Here we could get a passport stamp from the Uros Islands.
Finally we boarded our lake boat once again and were off to the LLachon peninsula and our home stay. Glenn, Gwen, Dan and I weren’t quite sure what to expect. Some of the guide books said that blankets would be provided, and to perhaps bring your own sleeping bag…others indicated there would be outhouses… we braced ourselves for whatever came!
When we reached the simple pier, the woman came down to meet us and help us disembark. We went a few hundred yards to the beach and sat while each of us in turn was introduced to our home “mama”, who then led us up to her house… and to our rooms.
Dan and I were pleasantly surprised to see a lovely room with twin double beds, fresh towels lying across them threaded with fresh flowers. The biggest plus was that was actually had an ensuite bathroom with shower!!
Apprehensions dissolved, and we were invited into the dining area to enjoy a hot lunch before our afternoon activities. A wonderful soup was served, and then a pan fried cheese ( much like halluomi) with rice, potato and carrots and green beans. We then had a couple of hours of free time so we spend half of it napping, and half if it exploring our new community.
At 3:30, we were to participate in a activity that helps the family. In our case we join Glenn and Gwen and pulled dried corn kernels off cobs. They were sooo colorful, and the task itself was very Zen like. We had lots of fun and I think contributed a little to the cooperative.
Although Dan was taking his duties lying down!!!
At 4:30 we were all taken down to the beach where a volleyball net was set up. Gringos against the mamas! They cleaned our clock!! But we all had great fun!
After a few games, it was time to get ready for supper. First we all dressed up like local men and women. Then up to the communal dining room we went to peel potatoes for dinner! The woman made a great dinner for the 12 of us, and of course there was lots of laughter over the games and the costumes!
After dinner we headed back to our homes with our “mamas” and got ready for bed. No central heating meant a very chilly night for us all. The beds had about 4 thick wool blankets on them, and together with the hot water bottles that our mama brought, we were nice and cozy! (I managed to sleep a few hours before hyperventilation set in in my body’s desire for more oxygen…I’ll be glad to get back to sea level once again!). Fun Fact: the Quechuan people have a larger heart, more red cells and a liter more blood than we do apparently. Coupled with chewing on coca leaves, they can run up and down any mountain with ease!!