Cuy, Lake Titicaca, and some alpaca…

greetings once again from Peru. we´re currently holed up in Puno, a town right on Lake Titicaca. we were lucky to get down here friday morning, as a transportation strike had prevented any travel to or from puno since prior to our departure for machu picchu. it ended thursday night, so we hopped on a bus friday morning and off we went. our bus was greeted by some unhappy ex-strikers along the way though, and by the time we arrived in puno the windows were covered in painted-on strike-related messages. kind of crazy, but we made it nonetheless. upon arrival here, we checked into our hostel and headed out for a late lunch of cuy (guinea pig!). our friends, erin and joe (from our inca trail trek), joined us along the way, so we were at least able to enjoy the experience with some other cuy newbies. chris didn´t think it was so bad, but the rest of us agreed that it left a bit to be desired. someone said it tasted like frog´s legs. i thought it just tasted like slimy meat. blech. anyway, here´s the pig before we dug in, along with a photo of chris mid-feast (he has some cow heart on the plate at that point too):

following the pig feast, we wandered around the town for a bit. believe it or not, they celebrate halloween down here, so the streets were packed with little kids all dressed up chanting “halloweeeeeen, halloweeeeeen…” they do trick or treat, but from what we could tell, they trick or treat at stores, restaurants, and even bars, and they chant “halloweeeeeen” rather than our old favorite “trick or treat.” either way, it was kind of fun to see the streets packed with costumed kids. chris nearly squished the cutest baby giraffe with his giant american feet, but so it goes. the kid lived.

the next morning, joe, erin, chris and i hopped on a boat to head out into lake titicaca. our first stop was the islas flotantes, which – as the name suggests – are actually floating islands. the people that live there add a new layer of reeds to the islands every weekend as the bottom layer continually rots away. at times it felt like we were walking on a water bed as we wandered around! the reeds are pretty much all purpose for the Uros people that live on the islands. their houses, cooking fuel, a main staple of their diets (we got to eat some reed), and land are all made from the reeds. their reed boats have since been replaced by wooden ones that do not rot quite so quickly, but there are still reed ones floating around the lake for the glee of the tourists that visit. oh, and believe it or not, there is a floating school on one of the islands, along with a floating soccer field on another. the islands have a soccer team that not only plays other island teams, but also has matches against teams from the tierra firma (the firm land, as they call it). each island also had a house with a solar panel that could be used to bring electricity to the houses, which means that yes, the locals had tvs on the floating islands! crazy. anyway, here´s a glimpse of an island, along with some artistic reed-work of the locals:

following the floating islands, we made our way to an island called Amantaní, where we were to spend the night with a local family. it was a fairly large island – over 4,000 residents living in 8 communities – and probably one of the most peaceful places i´ve ever been. there were no cars on the island, no roosters (which meant no 4am wakeup call), and very little electricity. we were pleased to learn that our family spoke spanish (most only speak quechua), so at least we could communicate with them throughout our stay. following a lunch of potatoes and fried cheese, we ventured out for a hike to the highest point on the mountain. the sunset over lake titicaca was quite impressive from our vantage point at pachatata (father earth). after making our way home in the dark to enjoy some dinner with the family, we were offered traditional clothing from the family to wear to the party that was arranged for our group that night. while the ponchos they gave us to wear were quite warm, i was a bit disgruntled to be dressed as a boy from the island for the evening. many of the other girls in our group were offered traditional women´s clothing, which is quite bright and ornately embroidered. alas, erin and i played boys for the night. here´s a photo of a beautiful lake titicaca sunset, followed by one of chris, joe and erin all ready for the party (and all in BOY clothing…grr):

sunday morning we hopped back on the boat for a quick trip to Taquile, a neighboring island. the men of the island are very accomplished knitters, and we even saw some wandering around in their traditional dress with knitting needles in hand! the wool hats of the island are often made by the men, and each hat has meaning depending upon the colors, the tassels, and the way the hat is worn…kind of neat. we spent a bit of time hiking around the island before we retreated to the boat so that chris could enjoy a chilly dip in the lake. here´s a glimpse of us from a rest stop, along with one of chris on his way into the drink:

last night when we arrived back in puno, we went for a final dinner with joe and erin before their flight left. our pizza was topped with alpaca sausage, bacon and mushrooms. while the guinea pig left a bit to be desired, we all agreed that more alpaca ought to be on the menu for the rest of our time in peru; it was delicious!

today we have some time to enjoy puno before we hop on a bus to Arequipa tomorrow. Arequipa is a bigger, more touristy town, so we´re hoping to find some other gringos to watch the election with. in the meantime, we enjoy the lake for one more day before we´re on the move once again.

bye for now; hope all is well at home. oh, and happy november!

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