Despite hot showers, Day 2 started a bit slow because of the higher altitude (Puno is roughly 600 meters higher than Cusco)…but don't worry it's nothing that a spot of breakfast and a little fresh lake air can't cure. Today we're venturing out on to the lake, with our first stop being the floating reed islands of Uros, about a 20 minute ride from Puno. The reed islands actually float about 20 meters above the bottom of the lake and are anchored in place by large stones. Every 2 weeks or so, the locals put down a fresh layer of reeds, as the old layers slowly deteriorate. There is no running water here, but they have some limited solar power. The whole way of life is incredibly simple and backwards, and the only way these people can survive is money made from tourists (like us) which is bit ironic since they could practically swim to Puno where more modern accommodations await. Regardless, it was very cool to see!
After about an hour on the reeds, we boarded our boat to head to Amantani. Our boat is supposed to be "semi-fast". I'm not at all sure what that means because there was absolutely NOTHING fast about it. It took us almost 3 hours to get to Amantani and if the water wasn't just above freezing, I probably could have swam and got there sooner! On the positive side, I guess you could call the ride relaxing…
Once we arrived at Amantani, the real adventure started. We knew we'd be spending the night with a local "host" family to experience the Quechua way of living first hand. What we didn't know is that our "host" would live about 2 miles straight up hill. While the rest of our tour donned their hiking packs for the trek, I had to carry by hand the roller bag that we stupidly overpacked the 4 of us in. Luckily our "mama", Celestina, had very nice accommodations for us once we finally arrived:
and she also served us a traditional lunch of sopa (soup), rice, potatoes and cheese cooked inside the most primitive kitchen imaginable. While they have some electricity from solar power, people in the U.S. bring more modern equipment camping (thanks Greg Brown). They cook their meals either over a wood fire or on a 2-burner camping stove. There's no fridge so the food just sits on shelves or on the dirt floor. There is no running water at all! Yet somehow, the food tasted good, which probably shouldn't have been that surprising because almost every woman on the island was what we would call in the U.S. morbidly obese (maybe it's all the carbs).
Once we recovered from the hike and refueled from lunch, it was time to hike again because we were only about half way up the mountain…but at least this time I didn't need to bring our suitcase! We hiked up to the top just in time to see the sunset:
Then back to our house for a rest and some dinner before Fiesta Time:
By this point, the kids are in tears from sheer exhaustion so after a few dances we bowed out for a cold night's sleep and what promised to be an early wake-up call!