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Monday, April 22, 2013

Single Mum and son visits the Floating Islands of Uros. Staying with a local family on Amantani Island. Ripped off by Escandinavia Travel.

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We wake at 5 am. 
Pack up our room; store things downstairs; eat breakfast; 
and take the rest with us on our adventure.
At 7 a.m. I am haggling prices of our tour with a sub-agent for Escandinavia Travel.
She tries so totally over the top price – they can’t take us all the way 
– the border is closed, but she has changed her tune from yesterday.  
No longer is all of Bolivia closed. 
Now it is only one border.  
I can’t stand being lied to.  
So we finally agree on a blown out price. 
They have my deposit – I am at their mercy.
And it is too late to book elsewhere. 
If we stay another day, then I have to pay for another night at a hotel of hostel.
So we pay, climb in her taxi, and head to the wharf.

We settle in our seats at the front of the boat.

We are serenaded by a Peruvian musician, playing two instruments at the start of the journey. 

As we motor slowly through the heads, we see ladies cutting reeds.

We climb on the roof of the boat, and the sun warms us.  
I have forgotten sunscreen or hats, but it seems cold.  
Silly me. 
My son never seems to burn, but I go red so easily.
Fortunately a fellow traveller offers us some.
Soon in the distance we see the Floating Islands of Uros.  
My son scampers down from the roof, and jumps onto the island -
 with the excitement of Christmas morning.  

We sit and have a wonderful lesson about how the islands came about, 
how they preserve them, and their culture.  

We eat the reed base – you peel it like a banana, and it has the texture of celery, 
and the taste – well it has little taste really. 

We then get to go on a journey on a reed boat. 
I ask a lady to take our photo, but little do I know, 
she has not realised the edges of the islands are soft, and next thing she falls in.  
As she tries to save herself, she completely falls over. 
I feel so bad!
We glide along the lake, as he poles us around the outer area of the island.  

Back on the island, we take a look in their homes.  

It is pretty touristy, and the prices are high, so we just look, and don’t buy.
Next we are ushered back on the boat as we head to our next island of Amantani.

Here we are greeted by traditionally dressed men and ladies.

We watch as they sit and chat and spin their yarn.  
We grab a few photos. 
Sadly there was one of me, and the lady, never turned out.  
Oh well …

We are then grouped and marched off up the hill to our respective casa’s.
I sigh relief.
One lady I have watched has been picking her nose the whole time.
I so do NOT want to go to her house to stay!
Many moan and stop.  But as we moan -oops - I think that means me too, we chat to some great travellers - from Australia!

It is a long way up.  
It is about 2 pm and we have had no lunch.
Finally we climb over a wall, and walk along the edge of a field – here we are!

Lunch is a rush around a traditional kitchen.
Fried queso – cheese – my son lets out a squeal of delight.   

But first there is a mixed potato soup.  
As he doesn’t eat soup and we don’t want to offend, I end up eating 2 bowls full.  

Next is a mix of cold salad and a variety or potatoes.  
Purple potatoes – we peel them and who would guess he loves them.  
Then there is ochre – like baby carrots in shape, but also from the potato family. 
Never eaten so many potatoes.
Lunch finishes just before 4 pm. 

Then it is time to hike the mountain. 
We arm ourselves with water, warm clothes, and thankfully a flashlight.
We get a little talk from our guide.  
The whole group joins in for soccer.
A lovely lady helps my shy boy join in.
He is pretty good.
I was impressed.
Then we get to choose which hill we hike.  

By the time we reach the top of the hill, everyone has gone off and we are alone.  
It is so high I am having trouble breathing.  
My head starts to hurt.  
We gather stones to make a monument of our arrival.  

Pretty soon the sun sets.  
It is gorgeous over the lake.

It turns so cold, and we head down the hill. 
We find a donkey and feel a bit like Mary and Joseph as we pose for a shot.

Out host finds us and asks us to return for dinner.  
Funny thing was we thought it was a stranger following us 
- we freaked out and asked a guy to help us back to the house safely. 
Gee - did I feel stupid when he turned in the gate!
My head thumps.
Dinner is cooked over coals.
I offer to help.

The kids muck around, and all get along well - which is fantastic.

We eat a dinner – more potato soup, and more potatoes.

We are meant to go to a traditional dance and dress up as the locals.  
I am so looking forward to this. 
But my head is pounding. 
My son is asleep on my lap in the kitchen. 
This is just not going to happen.
I wake him and go and get our hot water bottle filled.
Thank goodness we have this.
It is bitterly cold.

I feel regret as I head to bed.  
But one of the hardest things is you just can’t do it all as a traveller.  
And it is better to rest than become ill.

As we lie in bed, I struggle to move.  
I discover about 6 heavy blankets on the bed.
Honestly – it is the most uncomfortable bed I ever slept in. 
The pillow was like a rock.  
The blankets are too heavy.  
Underneath I can feel the bamboo – it is raised in the middle to form a hump. 

I am about insane with pain in my neck, shoulders and head.  
I get out of bed, and head out to the cold to go to the bathroom.  
I can hear the dance music - oh regret hits me again.
I want to be there.
I love dress-ups!

I am awake all night with the pain.
Lesson learned – never travel without painkillers!
I long for the morning!

UPDATE AUGUST 2013: We returned for a second visit to Uros an Amanati.
Please read our other blog for more information - it was a VERY different experience!

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