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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Uros & Amanati - Lake Titicaca, Bolivia; and a near mishap on the lake in a storm

We were up at 6 a.m. to catch an 8 a.m. boat to Uros, and Amanati Island.
We believed we had a tour guide, but when we got on the boat, there was none.
So we sat and waited.
The boat was loaded with local groceries, and we finally took off.

We took about 1 hour to get to Uros.
It was a lot more touristy than I remembered last time.
I did want to buy a cushion cover to go on my colourful hammock I have bought.
The problem was the prices.
Way higher than the prices in the Artesian stores, and about 6 times more expensive than Bolivia.
But memories are memories, so I haggled the prices down, and bought it anyway.

My son enjoyed running around the squishy island.
He kept his safe distance from the kids as he was frightened of head-lice.
They were pretty snotty, and I was more concerned about him catching their head colds.

We then had a lesson on the reeds, and how they made the island.
We then got to taste the reeds.
A bit like celery.

We then headed off to Amantani Island.
The storm started fairly soon afterwards.
It was clear the young driver was not that experienced.
He started following one boat.
Then he made a mad cut to the left, and followed a different boat.
the waves were soon crashing over the boat.
He would speed up and slow down.
He had no idea how to drive through the waves.
Next thing it was like going out to sea, except it was a lake.
He went way out, and went to cut in hard to the island.
BUT....
The steering wheel came out as he turned to hard.
The boat was going in circles and he had no idea how to get the steering back.
I raced for life-jackets as the boat felt like it would capsize, but the first two were broken.
I then tied one to my son.
He was screaming, and I prayed out loud and hard.
It was a scary few minutes until they started to steer the boat from the rear with the motor.
There was a guy at the front pointing left or right, as we tossed about on the sea.
They had to manoeuvre the boat between a small rocky channel, and the boat in front crashed into the rocks and did severe damage.
As we came in, the men madly ran and grabbed ropes, and pulled us in.
We dashed off the boat.
We were given a host lady "Maria", who ran ahead of us in the rain and up the steep path toward her home.
About half way up the hill, I couldn't breathe with the altitude.
She tells me to wait, and dashes into the bushes, and picks me a plant to smell.
It is "Muña", and it smells great!
As soon as we get in the house, she throws some in a cup of hot water with some sugar, and makes us some tea.  We are so cold and stressed, we both love it and drink it up.

It is 2 p.m., and we have had no lunch.
She tells us 40 minutes, so we go and settle into our room.

We don't last long.
We are just too cold.
So we head back to the kitchen, for more tea, and to sit in front of the fire.

Lunch was served.
First we had potato soup with quinoa.
My son loved it.
We then had 5 types of potato, fried cheese, and salad.
I had no hope of eating it all.

After lunch we ended up having nothing to do.
Firstly though, she suddenly appeared with bags of things for us to buy.
Hays, headbands, leg-warmers, gloves and toys to name a few.
They were all about double to triple the price of the stores.
I felt trapped.  We selected leg-warmers and finger puppets.
When I went to pay, she also over-charged for the accommodation.  It was not by a lot - only 10 Soles, but it was still not so nice, and any tip I would have left, went out the window!

It was pelting down with rain.
The storm outside was amazing, and the wind was whipping through the trees.
We filled our hot water bottle, and crawled into bed together shivering - with all our clothes on.
We fell asleep.  I woke as people walked up and down the path with stocks from the boats.
My son woke later when it was dark.
We went downstairs to find the whole family had eaten, and my son missed meeting the children.
She asked us to return in 1/2 an hour.
Her husband Martin, was busy preparing the vegetables.

Now there was a reason we had returned to the island.
We wanted to go to the traditional "fiesta", and dress traditionally for the dance.
So I was surprised when she came to our room to "dress" me.
The skirt and belt pulled my tummy in, so I couldn't breathe.

We LOVED the dance.
There were two halls.
At first we went to a hall of students.
But they ended quickly.
Our boat group (we didn't know at the time) we not told about the dance, so we were unfamiliar with anyone.
My camera flash wouldn't work so my pictures weren't happening.
Everyone left and I was so deflated.
But then we went into the next hall.
It was a huge and welcoming group.
I think our hostess was not happy we went into the second hall.
We quickly made friends, and danced and dance.
We had a fabulous time!
In the end our hostess joined in.
My son danced with a little girl.
We danced together.
It was such a great memory.

UPDATE: We just received some photo's of our night from Natalie of UK. Thanks Natalie!
Here they are :)








Next morning at 5 a.m. we woke to the locals going to market.
Then the ladies came down sweeping the path.

We were so early, we had to wait for breakfast.
We then walked down to the dock with our host.
My son and I had talked, and we both agreed we refused to get back on the same boat, even if they said it was fixed.
We arranged a boat to take us to the mainland.
From there we had a minivan take us to a local town.
I have no idea of the name, but this is where the markets were.
This was a real local and rural market.
The ladies had regional hats on, and would laugh and smile and talk to my son.

I was surprised at how little some ladies had to sell.
A few potatoes, or vegetables etc.

We then moved inside to the back section.
It was local and traditional clothes for sale.

Here a near blind man sells the coloured crochet petticoats, and underskirts.

The bright skirts were glorious colours.

Many yarns for knitting and embroidery were for sale.
Everything is bright and gorgeous.

I have had a really hard time not buying more fabric.
Lovely designs, and so many colours, and these are local prices too, not tourist prices.
This is not a place Gringos are seen.

Then there was the many foods.
Here coca leaves are sold.

My son sits down and has a jelly.
I think I worked out it cost about 20 cents.
By now we are getting an audience.

I loved the back area with the one-made cheeses.
They rest on straw, and they are so cheap.
But we are heading off tomorrow, and I can't eat a whole cheese.
So I leave.  A little depressed.

We wait for about 1 hour for the mini-van to fill.
We then travel for about 1.5 hours back to Puno.
It has been a wonderful end to a terrible arrival on the island.


UPDATE AUGUST 2013: We first visited Uros an Amanati 22nd April, 2013.
Please read our other blog for more information - it was a VERY different experience!

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