A Travellerspoint blog

Lake Titicaca

Spending the night with a local family

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Just got back to Puno this afternoon after visiting a couple of Islands on Lake Titicaca.

We took a boat out yesterday which took about 3hrs to get to the first Island where we had lunch and a wander around the Island of Taquille. It was so peacful and interesting to see how the locals live. Whilst having lunch we got a wee song and dance which was nice. On the Island the men are the weavers and make all the hats, blankets, clothes etc. We were shown some of the things they make and they were really good. We were shown two types of hats, one has a large white section at the top with a big bright pompom and the other hat was fully coloured with a smaller pompom. This is because single men on the Island make and wear the white one with the big pompom and when they find someone they want to marry they pressent the hat to them. It takes about a month to make the hat and it has to be made very well because when the boy goes to the girls family and asks permisson to be with the girl he has to fill his hat with water, the hat must last at least 10mins before letting any water leak out. This is a way of showing the family that he is a good weaver and will therefore be a good husband. The other hat is for the married men to wear.

From this Island we took the boat for another hour until we reached the Island of Amantani. This is the Island we met our families on to spend the night with them in their homes. I thought we were spending the night on the reed Islands but we werent, it was just a normal rock Island. We were split into couples and taken to our homes for the night. They were very basic, a bit like mud huts with toilets outside and chickens and sheep in the garden. They have no electricity or hot water and there is nothing much on the Island, only a couple of wee shops selling food and water. Our family consisted of a mami and papi and four children, two boys and two girls ranging from 3yrs to 19yrs old. The family were very welcoming but the language barrier was hard, they mainly speak Quechuan and some Spanish. We did most of our communication using sign language! I couldnt remember a thing from the Spanish classes but Kev was a bit better. The ice was broken by their 3yr old boy who we ended up playing games with and tickling.

We played football with the locals (exhausting at high altitude) and then went back to our families for dinner. We huddled round the clay stove in their kitchen and had noodle soup followed by fried veg and rice, again very basic but really tasty. After dinner we got dressed up in their traditional clothes. I had on a big puffy skirt, an embroidered shirt and a beautiful embroidered shall and Kev had on a poncho, all of which were hand made. We were then taken to the small hall and shown how to do some traditional dancing. It was good fun, we were thrown about everywhere. It reminded me a bit of Scottish Country Dancing.

In the morning we were given pancakes for breakfast and then said goodbye to our families.

From there we got the boat back towards Puno, stopping at the reed Islands of the Uros. These are floating islands made out of reeds, very cool to see. There were lots of little Islands all grouped together with about 7 families on each Island. They use the roots of the reeds as the base of the Island which they have to ankor down using rocks and then build up the Islands using the reeds, piling them up on top of each other about a meter high. They have to top up their Island with fresh reeds every month. Their homes are also made out of reeds and can be picked up and moved!! The man was telling us that if anyone falls out on the Island they can pick their house up and turn it around so that their doors face away from each other, and if there is a major falling out they can pick their house up and sail it over to another Island!!! How good would that be?! :)
We then got on one of the boats made of reeds and sailed around the Islands, it was a little scary but once on the boat it was so peacful. I have never seen anything like it, I couldnt imagine living on one of those Islands. It would be ok for a while to chill out and recouperate but I would go mad after a few days.

Posted by Wayward83 13:11 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

La Paz

A rest after the salt flats!

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After the salt flats disaster we took a night bus to La Paz.

La Paz was stunning, hundreds of buildings lining every inch of the hills with beautiful snow capped mountains in the background. It was very hilly, everywhere you went was either up or down. Going up was quite exhausting because of the altitude so we had to take our time while locals were running up the hills with piles of stuff on their backs.
We only had one day in La Paz so we took a guided tour of the city. We saw the witch market where they sell all sorts from gift to dried up lamas (nice!!) then we went to some museums and a view point that looked out over the whole of the city, it was stunning. From there we headed down the mountain to the richer part full of nice big houses, it was such a contrast to the places we saw only a few feet up the mountain. It felt more Americanised.

Then we were taken to a place called Moon Valley. A weird place where the sand looks like moon rock and craters. It was very cool. It looked like giant termite hills.

That night we said goodbye to our tour leader Ana and a couple of people from the tour and meet our new leader Bruno and five more people for the next stretch of out trip in Peru. The trip is made up of 3 diff tours so thats why we had to swap leaders.

Today we have arrived in Puno, Peru. Tomorrow we are spending the night with a local family on an Island made of reeds and getting dressed up in their local costume. It should be good fun.

Will keep you posted the next chance we get xxxx

Posted by Wayward83 16:17 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)


Salt flats

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Leaving Potosi we headed for Uyuni...a very bumpy bus ride through the Andes but the scenery was stunning.
We stayed in a nice hotel in Uyuni which didnt have very much in it, so that is why we havnt updated in a while.
The next morning we left in 4x4 jeeps out towards the salt flats. It was amazing, it looked like snow and there was nothing for miles around. We drove for ages and out of nowhere an Island appeared covered in cactus, it was really random. We got out there and had a walk round the Island, the catus were huge and some had signs next to them saying they were hundreds of years old. The oldest one we saw was 1,200 years old (it did look a bit worse for wear) After lunch we had fun trying to take photos of us ....because there was nothing around to judge the scale of things we used toys in the foreground and us in the background to make it look like we were standing on them or fighting with them. See pics and you will see what I mean.

After that we drove to our hotel for the night which was made out of salt (and in the middle of nowhere) It looked cool but got very cold at night, just as well we could rent extra sleeping bags. We all had to sleep in our clothes and get bundled up in blankets and sleeping bags to spend the night on our beds made of salt.

The next day we were heading to the Red Lagoon, another place in the middle of no where. I wasnt feeling to good when I woke up but I just put that down to drinking too much red wine the night before to try and keep warm so I just got on with it. After hours of driving through the dessert and stopping off to see a volcano (last active 600 years ago) and stopping at lagoons to see flaimgoes one of the girls took really unwell, she looked grey and was slurring her words and needed help to stand. (she was from the other group that had joined us for this part) Her tour leader took her back in one of the jeeps to the proper hotel in Uyuni and left the rest of his group with us and our leader Ana. We went on towards this red lagoon but about 2hrs later I started feeling really ill, I had terrible pains in my stomache and I felt like I had to be sick but nothing was coming up. We had no choice but to get to the red lagoon because it was getting dark and it would be too dangerous to drive back to Uyuni in the dark (it was scary enough during the day, bouncing over sand dunes)
When we got to the place we were staying (basically a tin hut) I was really ill, being sick and having the runs. Then someone else came down with the same thing, and then a couple of hours later someone else. By the morning 7 people had been ill through the night. Not good, especially when we had to all sleep in the one room and only had 2 toilets between 15 of us. Plus it was even colder here because we were staying next to a lagoon.
I felt a bit better by the morning and was so glad to hear that the days activities of going looking at more volcanoes was called off and we were all going back to Uyuni early. The drive took about 8hrs to get back to civilisation....some experience, another one I will never forget!!!

I am ok now but still not 100%. It must have been the food if so many of us got ill. I am now very wary of what I eat.

Posted by Wayward83 15:48 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)


Down the mines

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Dont know where to start...left Sucre and headed for Potosi, a mining village high in the Andes. It was about 4070m high and we all felt it. The only thing that helped was drinking the coca tea. We felt short of breath, tired and our legs felt very heavy. A very strange feeling.

We did a tour of the mines....what an eye opener....I have never felt so lucky to be me in my whole life. Boys start working in the mines from about 11yrs old and only have a short life span because of the amount of dust they inhale, they live to between 35 and 40. They only get paid $2 a day and usually work for 12hrs straight, sometimes they can work for 24hrs and even 36hrs! The conditions are awful. I thought it would just be a quick look just inside the hole but no, the guide took us right in. First of all we got geared up in boiler suits, welly boots, hard hat and a head lamp then we got shown what supplies the miners have to buy to take in with them....coca leaves, catalyst, cigarettes, dynamite and fuse. They chew they coca leaves with the catalyst to make there mouths numb so that they dont choke on the dust. The coca leaves also stop them from getting hungry and gives them lots of energy. We tried it and it was rotten, I had to spit mine out but they end up with huge balls of it in their cheeks.
We had to literally crawl in the entrance (which I freaked out about a bit) then we crouched for a while before we could stand up properly. The air was really thick and you had to watch where you were walking cause there are holes everywhere. Then we had to climb up a hole above us using a rope, this took us to another network of tunnels. We met a man working in ther mine and watched him preparing holes to put the dynamite in. It was so dusty in there and hard to breath. We had our buffs over our face which helped a bit but the guy had nothing, just a huge bulge in his cheek with the coca leaves.
We then moved to another part of the mine, she must have taken us quite far in. We met another miner and decided to set off an explosion (I didnt get much say in the matter, just had to go along with it). We lite the fuse then the guide ran up another tunnel to place it some where. The detination time is 2 mins. It was pure torture waiting for this thing to go off, plus we all had our head lamps off for more effect! When it did go off everyone screamed, even the boys. It was terrifying....it made the loudest noise I had ever heard and you felt the whole earth shake and the wind rush past your fast. I was shaking like a leaf. Then the guide shouted RUN (because the dust would be heading our way) Running in a mine when you dont know where you are going and looking out for holes is not a goos thing. I have never been so releived to get out a situation. Then they wanted to set one off outside!!! We all stood waiting with our cameras ready. The only reason I got a picture of it going off was because I had my finger over the button and it made me jump so much I pressed the button!!

That was an experience I will never forget!!

Never take your life for granted or think you have it bad because there is always someone out there a lot worse off.

Posted by Wayward83 15:27 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)


Beautiful city amongst the mountains

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We arrived in Sucre yesterday morning after the shortest flight of my life....20mins. We flew above the Andes, it was soo pretty. Thought the hills in Scotland were impressive but this was even more so. Sucre is 2750 meters above sea level and surrounded by stunning scenery, hills everywhere. Its a beautiful place, so pretty and quaint. It has a lovely feel about it (although the traffic is a bit like Egypt!) There are lots of people dressed in the traditional clothes...big hats, long ponytails and ponchos. They are all really tiny people, quite cute. The weather is great, really sunny and warm during the day but a bit chilly at night. Not suffering from any altitude sickness so far.

Yesterday we had a wander through the market. There were so many different stalls selling all sorts. We walked through the food part and saw things like chickens feet and heads (not very apetising) then we went to the fruit stalls...so many beautiful colours and smells. You could tell the fruit was fresh and real (not like the chemically grown stuff we get back home) There was some variety of fruit, everything you could think of and more. Some things we had never seen before.

After that some of the girls and I went for a pamper session at the local beauty spa. I got a manicure and head massage for 7 pounds!!! It was bliss and sooo needed.

Today we did a bit more shopping then had a guided tour round the city. It was good to see the different parts that we would have never found on our own. The we went to a place overlooking the whole of Sucre, it was so pretty.

Tomorrow we are going on a mountain bike ride. We visit the dinousaur footprints then cycle mainly down hill for 2hrs (thank God its not up hill!!) Kev is really looking forward to it.

Going for dinner now so will write more later and upload some photos. Dinner takes about 1 - 2 hrs to be served!! (so dad you would not like it)

Love to all xxxxxx

Posted by Wayward83 16:11 Archived in Bolivia Comments (1)

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