During my travels to South America, I experienced some of the most unique and wonderful moments in my life. One of those special moments was when I visited the islands of Lake Titicaca in Peru. Lake Titicaca is a large deep blue lake located high in the Andes on the borders of Peru and Bolivia. It is famous for being the highest navigable lake in the world but also for the unique Uros floating islands made out of floating reeds. Many families still live traditional lifestyles on the different Islands and Quechua is the most widely spoken language. The diverse culture and unique scenery should be reason enough to want to go. Nevertheless, what really made this experience exceptional to me was staying with a local family on the lake.
My journey began in Puno, a town located on the borders of the Lake on the Peruvian side, where we boarded a comfortable boat. I spent my time on the deck looking at the endless scenery. After a couple of hours, we had reached one of the Uros floating islands where we got off. Taking my first steps on the island, I remained wary… but I quickly started to enjoy the funny sensation of the thick grass under my feet. We were shown around the tiny island and our guide taught us about the history of the Uros Islands. I learn t that the islands were originally made to prevent attacks from enemies such as the Incas. A couple of locals were selling craft made out of the same reed including children toys and other tapestries. After an hour or so, we went back to the boat and headed to Amantani Island where we would stay with a local family.
At our arrival, we were greeted by a group of local women in their traditional dresses. We were then each introduced to our local ‘mother’ and taken to their home. I walked up a hill and stopped in front of a small farm-like place. My Quechuan mother showed me to my room. It was small, basic and there was no running water but it had a very authentic charm to it. After having settled, I was called for dinner. I entered a small dark kitchen where my mother was cooking and I spent a bit of time trying to speak to her daughter in Spanish. She was 17 and told me she was currently helping her mum with the work but that she was hoping to move to the mainland to study in the future. Her mother joined us and we enjoyed a traditional Peruvian meal (quinoa soup, a lot of rice and potatoes!). It was incredible to be able to immerse myself in their lives for a short time. Even with the language barrier, we were able to understand each other and exchanged a few laughs.
After dinner, they dressed me up in one of their traditional dresses and we all went out to the community hall and danced to traditional music. My Quechuan mother tried teaching me their local dance but since I have two left feet, we ended up laughing more than dancing. After a while, we headed back home, stopped to gaze at the many stars and I snuggled up into a very comfortable warm bed.
The next day was quite emotional as we hugged each other goodbye. They were such kind people and I was so glad to have been able to have met them and take part in this eye-opening experience. Before heading back to Puno, we made a small stop at Taquile island where we visited some Pre-Incan ruins and agricultural terraces on hillsides. I was also bemused by the homes equipped with solar panels. We then stopped to eat freshly fished trout from the lake. This was probably the tastiest trout I have ever eaten – I still crave for it sometimes, especially after eating trout from our supermarkets! We had the afternoon to walk around and make some more purchases at the local market before heading back to Puno, enjoying the peaceful boat trip for one last time.
Overall I loved Lake Titicaca and highly recommend anyone to add it into their holiday. You can get a great flavour of the Uros Floating Islands on a full-day trip, but staying overnight is a truly special experience that I will remember forever.