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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Uros, Reed Boats, Amantani

Early to the port where we boarded a small boat for about 30 passengers.  Our guide for the next two days is Richard (Jesus Ricardo).  The boats here go amazingly slow, too.  What´s up with that?  There was a young woman from England sitting in front of us on the boat, we told her how much we love England, and then spoke about movies.    She said she had  been to the US a few times, but only to the LA area.  She didn´t like it.  Asked her why, she said her aunt had moved there years ago to be an actress and now lived in Malibu.  I asked her if we would recognize her aunts name, she said maybe, it was JANE SEYMOUR!

Anyway, we came to the Uros Islands, floating reed islands,  and it was pretty amazing.  They all work in a communal system, as far as tourists go, so different islands are visited on a rotating basis.   There are several hundred families all together, I´m guessing. They speak a separate language.  They make their boats out of the same reeds they make the islands, and their houses.  The "ground" is a little bouncy to walk on, and most of the uros people go barefoot.  The island we visited is made up of 5 families.  There is a president of the island.  If one family doesn´t get along with the other, the family can decide to move to another island.  They don´t really move, though, there is a big saw, and they cut themselves off  the island.   They tie rocks for anchors so they don´t float all over the lake willy nilly.    So in essence, you have many little islands in several rows.  The boats have to be built once a year.  You can start a new island whenever you want, and they showed us how.  The reeds continually rot, so they have to keep building their islands up.  If the level of the island reaches their house,which is usually about 1-2 feet higher than the island,  four men hold up the house, and they add more reeds under the house, and carry on.

We rode on one of the reed boats to another island, and they have it geared for tourists, which is about their only means of making money.  This may be the last generation  for these people, and younger people know education is their way out of poverty, and they have to live in Puno for that.

Then a 3  hour slow boat to Amantani Island.  We arrived 1:30 or so, and were handed over to our host family.  A young woman named __________ , who only spoke a bit of Spanish; this island speaks Quechua .

 We met another American couple, an engineer and a physician and their 13 year old son. The son was born here, but the parents came here in 1985 from India. He and John were a great match, and were also assigned to the same family.  We had a lot of fun with them. 

We followed our hostess away from the port, through fields, down a very stony path, and into  their yard.   They have gardens for corn, potatoes and some of the biggest begonias growing out of a hole in their dirt floor.  We had lunch, soup and vegetables, then walked back into the plaza to meet everyone for a walk to the mountaintop to see Pachamama and PachaTiti shrines (mother earth and father earth?)  I tried, I really did, but didn´t make it to the top. John had forgotten our flashlight, and the sun was going down, and I thought my heart or lungs might explode.  This was higher than we`ve ever been.  So I walked back down to the plaza, and everyone else came shortly thereafter.

Back to our families for dinner.  We ate at a skinny wooden table, dirt floors, and they cooked in a little stone alcove.  About like camp cooking, but always without propane.  No lights here; we had a candle in our room (which had a new rock hard mattress) and there were two candles in the kitchen--one to cook by and one to eat by. 

At 8:00, they brought in clothes for us to put on, and lucky guys only had to wear their hats they`d already bought, and a poncho.  Women had to wear a special embroidered blouse, a big heavy skirt, a cummerbund, and a huge scarf over our heads that went down both sides to skirt length.   I`m sure I was quite alluring on this Island of Lovers.  Then, we all walked to a little community hall with a light bulb! Some people here have small solar panels what provide enough for a light bulb or to listen to a radio, which dramatically changes their lives.

Fiesta time!!!   We all danced.  They made us.  The natives would put us into several circles and show us what to do.  Then, some young local came and asked John to dance, he thinks he's still got "it".    I think it may have been our hostess, but it was too dark to tell for sure.  Being old and unable to enjoy much of life after 9:00, we went back to our family and went to bed.  On the way back, being so dark, and no lights to speak of anywyere, we say the best view ever of the Milky Way, and also saw the Southern Star.  Awesome!

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