Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Rude Lake

This is my last day in Peru as we leave for Bolivia this afternoon (although there is a chance that we might not get there due to a general strike here in this part of Peru). For the past two days we've been on lake Titicaca (which has been high on my list of places to visit since an early age, although this probably has a lot to do with its name, which contained two of the rudest words I knew as a little kid!) the world's highest navigable lake. Don't ask me what that means exactly, although it may mean that on higher lakes your more likely to get lost. Personally I think the title is a bit of a cop-out, although it truly is the highest lake of comparable size, at almost 4000m above sea level. An interesting fact for those of you who are interested: even though lake Titicaca is a freshwater lake it contains sea-water that was trapped as the Andes were formed; the salt, however, has precipitated out of the water and is found in a layer at the bottom of the lake.

The first day on the lake was spent visiting two islands: Taquile and Amayanti. The former is a chauvinist throwback where the women are not allowed to speak above a whisper, must walk 3m behind their husbands, are not allowed to use chairs and aren't allowed to knit! (knitting is the sole domain of the males on the island) The latter is much more liberal when it comes to equal rights and it was there that we spent the night with a local family. We also had a game of football against some locals, and boy can you notice the lack of oxygen: after running around for only 5 minutes you're too knackered to carry on. Then in the evening we had a fiesta with some locals where we got to dress in their traditional clothes (a poncho and woolly hat with earflaps for us blokes and a patterned blouse, three skirts and a shawl for the girls) and they showed us how they dance. It was good fun as everyone (at least all us men) just looked like walking tents!

The next day we said goodbye to our new families and started heading back to Puno (the Peruvian port town), but before we got there we stopped off at the Uros floating reed islands. These people fled the Incas 600 years ago by hiding amongst the reeds of the lake and have lived there ever since. They make everything out of the reeds that surround them: their boats, houses and even the islands themselves. And when they aren't making things out of reeeds then they are eating them instead. When walking on the islands it feels like the ground is one huge mattress; plus it's rather unsettling to know that there's only a few metres of plants between you and some very cold and very deep water.

Hopefully we'll have no problems in getting to La Paz and my next post should be from a new country.

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