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27. Jan, 2010

Isla de Taquile

Isla de Taquile

Taquile is another island in Lake Titikaka about a one hour boat trip from Amantani or three hours from Puno. These people also speak Quechua so are known as Incans also. The people on Taquile are experts in textile. The men knit by hand, while the women use looms. The most interesting thing about these people, are their customs as they pertain to courting and marriage.

The men in this society wear knitted hats. Red if you are married, and white if you are single. This makes it very easy to tell who’s married and who is single on this island. However, being single, you have options. You can be single and available, single and have a girlfriend, and single and living with someone. This is all distinguished by the way the hat folds down from their head. If the hat hangs to the right, he has a girlfriend. If the hat hangs to the rear, he is currently living with someone. If the hat hangs to the left, he’s free game and available.

Interesting, is the fact that if you have a girlfriend and decide to live together, you both live in the mans parents house. You can even procreate during this time. Marriage is not a necessity to have babies here.

The women, during a very young age, start eyeing the men looking for who will be their mate later in life. Now I would think, most women who check out men look at their butt, their face, or their physic. (Comments? Anyone?) Well, not here. These women are checking out the mens hands. They are looking for the “golden hands”! A man who knits well, will obviously make a good husband!

Also at a young age, the women start to knit a “marriage” belt for their future husband. When they are knitting this belt, it’s a secret, and no one knows it exists or when they are knitting. The belt is in two parts. One part is black and white, while the other part is very colorful.

The part of the belt that is black and white is woven with wool and human hair. The women actually use pieces of their own hair in the making of this belt. Once a husband is chosen and marriage has taken place, the women gives this belt to her new husband as a gift. It’s akin to a wedding ring in the Western civilization.

I found a man with a red hat and one of these belts on, and decided to ask him some question. I asked if he was married since wore the red hat as well as the marriage belt. He said yes, and was more than happy to show me his hat, his belt, as well as his little pouch of coca leaves that everyone carries around. Finally, I asked him which is better, to be married or single? He laughed, and said “single” of course! Hopefully, his wife will never read this blog.



26. Jan, 2010

Isla de Amantani

Isla de Amantani

A three hour boat ride from Puno is a small island called Amantani, located with Lake Titikaka. The people who inhabit this island are referred to as Amantanians. They are considered Incans since they still speak the native Incan language of Quechua.

We stayed at a house with a lady named Matilda, and her family. Talking with the husband, we find out that he has never left the island and has knowledge of the last 5 generations of his family living here. The are a simple people and live off of mainly soup, and vegetables. Everyone chews coca leaves, and coca tea as well as muña tea are also a staple here. Muña tea is very good also, and taste a little like mint.

There are two mountains on the island, Pachamama and Pachatata. Pachamam is the name of the female deity, and Pachatata is the name of the male deity. Hiking to the top of Pachatata is a fantastic view. It was overcast and drizzling all day, but the view was still amazing. Both mountains have temples on the top of them. Pachatata, 150 meters above Lake Titikaka, you’ll find a square temple. Pachamama, 200 meters above Lake Titikaka, you’ll find a round temple. The temple is only open one day a year in January.

Still drizzling outside, we joined the Amantanians for some local dance and music. A Incan hoe-down if you will. There was about for guys playing drums, guitar, a pan pipe, and the 10 string guitar. The women in their vibrant dresses, and the men in their ponchos danced with any of the guest on the island. One of the things they like to do, is “crack the whip”. Everyone holds hands and creates a giant circles. Then you all start running in the same direction as the circle becomes distorted and “whip” the people on the end. If was definitely a night to remember.


25. Jan, 2010

Lima to Puno

The bus strike was over, and it was time to head towards Lake Titikaka. Our bus left Lima at 2pm on Saturday, and arrived in Arequipa about 9am on Sunday. Once everyone is on the bus, some guy comes on and video tapes your face. Why? Because if the bus was to crash, and your remains were not identifiable, at least they have video record of you for your family to identify you with. Nice thought, isn’t it?

Following the coast, there was miles and miles of desert and sand dunes. Some of the sand dunes I would guess, were 300-500 feet high. The only thing that breaks up the monotony of the coast, is a chicken farm that you pass from time to time. And for those of us who manage to stay awake, we are treated by some of the best bus entertainment money can buy. The first movie, and very fitting, was Alive. The story of a soccer team who’s plane crashes in the mountains and they survive by eating the dead. Quite fitting for our trip over the Andis dont you think? Then there was the king of Latin American bus movies, John Claude Van Dam. I think the movie was called The Sheppard.

Once in Arequipa, we caught another bus to Puno. Since this was a shorter ride, we only got the privilege of seeing one movie, Panda Express. The ride to Puno was a little more interesting. Mainly because it was light outside. And secondly, because we went over some of the Andis. Just looking out the window, you could see Alpaca and Llama’s grazzing as we climbed higher and higher. Eventually, our bus went over a pass 4500 meters high. It was here that we got our first peek at the Andis and their snow covered peaks.

From here, it was all downhill. We descended into the little town of Juliaca where we dropped off a few passengers. Another 35 minutes more, and we were able to see the shores of Lake Titikaka.

We arrived in Puno, about 4pm, twenty six hours after we left Puna, and only 65 soles later. After getting our bearings, we headed towards a hostel not far from the bus terminal. We checked in, and headed out on the town.

It was raining, but we needed food. I ate some more anticochos (beef heart) on the street before we head to the super mercado. A surprise to us was the fact that the super mercado was more of an farmers market with vendors selling fruits and vegetables, except it was all indoors. Not really what I was looking for.

But, we did happen to stumble up some locals from Puno who were celebrating the birthday of Virgen de la Candelaria. Let me tell you, Peruvians can party! We stayed for a little over an hour, and felt like the guests of honor! Everyone was giving us drinks, and saying “No” was not an option. Before you know it, 60 year old ladies missing teeth were grabbing us and getting us to dance. It was definitely a time I will never forget!

25. Jan, 2010

The Floating Islands of Lake Titikaka

The Floating Islands of Lake Titikaka

Only a 20 minute boat ride from Puno, you will find the floating islands of Lake Titikaka. Entirely made of reeds, there are about 50 of these floating islands that make of Los Uros. The islands are about 2 meters thick and are anchored to the lake bottom by eucolipis stakes and rope. Each island consists of five families and democratically elect a chef of each of the islands. The chef holds a term of one year before a new election takes place. There is a mayor of the entire islands that is also elected and serves a term of five years.

These people who live here are the Tiwanaco (or Tihuanaco). The Tiwanaco have been here in Lake Titikaka since 1000 B.C. In 1200 A.D. there was a drought, and thus a lack of food. The Tiwanaco split into many different tribes during this era, and each tribe went their own way in search of more food and a better life. One of these tribes migrated to Cusco and became known as the Incas.

For 100’s of years the Incans expanded their empire to include areas of Ecuador, Columbia, Bolivia, Chile, and parts of Argentina. In 1442, the Incans returned to Lake Titikaka in an attempt to conquer their descendants, the Tiwanaco. They were unable to conquer the Tiwanaco because the Tiwanaco knew the marshes and wet lands of Lake Titikaka to well, and were able to hide amongst the reeds. Eventually, in the 1500’s, the Spaniards came over and conquered the Incans.

Today, you can still find the Tiwanacos in Los Uros, and some direct descendants of the Incans on both Isla de Amantani and Isla de Taquile.



24. Jan, 2010

Historical District of Lima

Historical District of Lima

Taking a city bus from Miraflores to the historical district of downtown Lima cost 1.2 soles, and is about a 1/2 hour trip. Once downtown, again, we just walked around in amazement. There are parks everywhere, and the cleanliness is something we have not seen for some time. Especially after spending so much time in the Dominican Republic prior to this trip.

There are basically two main parks in the Historical district, San Martin and Main Square. San Martin there is a huge park with statue of a big ass horse right in the middle of it. There is also a movie theater here. And the amazing part, at least to me, is that movies where only 5 soles each. So that’s about $1.65. Everything in Lima seems like a good deal to me. From there, you can walk to the Main Square with shops and vendors all along the way. All the vendors are really nice and not pushy at all. Its a welcome change.

Main Square is just that, the main square. The Catedral de Lima is there along with the Government Palace with the changing of the guard. Thousands of people just hang out there every day. Once you get them talking, they are really great. Short as hell, but wonderful people one you get to know them.

22. Jan, 2010

Casa Las Columnas

Casa Las Columnas

It was now time to get off the beaten path and find how some “real” people live. So after asking a few people, we headed across the Rio Rimac in search of some real barios.

The average person here makes 500 soles per month. Thats about $175USD. So we know, Miraflores is not the typical Peruvian lifestyle. We found our bario and got permission to go in and take some photos. The most interesting thing is that despite lacking what other would consider necessities, these people seem happy and are really fun to be around.

Built in the 1600’s Miss Theresa runs Casa Las Columnas for the homeless and needy. Fifty three families live here and the city wants to turn this place into a museum. Hopefully, she’ll get what she needs to continue her plight of helping people.

20. Jan, 2010

Huaca Pucllana

Huaca Pucllana

Huaca Pucllana is the name for a bunch of ruins that pre date the Inca’s by about 100 years! I found out that the Inca Empire only reined for about 100 years. It came and went in the 16th century. Really, not that long ago. But the reason they are so famous, is that they get credit for finishing and completing with a lot of other civilizations before them started.

It’s local in the Miraflores district of Lima, right in the middle of the city. They charge 10 soles to enter and you get a tour guide to tell you all about the place as you walk around. These people used to perform human sacrifice. The really interesting thing, at least to me, is that it was a matriarchal society and they sacrificed women! So, presumably, it was an honor to be chosen as one to be sacrificed to the gods during those days.

These ruins are not where they lived. This area is more of a commerce center for trade and religious celebrations. The people lived closer to the coast and were fisherman by trade. Another interesting tid-bit is that these ruins are basically earthquake proof. The civilization that built them knew of the earthquakes in the region and built it structurally to withstand them. And even today, they are still standing after very large earthquakes.


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