After a long 7 hour bus journey, we arrived in Puno. The city itself doesn't have a lot going for it, but Puno is the gateway to Lake Titicaca and the main reason why people visit this city. We packed our small backpacks and headed out into Lake Titicaca for our homestay visit. Uros islands was our first stop which is where the local inhabitants live on floating reed islands. Soft underfoot and almost bouncy, the reed islands are only stopped from floating away by 8-10 rope anchors. The houses are made from reeds, the beds are made from reeds and even the boats are made from reeds, and as the sun shone down the islands glowed bright yellow.
We were given a demonstration by one of the locals as to how the islands are built and maintained and then we saw how the women trade their wares at the markets, before taking a trip on one of the reed boats around the islands.
Next up was Taquille island where we went for a hike up and over the mountain, before having a lunch of freshwater trout and muna tea.
We were welcomed to the homestay island of Luquina by a local band who followed us all the way upto the school where we would be meeting our families for the next 2 days. I was introduced to Wilbur who was 18 and lived with his Aunt and Uncle and 8 year old cousin Freddie. The families dressed us up in their traditional clothing of colourful skirts, black top and hat, and pom poms round the wrist. We then watched as they performed several dances for us and then we were dragged up to dance for them, twirling our pom poms as we went. Just as well we had been paying attention! The local children of the village then performed some dances too, and eventually everyone was up and dancing.
Retiring to our families' homes for dinner, myself and the girls I was sharing with sat around the table that had specifically been bought for the tourists whilst the family perched on stools around the room. It was quite awkward sitting there trying to make conversation as it was difficult to communicate with them as they have their own language which is very different to Spanish. Although they did know a few words of Spanish, the silences grew longer and eventually we went to bed early as we had nothing else to say to them. The next morning we endured long awkward silences at breakfast again before heading out into the fields with Wilbur to help with the farming. We took the cows along the shoreline so that they could graze on the reeds and then walked them back to a place where they could drink the water. Skills I had learnt on the ranch in Uruguay came in handy as I tried to herd the cows. My cow was quite young and mischeivous though and kept straying from the path and onto neighbouring fields.
After our morning's work some people played football against the locals, which proved very tough at altitude. When it was time to leave the island we were quite happy to leave the village and head back to Puno where there was just enough time to have a quick wander round town and head up the steps to the Mirador el Condor. The 500m of steps up to the lookout point was hard work, I had to stop several times to catch my breath but there were good views over the city and lake.
In the evening I met up with Melissa, a girl who was on my BA to Rio tour. We both had delicious fresh trout caught from Lake Titicaca and several glasses of wine. It was nice to catch up with what she had been doing over the past few weeks and she was telling me all about places I was yet to see. I met up with the rest of my group later for an intense Jenga game in a local bar. Whilst at the bar I managed to get glass in my heel and my foot started bleeding quite badly. Just what I needed for the Inca Trail ahead!