Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Isla Taquile

Friday night as we were sitting around not getting ourselves into more trouble, Rani was looking through her travel guide.  Similar to my Lonely Planet but in German.  She discovered a trip to Isla Taquile, an actual island (not man-made) that was further away, in the larger part of the lake.  Vanesa, the lady from the agency, was kind enough to trek through the storm to give us details about this trip on Friday night.  The party didn’t really get going until later in the evening on Saturday, so we decided that it was worth waking up before 6 AM to check it out.

It was fortunate that we decided this, because the bands going by in the street started not long after 5AM.  I haven’t the slightest idea when people sleep on this weekend.  Perhaps I’m just asking the wrong question.

Lake Titicaca is an impressively large lake, especially since it is over 14,000 feet above sea level.  The mountains that line every side certainly add to the atmosphere.  I love Lake Michigan, but Titicaca is definitely still something special.  The clouds are so close to these mountains that they create sharply lined shadows on the slopes, making for nice pictures that I still can’t show you. 

We rode the boat for over an hour before reaching our first destination; more Islas Uros!  These ones were more green, meaning they had just added a layer of fresh reeds.  There was a little more authenticity on these islands because they were only opened to tourists a few years ago, while the other islands have been open for 50 years now.  I also liked the demonstration more, since it had the birds they ate, the fish they catch, among other cool insights.  It was still of course very similar to the other islands, but I did feel like my experience was enhanced by this visit.  They used solar panels to power TV’s and radios on their little island; a striking contrast with the otherwise ancient lifestyle of these people.  The visit finished with playing ball with the local kids, which was adorable and enjoyable. 

On the segment of our journey toward Isla Taquile, we saw the most hilarious little duck.  Whenever it moved across the water, it looked like a socially awkward teenage boy flailing away from a girl with cooties.  Water was splashing everywhere as the duck advanced forward while rapidly shaking back and forth.  Classic.  On this boat ride I also met a Dutch couple.  They were in Peru working at an orphanage in Urubamba, and they will be headed to the west coast of the US before they return home.  It’s times like this I wish I spoke the language of my ancestors.  Fortunately these are the only times I wish that so I haven’t yet attempted to learn Dutch in my spare time that doesn’t exist. 

The island was clearly beautiful as we got near.  Other than the tourism, I have my doubts that it has changed very much in the last 800 years.  There is no official police force, but rather they follow the 3 golden rules of the Incas; don’t lie, don’t be lazy, don’t steal.  The bright, hand-woven textiles can tell you a lot about the people wearing them in this society.  Men wear white and red hats when they are single.  In order to become an eligible bachelor for marriage, they have to knit their own red hat, which signifies marriage.  Textile-making has been a huge part of this island’s economy since Incan times, so a man who will be able to support his family must have the ability to knit well.  After marriage, the wives will subsequently knit a create a sash for their husbands.  On this sash will be all the life-plans of the couple.  This includes number of kids, line of work, etc.  The man will then show his sash off to the town, so everyone will know he is proud of the future he and his wife have planned.  I guess this kind of straightforward communication could largely eliminate gossip and might lower the divorce rate by avoiding major surprises throughout life.  Single women wear lighter colored skirts and married have darker ones.  A foreign concept to us, but very cool nonetheless.  The top of the island was about 150 meters above the lake, so we had a little hike to get to the top.  The views were so spectacular; 4000-year-old terraces with beautiful, colorful plants growing everywhere throughout them.  Almost every space that wasn’t occupied by a house was a terrace.  Such an expanse of beauty was quite the sight to behold.  It was complemented by a surprising number of gates  that the path walked through, some of which seemed to defy gravity.  The 3 girls didn’t want to pay for the 20 sol lunch, so I ate with the Dutch in town.  Great trout, totally worth the money.  This is still cheap compared to the USA. 

Eventually we walked our way down to a small port and were on our way.  I was thinking of sleeping on the way home, but I didn’t want to miss any of the great views from the boat.  Just when I was about to put my camera away a storm started rolling in, so I couldn’t resist keeping my eyes wide open.  At the end of the trip when the wind picked up and the storm almost caught our boat, we had the chance to see a beautiful double rainbow.  I found the 3 hour boat ride perfectly entertaining. 

My first realization back on land was that I was sunburned.  I had applied sunblock to my face twice so it wasn’t too bad, but I hadn’t applied any to my forehead.  This should have been fine, but I didn’t account for the slight part on the right side of my hair.  I was awarded with a bright red streak for my foolishness.  Back on land we went back to the room, then headed to the street for some food.  Chinese got the vote today.

Afterward we decided to look around and see if anything was going on.  Of course it was.  Bands and dancers just appeared in the streets, surrounding some poor taxis with them.  There wasn’t very much that could be done to stop the discombobulated mess.  The costumes weren’t yet incredibly innate; rather, they wore mostly normal clothes with a suit jacket or the like.  We ended up walking along with the bands for quite some time on the street.  At one point Michelle got to play a pair of cymbals.  We got to a plaza and realized we should probably stop, so we tried to get out of the road and behind the line of people.  They were all yelling at us “Avancen,” which means move on.   For some strange reason, the people lining the streets would not let us through.  After some searching we found a little stretch along the curb and plopped down there.  Pure joy, I got to play a melophone for a little while!  Our curb also had a good view of the fireworks, at least when tall people don’t stand right in front of me.  In order to get good shots I’d have to stand up, typically while yelling “avancen.”  I had to practice my new vocab word J  One lady behind me really didn’t like me standing up even if I wasn’t up for more than a moment. So she started jabbing me with the umbrella.  I went to sit down and turn my head right at the moment she was starting, and she was no more than ½ inch from my eye.  It was a plastic tip so I would have probably been fine, but I was glad we didn’t have to find out.  Katherine yelled at her for a while to it was all good.  Katherine, Michelle, and Rani wanted to go when we finally had a break in the wall of people lining the street.  It was then that I met up with my other friends who were in town for the fiesta.  I won’t describe the rest of the night to you for the sake of these people; just know that I had to do some helping to get them back to the hotel, and I ended up having a late night to get everything under control. 

Here are a few pictures of the madness of this night J  

The leader of the group was breaking it down in the street

Huge fireworks off a big structure made of reeds.  And no, people did not move away from it when it started.

Dancing through the street!  Most of my other pictures were pure chaos, this was about the best I got.

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