A boat ride out to Isla Tequile in Lake Titicaca. Yes, even the locals are tiredly amused by the name.
We headed out at 8am in a ‘fast’ boat from the docks at Puno for our all-day tour. We puttered out slowly—Puno faces a bay filled with reeds, and our first stop was the floating islands just offshore, and the community of Uros.
The boat stopped briefly at a control point, and we were given our ‘island’ to visit, as the guide explained “they rotate islands”. There are some 100 or so islands, and some 2000+ people living on, quite literally, mats of reed. Hopping off the boat onto the thick reeds was a bit strange, like hopping onto a waterbed. We saw the family—man, woman, and their three kids and handicrafts, then one of the woman took 20 of us out in a reed-boat (with a vista platform!) and we paddled around for a bit. The man explained a bit about how they lived... they’re Aymara speakers, a pre-Incan language and why they welcomed the tourists. He said in Spanish “thanks for coming, it helps send the kids to high school on the mainland, though at least these days we have just 2 or three kids, not the 15 like my grandmother had! While we do like the tourist dollar, that’s really only a few months of the year, we’re mostly fishermen, or we’ll sell our handicrafts in the markets in Puno each week, and take orders by text message so we know what our vendors want”. He invited us into his house, said “take pictures!” Though I thought that rude, and did find our tourism dollars also certainly help pay for the cell phones and solar panels and various bits of Disney cruft. Yep, these reed-island dwelling folks do have Facebook, and one very friendly black cat.
Onto Tequile Island, then, past a pair of projecting peninsulas into the more open and choppy waters of Lake Titicaca. It was clear and sunny and slightly warm, and far to the south and east we spied two separate huge mountains or volcanos, that PeakFinder app said they were both over 6000m tall. After landing on the island, covered with old Incan terraces and scattered euacalyptus, we shuffled and gasped through the thin air to lunch, where a family served us decent trout from the lake and a savory soup.
Afterwards, a visit to the town square, where Chris bought a fetching vest for 60 soles (about $20 US) and we walked down the 2km path to another dock on the north shore of the island, a nice gentle mellow walk on a warm day with wonderful views.
Back then, sleepily, on the rocking boat, an hour long ride back to Puno, past the soccer field on the floating islands. Dinner was OK at La Table de Inca, with awful Eurotrash music playing a little too loud, and then bed.