On Saturday the sixth of August 2011, I began a trip 25 years in the waiting. It is a journey that I have dreamed of doing since I was a child. I'm off to South America, specifically Peru & Bolivia with a relax at the end in Buenos Aires. To say I'm excited would be an understatement.

This journey began for me in 1985 when I lived in Port Lincoln. It was a beautiful summers day, the sun a rich golden warmth that eradicated the edge that lingers in people after Christmas and New Years. Children were everywhere frolicking along the foreshore and through the waters, jumping from the Jetty and enjoying all that could be from the day. The morning drew to afternoon and my sister and her friends started to wander further than my mother wanted them to. She sent me to bring them back closer to her view.

I stepped into the blue water lapping the shore, took a few steps into the pitiful surf, and fell. Electricity shot through my body, screamed into my skull, nerves became alive like never before. I yelled, but not understanding the pain, thinking it was probably just a stubbed toe, I reached into the water and pulled my foot free and into the air. My mind went white, my voice pierced the golden joy of summer, the water darkened, staining with the rich blood pouring forth from my foot, opened like a baguette.

During my stay at the hospital where they repaired my foot as best they can, I received a gift from my Grandmother. It was a calendar with pictures of places around the world. In the calendar I found two that I had to see – The Pyramids of Giza and Macchu Pichu. I have carried a picture of Macchu Pichu with me since then, and finally on the 21st of August 2011, I will be there after having hiked through the Andes for the previous three days.

Below are the entries for the Peruvian leg of this trip.

August 26 2011 – Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca is the 5th largest lake in the world, and highest navigable lake in the world (), crossing the border between Peru and Bolivia, and was the primary route for trade between the two nations before good highways and roads were constructed and the railways and heavy water transit was rendered obsolete. More importantly though are the people that populate the coastal regions and its many islands.

My trip here over today and tomorrow will take me to the island of Taquille where I will meet some of their people and learn of their customs, then Lukina community on the Chuquito peninsula where I will spend the night with a family, then on to visit the Isla Flotante de Los Uros (The Floating Islands).

The lake is where it gets linguistically complicated, there are three languages at work here: Spanish, Quechua, and Aymara.

First off, how to pronounce the name : ti-ti-kha-ka. The kha sound is almost like clearing your throat. The name is made of two parts:

Titi – Puma

Caca – Stone

Apparently, long ago, the islands were full of Puma.

Once upon a time the lake was filled with hundreds of sails and large floating behemoths tearing across its still waters. Now, there is only the occasional sail, and the giant transports are replaced by small ones carrying tourists to the islands or contraband between countries.

Our transport cuts through the calm waters, creating a small wake, with nary a lilt or a dip. We pass through a channel of Totora reeds that grow in the shallows (2 ½ metres maximum depth) which are use for a range of local constructions. Hundreds of metres from shore and the water is so clear,a light blue/green, I can see the bottom scattered with a small forest of weeds.

It takes a few hours to travel to Taquille, our first stop. The island rises steeply off to our side, the hill sides stepped and tiered according to the old ways. We pull into the dock, a small rock jetty jutting from the rocky shore, and disembark. We walk to the Heffe and show our documents, then off up the steep rock walkway to the village. The Heffe, here wears all black and a fedora, this is the imagery of power here. Power also doesn't bring money, it's a job of prestige not income. The culture on this island is a bit different from any of the others I have encountered so far.

The society is quite balanced in regard to duties at home and in society. The males must all know how to sew and knit (it provides them with status, and is the only way they will ever be wed). They are responsible for the production of hats, shoals, and skirts. If the man is married, then he is responsible for clothing his daughters. The women make belts, adornments and special gifts for weddings.

Single women hide their faces with a shoal/headdress, signifying their status. It is hard to meet a partner here as single people aren't allowed to go to the celebrations, as only married people have status in this society. The Aymara people of this island love to celebrate and they will drink the chicha until quite intoxicated. When the married people return home to sleep off their imbibing, the single people will go out into the night with a flash-light and meet each other. They use the light and small stones to get the attention of a potential mate, then nature takes its course. This goes on until the single person finds someone and they get married.

For the wedding, the woman makes a man-bag for her husband, which he will wear for the rest of his life and use to store his coca leaves. The groom will sew his wife's hair into his belt and wear it also for the rest of his life.

The town operates as a collective, with a central store to sell their wares opposite the town hall in the square. The view here is incredible, looking out over the lake into the green blue beyond. You can see the coastline and other islands amongst the still waters.

Lunch on the island is at a home/restaurant. We walk a meandering path out of the square past small shops selling chocolates, drinks and souvenirs, and other home/restaurants. There are a vast number of these shops and apparently the island doesn't require the income generated by these shops, it just provides extra. With the choice of home/restaurant it comes down to who you get as a guide, each guide has a relationship with a restaurant owner and thus it is balanced out. This island receives a great many boats such as ours each week and thus tourism provides a great deal extra for the island.

Our lunch today included: Toq To's – a traditional bread that is lightly fried similar to a doughnut, quinoa soup, and trout from the lake served with chips, rice and salsa, finished with coca tea. It's a tasty and filling lunch. The trout was fried on a wood stove and tasted excellent. There is a satisfaction that comes from eating simple 'peasant' food, after all it is the reason it persists to be the most widely consumed style of food in the face of all the cooking shows, 'peasant' food is pretty much the best in the world.

After our lunch we walk across the island down to where our boat is moored. From here we will travel to the Lukina Community, where we will spend the night with a local family. The Lukina community is on the Chuquito peninsula.

Other Peru Articles:

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