Monday, October 1, 2012

Lake Titicaca: Our Last Leg!

Lake Titicaca was our last stop on our trip and an amazing way to end our vacation!  Lake Titicaca is the worlds highest lake.  The culture is fascinating and the scenery is unforgettable.  It's been an embarrassingly long amount of time since we went to Peru and I don't know that I can accurately describe Titicaca without a barrage of pictures so here it goes...

We stayed at a beautiful hotel called Lake Titikaka which was out on the edge of a dirt road on a little peninsula with beautiful views all around!  We were here for 4 days (I think) and we loved every minute of it.

Our first excursion was to the Uros Islands....

Here I am all bundled up...I hate that darn hat.  Short haired girls have a tough time in those things!

This is the second half of our group, we were in a similar boat.

Our first glimpse of the islands!  The Uros people weave floating islands from reeds and root bundles.  In addition they weave their boats and their homes!  The islands are totally moveable!

I'm not really sure what this is a video of...enjoy!

Taking a look with our hotel friends from Brazil via New Zealand.  Very cool family!

This is the mother of this island.  The moms are the bosses!  She's cooking on a clay oven. 

...and I'm tasting the yummy popped corn she made!

These reeds are used by the Uros people to keep their teeth bright and shiny white.  They don't use toothbrushes and toothpaste!

The ladies of the island are weaving.  Each island is made only for one family.  The men of the islands build their addition when they're ready to marry.

I think this is a video of the women singing...

Yep! This is me, I got roped up into dressing like a young Uros woman.  The big yarn things on my "braids" indicate that I am single...I should have black yarn things (yarn thing is a technical term). 

And Russell had to dress up too!

This guy is about 12 years old.  He is learning to navigate the reed boats that are used for transportation to the school, village and for fishing.  He took us for a little ride!

In all honesty, the authenticity of the Uros people is up for debate.  They did not begin creating the floating islands until the 1960, I think.  Many of the young people go to school on the mainland and it is rumored that most of the people on the islands take boats to the mainland to live "real life".  Regardless, the traditions we experienced were cool and even if this is just a tourist gimick, it was really fun!

This is the back of the lodge.  Isn't it cozy?!  The back glassed in area is the dining room and lounge area.   We loved spending time here!
Most nights we ended the day with a bonfire with all of the guests complete with wine, champagne and snacks!  
This was one of our favorite parts of the day.  It was so nice getting to know the other hotel guests.  We met some really cool people from all over the world!

view from the bonfire as the sun was just beginning to go down

...and going...

and gone!

The next day we headed out to another island.  I think this one was our favorite!  This island has been preserved by UNICEF so that the native people are able to continue life in the traditional way.  The people are beautiful weavers and great cooks!

This is Julius Caesar (no lie) showing us some flashcards of history.  He got pretty upset if people weren't listening.  Good thing Russell and I have good listening ears!

and the treck up the "mountain" which was nothing more than a hill.  Lake Titicaca is SO  HIGH that it was like breathing in space!

our view from the top of the hill

Look at me, more being brave standing on the edge of things...

optical illusion!

Hmm, I don't know what this is a video of either, but I will tell you, somewhere near this point of our trip Russell took an embarrassing tumble.  I was sure he was about to smash his head and roll off of a cliff but to the surprise of all he was saved by his backpack- whew!

This is the leader of his family.  See that hat on his head?  He knitted it himself.  In this village only the men knit and your manhood is judged by your skill.  They literally knit ALL day even when they're talking to others. 

This is his homestead

and his girls

and his knitting wife and aunt

this little one was so adorable!

and this is the sandy beach that leads into the VERY cold lake...
...and this is Russell racing into the very cold lake because the Frenchman did it and he wouldn't be shown up.  I passed.

Yes, that IS a sunburn you see forming on my face.  We were REALLY close to the sun.  Even wearing sunscreen wasn't enough.  That cute girl beside me had just graduated from high school in France.  She was on her senior trip with her dad.  We absolutely loved getting to know them...and I loved her because she told me I looked like I could be an American movie star :)  

another beautiful shot of the hotel
We decided to be a little more active after the massive amounts of food and open bar we could feel our pants getting tighter by the day.  We took advantage of the bikes provided on the property and went out on our own for a little ride over this beautiful landscape
Do I look like a natural?

...and then we came upon this and if you know me, you know I can't ride bikes. we headed home!

Our last full day at Titicaca, we went on a special trip to see a family of weavers.  We went to their home and watched them in action.
This is the father using the amazing loom.  I'm embarrassed to say, I still can't figure out how that thing works!

I"m choosing my favorite souvenirs! I chose these white pillow covers I had been eyeing these all week at the hotel.  The hotel had these on their couches.  These beautifully woven pillow covers were made by a 12 year old and now happily live on our bed!  We also came away with some of those bright and colorful striped blankets.

This is definitely one of my favorite pictures.  

We went on a little hike up to some ruins and picked up some little friends along the way.  They loved playing "say this in English" by pointing to pieces of clothing and different colors and waiting our English response.  The little girl had a big goal to learn English and become a tour guide.

group pic!

This is me explaining to my little friend that if he doesn't stop jumping around all over the place, he's going to give me a heart attack.

Our view from the almost top...we stopped early because of my intense fear that my little friend would surely fall off the edge at the rate he was going!
My bull friend I made on our walk back to the car.  
and here I am in action!

Back at the hotel for another lovely bonfire

Another sunset.  I seriously couldn't get enough of these!

An overall review of Titilaka:
LOVED: the scenery, Armando our tour guide, experiencing local culture, the bonfires, number of included activities, pricing of extra activities, rooms were tiny but well arranged and decorated, cozy beds and hot water bottles, transfer shuttles were great
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: cuisine was consistently unimpressive, dining staff was disorganized,  and internet was spotty

Ok, I can't end our vacation blog without telling you about the craziness that was our transfer home!  While we were in Southern Peru, there were massive teacher strikes.  When I say massive, I mean we had to be rerouted through towns because of marching, protesting, burning roads, boulders blocking the way, barbed wire kind of striking!

At one point, Russell and I had to get out of the van and assist moving large boulders out of the road so we could navigate through to the airport.  When we arrived at the airport there were tons of machine gun armed guards to protect the airport from the teachers.  Doesn't that sound funny? Protection from teachers?!

Our flights were mostly uneventful until we got on our flight from Lima to the US and this is when we met the most adorable little girl.  She was 6 years old and headed to meet her father in Miami.  Every time I think of this little girl, I smile and wonder how she's doing.  Can you imagine putting your 6 year old baby on a plane and sending them to another country alone? She did just fine!  Her manners were impecable (and so was her English and Spanish).  She was so smart, so optimistic and so excited to meet her father.  She had not seen him since she was 2 years old except for on Skype.  Our little friend told us all about how she was going to stay with her dad and teach him about God.  It was just so sweet.  When we arrived she told us that she didn't sleep the whole trip because she was so excited, despite her cuddling up and sleeping soundly for much of the trip!

Couldn't have had a better vacation although it was THE LONGEST TIME we had been away from home and maybe, just maybe we'll never take another 21 day vacation.  At least not for awhile :)

Thanks for following our travels!

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