Puno and our Lake Titicaca Homestay
Puno was where Jami and I reached our peak altitude. We had been slowly acclimating as we rose higher with each city. Once we arrived in Puno I felt some major effects of the lack of oxygen. I usually don’t sleep in the middle of the day unless I’m really sick but after checking in to our Puno hostel I laid in bed and Jami wasn’t able to wake me up for hours. Luckily we had a few rest days in Puno to get acclimated to this higher elevation before starting our Lake Titicaca homestay and tour.
One of the highlights of our Peru adventure was our time in Lake Titicaca. Jami and I booked a two day tour which included a boat tour of the lake, a visit to the Uros Floating Islands, an overnight stay with a local family, and hiking two of the larger islands on the lake.
It was amazing to see how people lived on these man-made floating islands. They would tie reeds together to build a large floating base to provide enough land for a few families. On that little floating island the families would craft, cook, and use boats as transport to send their children to school in the mornings. The school itself would be on another floating island as each island was linked together to build this floating city on this high lake. The younger children looked so happy. While we were there one little boy was chasing a duck that they would later cook and eat.
After visiting the floating islands it was time to venture our further into the large lake to our first island where we would spend the night with a local family. This was a great experience. Our host family was so nice and cooked amazing meals. They didn’t speak any English so with our very limited Spanish we tried to make conversation. Gestures really are the universal language.
The meals were so good with simple ingredients. It mainly consisted of carbs, lots of it. I think my favorite was the quinoa soup. They also served several different kinds of potatoes with rice. Everything was grown right on the island. We made fresh tea by dunking twigs of tea leaves right into our hot water. In the morning we tried coca tea for the first time hoping that it would help further with the altitude. They also had a simple salsa that was so delicious. It looked like it was minced tomatoes, onions, and jalapeños. We ate very well during our homestay.
As part of their way of making a living both the husband and the wife made handicrafts out of real alpaca wool. It was quite a sight to see them knit hats so easily while we hiked up to their homes from the boat. It was also a bit discouraging that as they were knitting and hiking with ease, Jami and I were breathing heavily trying to get up that same hill with very little oxygen. We decided it would be nice to buy these handmade alpaca wool hats from our host family so we each got one. We were so glad we did later that evening when we went on a sunset hike to a viewpoint, Pachamama, on the top of the island. It was so cold! The views were very worth it.
The morning after our overnight we had a quick breakfast and our host mom walked us back down to the boat. Again she was knitting with ease like the slope of the hill was nonexistent. We snapped some photos together and it was time visit our final island.
Hiking up and down these islands at such a high altitude is not easy. But the views were worth it. Also, at the end of our hike on this second island we were served another delicious meal. More quinoa soup and fresh fish! A perfect end to our Lake Titicaca tour.