Our sleep on the beautiful Amantani island was disturbed by what sounded like a colossal rainstorm. However, when we peeped out of the curtains the next day it had obviously been a sleet/hail storm. Yesterday we’d been wearing T-shirts and factor 50, today thermals. We made our way cautiously down the slippery, icy path accompanied by all the host families. The ladies were still in their traditional dress and I couldn’t help but wonder whether they raced back up the hill after we’d gone to pull on Onesies and jeans.
Our next destination was the island of Taquile about forty five minutes by boat. Where the lake had been flat and calm yesterday, today it was choppy and rough. And rough is how I felt when we first landed in the port. Glad to catch my breath and try to keep the nausea at bay I was seriously debating whether to just stay by the port until lunchtime or head up to the main square.
“It’s only twenty minutes or so and it’s pretty flat once you get up this first bit.” reassured Javier. And so I braved it.
My watch and Javier’s watch must operate in slightly different ways. So too do our descriptions of what constitutes flat! More like forty five minutes later and tackling gradients that ranged from flat to steep, we finally arrived in Taquile’s main square.
Taquile is a very traditional island in some ways but in others it is very forward thinking. There are no cars – donkeys, mules and feet being the main mode of transport. Traditional costumes are worn by men and women and the colours are strictly adhered to. Black skirts for married ladies, colourful ones for single ladies or children. Men wear red hats once they are married or a colour with white if they are single.
There are no police on the island. Instead, every Sunday the villagers and the elders gather in the main square and any grievances are sorted out there and then. They run their economy on a co-operative basis and even have their own travel company to ensure that local people benefit from the tourists who visit. Everyone certainly seemed very happy and content.
But it’s not only the local people who make travelling such a wonderful experience, it’s also fellow travellers you meet on the way. During lunch,we got talking to a Mexican couple Jesus and Flor. I had noticed Flor making lots of notes along the way and at lunch we sat opposite one another so I asked if she was writing a book. She looked amazed and wanted to know how I’d guessed. I told her I was a writer and recognised a fellow kindred spirit. It turns out she had also been a teacher and was now writing for children. It was like looking at myself in thirty years time. As for Dom and Jesus, a love of music, ancient civilisations and the questions some of these ancient ruins raise was enough to keep them deep in conversation for some time.
It was over lunch that we also found out about the local shampoo. Made from a local plant one of the gentlemen showed us how it worked. Producing a grubby piece of sheep’s wool he swooshed it through the water and shampoo and it emerged dazzlingly white, fluffy and cloud like. Jesus filled his empty water bottle with the remains to use on his hair later.
From here we wandered back down to the boat and were transported back across the lake for our second night in Puno and our final night in Peru. Peru has been so many things that can’t sound anything other than a trite list of hyperbole but it’s true. So here goes…
Peru is wonderful, beautiful, welcoming, friendly, awe inspiring, spiritual, gorgeous, amazing, staggering, breathtaking (quite literally) and many other things besides. I would come back in a heartbeat but the journey must carry on and Bolivia is calling.
For more information about Jude please visit her website https://littlelambpublishing.co.uk/