Today we are off to the Floating Islands of Uros.
We wake up at 5:00 am., pack up our room, store things downstairs, eat breakfast, and take a backpack each with us on our adventure.
At 7:00 a.m. I am still haggling prices of our tour with a sub-agent for Escandinavia Travel who has delighted in cornering us in a massive tour scam. I have been sick since arriving with altitude sickness and I am red-faced and trying to stay on top of this situation.
Having to stick to our budget and therefore, being on a single parent travel world adventure, we have found it wise to follow the advice of luxury travel experts in the area. This helps to make the most of a bad situation. We have already passed it off to our travel insurance company to investigate since the tour company will not respond to me directly. There is no way we will allow anyone to rip us off in this family travel adventure we are about to embark on.
This tour company can’t take us all the way since the Bolivia border is closed to Copacabana, but there are other border roads. The sub-agent (who clearly wants her cut) has changed her tune from yesterday when we talked. No longer is all of Bolivia closed. Now it is only one border (which is what I told her in the first place) but I can’t stand being lied to.
Use Trip Advisor
Having checked Trip Advisor, we now discover this company has a long history of tour scamming, and we are just their next victim. We were scammed on a city bus tour in New York, and I hope I learn their tricks, but they seem to sneak up when I least expect it. Travel means you have to stay on your wits at all times, as they are watching who to prey on.
So we had finally agreed on a blown out price. They have my 50% deposit and I am at their mercy and it is just too late to book elsewhere. If we stay another day, then I have to pay for another night at a hotel/hostel. Therefore, we reluctantly get into her taxi, and head to the wharf.
Our Tour Begins
We settle in our seats at the front of the boat hoping this will be a good place to avoid seasickness.
Immediately, we are serenaded by a Peruvian musician, playing two instruments at the start of the journey. He is pretty screechy and so Explorason pulls a funny face for the camera, but all-in-all, he was a talented man.
As we motor slowly through the heads, we see ladies cutting reeds.
We climb onto the roof of the boat, and the sun warms us up. I’ve forgotten sunscreen or hats because it seems cold. Silly me – but then we did pack at 5:30 a.m. I easily go red though my son never seems to burn under this heat. Fortunately, a fellow traveler offers us some sunscreen and we use our jackets to protect our heads.
Floating Islands of Uros
Soon in the distance, we see the Floating Islands of Uros. My son scampers down from the roof and jumps onto the island – with the excitement of Christmas morning.
We sit and have a wonderful lesson about how the islands came to be and how they are preserved. Also, we are taught about the local culture. This is a wonderful example of worldschooling.
Eating The Reeds
Yum – we eat the reed base – you peel it like a banana, and it has the texture of celery, and the taste – well it has little taste really.
Reed Boat Ride
We glide along the lake, as he poles us around the outer area of the island.
Looking Around The Island
Back on the island, we take a look at their homes. We notice they have western clothes under their costumes and when we sneak into the houses. Here we find furniture like this is just a day place, and they might not actually live on these islands at all.
It is pretty touristy, and the prices are high, so we just look and fail to spend on them, but I regret buying one of their stitched items as they are quite unique. Next, we are ushered back onto the boat as we head to our next island of Amantani.
The Island of Amantani
Lake Titikaka is a rival lake. On one part the Peruvians say they own it, and on another part, the Bolivians say they own it. You are never quite sure which bit is which. But in general, they say ‘Titi’ means ‘good’, and ‘Kaka’ means ‘poo’ so the Bolivians say they own the ‘Titi’ part, and the Peruvians own the ‘Kaka’ portion!
Here as we arrive on Amantani we are greeted by traditionally dressed men and ladies. Many watches as they sit, chat and spin their yarn but their hands constantly work as they talk.
We grab a few photos. Sadly there was one of me, and the lady never turned out. Oh well… Explorason, however, is a hit, and all the ladies want him in the photo with them, but he isn’t as keen as me. Had I the time over again, I would stop and ask someone to take a photo of both of us.
Off To Our Casa
We are then grouped and marched off up the hill to our respective casa’s. I sigh relief as one lady I have watched has been picking her nose the whole time. So I do NOT want to go to her house to stay and thankfully we don’t get her!
Many of the tourists moan and stop. But as we moan -oops – I think that means me too, we chat with some great travelers, and they are from Australia! It is a long way up to the homes and I am unaware that altitude sickness is starting once more.
Over The Wall, We Go
It is about 2 pm and we have had no lunch. Finally, we climb over a wall, and walk along the edge of a field – here we are!
Lunch is a quick rush around a traditional kitchen for us and another couple staying here. Fried queso – cheese – my son let’s out a squeal of delight!
Next is a mix of cold salad and a variety of potatoes. Purple potatoes – we peel them and who would guess Explorason loves them. In fact, these purple potatoes are also purple inside and the story has been told later in our travels, all around the world.
Then there is ochre – like baby carrots in shape, but also from the potato family. Never eaten so many potatoes in all my life.
Our Family Takes Us Out
Lunch is over just before 4 pm! Our family then take us on a little outing. It is cute as the children want to hold my hand, and the lady of the house insists I wear a bucket hat of hers!
Soccer With Local Kids
Waiting patiently to go, we get a little talk from our guide, then the whole group joins in for soccer with the local kids.
A lovely lady helps my shy boy join in and a couple of the guys n the tour include him which is so nice compared with our tour in Ecuador in the Amazon Jungle where we encountered a ‘kid hater‘. Explorason is pretty good and I was impressed.
Then it is time to hike the mountain. We have armed ourselves with water, warm clothes, and thankfully a flashlight. Next, we get to choose which hill we hike. Basically, it is left or right, and we choose left.
By the time we reach the top of the hill, everyone has gone off and we are alone. We make little rock towers which are fun.
Alas, this mountain is so high I am having trouble breathing. My head starts to hurt. Pretty soon the sun sets. It is gorgeous over the lake.
It gets so cold, and we head down the hill as my head beats to the footsteps we make.
We find a donkey and feel a bit like Mary and Joseph as we pose for a few photos. Our host finds us and asks us to return for dinner. Funny thing is that we thought it was a stranger following us – we freaked out and asked a guy to help us back to the house safely. Gee – did I feel stupid when he turned in the gate!
The kids muck around, and all get along well which is fantastic.
My head thumps and in hindsight, I should have asked for some tea to help the altitude sickness, but I did not know about it then. Dinner is cooked over coals so I offer to help.
We eat our dinner – more potato soup, and more potatoes.
What was next is that we are meant to go to a traditional dance and dress up like the locals. I am so looking forward to this. But my head is pounding. My son is asleep on my lap in the kitchen. This is just not going to happen.
I wake him up and leave to get our hot water bottle filled. Thank goodness we have this as it is bitterly cold.
I am awake all night with the pain. Lesson learned – never travel without painkillers! I long for the morning!
UPDATE AUGUST 2013
Questions and Comments
- Have you ever had altitude sickness?
- What did you do?
- Do you have any tips for our readers?
- Have you ever stayed with a host family somewhere traditional?
- Tell us all about it in the comments below – we’d love to know.