December 13, 2017

Running Around the World: Lake Titicaca Homestay

Taquile Island

Forward from our short stay on Uros, we visited another, more developed island of Lake Titicaca, Taquile – one which once again was benefiting from connecting to the outside world. Despite having a few days at this point to have adjusted to the altitude, the first real test was presented when having to trek 200 vertical meters up to the overlooking village of the island.

Breathless and unable to talk, we were met by an expansive 360 degree view of the sparkling blue water of the lake and to great relief, a wonderful, fresh trout meal. Here, we would learn of the simple life led by this small population.

Each tribe of indigenous Peruvians have their own specific rituals and culture. On the island Taquile for example, life was a series of stages of development between a boy and girl, man and woman then husband and wife, all of which represented via a different, hand knitted hat.

Men would knit. The better the knitter, the better the wife he would be able to attract. Starting from the age of about 6, they learn from their fathers and wear a certain style hat whilst they remained single. Divorce is forbidden in the culture, so to avoid marrying the wrong person, a three year trial period is given where the man and woman can try out their relationship, again a different hat is worn during this period.

Over the three years, the man starts knitting his married hat which must pass a simple test before being said worthy enough of marriage. To finalise the marriage, water is poured into the hat. If the rate at which the water flows through is slow enough, he has succeeded in becoming a suitable husband.

Lake Titicaca Homestay

Each locality and population of Peru is different; each has their own rituals and cultural differences. Moving back along the coast towards Puno, we embarked upon a one night homestay with another indigenous population who – like many poorer Peruvian regions – were dependent on agriculture.

Here, I experienced the impact that sport has within communities, relationships and different cultures. Despite speaking highly polemically of football and those involved at the higher levels in recent years, one cannot criticise or justifiably claim that it does not bring people together. This could not resonate with me more strongly when my group of fellow travellers and I partook in a small game of football versus the local Peruvians.

Although the locals had the altitude on their side, our team revelled victorious in a lighthearted, welcoming atmosphere which was a joy to be a part of. Throughout the stay we experienced simple life. Farming for food, taking out the cattle to grave in the highlands; all whilst entertaining the joyful children who were intensely intrigued by what was seemingly their first interaction with an iPhone – or any smartphone at that.

Given the remoteness of the location, all food had to be grown and sourced directly from a small, walkable radius. Rice, quinoa and wheat for bread were the main crops harvested and used in the food eaten by this particular region. Meat was only eaten on special occasions of such as birthdays and weddings, however the mix of quinoa soup, vegetables, cheeses and rice was delicious and was a great experience to have the common Peruvian delicacies.

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