Thor Heyerdahl learned raft boatmaking from the Lake Titicaca Uros people, from that knowledge he built his raft KonTiki.
Bolivia and Peru share Lake Titicaca, about 60% in Peru to 40% in Bolivia. There is a lot of smuggling that goes on by water and land because goods are cheaper in Bolivia. The authorities try (somewhat) to control the smuggling, however there is a market in Julianca where everyone goes to buy “contrabando” and the police and politicians aren’t afraid to go too!
Women don’t drive in Peru. When Edgar told us this I couldn’t believe it so I started watching and sure enough. He says they can drive if they want but it just isn’t done, it’s the culture, however he said its changing. He said the funny part is when he needed to buy a car he negotiated a price, but had to talk to his wife before buying, she told him the price was too high and to go back. When he discusses women’s role in Peruvian culture with his 18 year old daughter she tells him to “get real”. Times are changing – and he’s teaching his daughter how to drive!
It was only 1955 that Peruvian women got the vote. Now there are many females elected to government. There are also many female police officers, Edgar said its because they are harder to corrupt!
Puno and Lugunia
Today was an amazing day. I’ve enjoyed all my travel to Europe over the years but this is a totally different world. In Europe you visit sites where you learn about how life used to be,on this trip we’re seeing both now and then because it hasn’t changed much. This is how they live, these are the clothes they wear every day, they are sharing this with us because they are proud of their culture. Not to say its an easy life, but its theirs and there’s something to be said for the community they share.
We started the day in Puno at the town square, which of course is where the church is located as well. It was about 8:3O in the morning so people were on their way to work, mothers were bringing kids to school, people were eating breakfast on the park benches or at food carts on the streets, a man was getting a shoe shine. I went into the church and there were people lighting candles, some deep in prayer in front of a favorite saint.
Next we stopped briefly to watch a family of women making straw mattresses, people actually use these as bed mattresses, or for trekking or going to the beach. This straw grows in great abundance all over this area including reeds in the shallows of Lake Titicaca. More on that later.
There were three women and they must make at least ten mattresses a day to make enough to buy the things they need. It was amazing to watch their hands, strong and callused, first making rope from these reeds, then tying reeds together to make a mattress. Evidently they have orders for specific sizes. They worked fast and in concert with one another.
Back on the bus and off to see Lugunia, a farming community not far from Puno city. Puno is at a lower elevation compared to previous days (but still 12600 ft) so there are trees, grasses, and even some flowers growing, but most of the crops are potatoes! Lots and lots of potatoes, they also grow grains (wheat, quinoa, barley) and some small stubby corn. Its too cold for less hearty vegetables. There are many cows, sheep, pigs, and donkeys in the fields and on the hillside. The houses are constructed from bricks made from mud and straw. Some houses are painted, others are more utilitarian. We’re having lunch at a home owned by a family who also rents rooms to travelers who want to experience the local farming culture. The room I saw was very nice with a private bathroom, two beds on stone platforms with decent mattresses and a typical multi color Andian bedspread. Of course the view is spectacular over-looking Lake Titicaca.
One of the daughters had a Canadian pin on her jacket given to her by a family that stayed with them. She was pleased when I pointed to it. The girls wore the colorful skirts and jackets of the region, but these weren’t for show, they wore these clothes daily.
Broz talked to us about the lives of these farm people, what they eat (fish, meat, lots of varieties of potatoes, quinoa, fava beans, mint tea, beer). He said they grow almost everything they eat, he showed us their garden, he pointed out a bush they use to make soap and shampoo. The daughters cooked lunch in a small kitchen on a hearth, the son and father served us.
The father and son are local musicians and told us (interpreted by Broz) about a festival coming up in August where 200 dancers and 60 musicians will come to the valley from all over and many people who grew up in that area will return home for the festival. He said it is a large festival and 1000 cases of beer will be consumed in 3 days. That’s a lot of beer!
Edgar explained that where we save to travel, the Peruvians save to celebrate together. Weddings that last several days or these multi day festivals areccommon.
Finally we sat down, facing the lake on a glorious day with no clouds (and a tarp umbrella to block the hot sun) and ate quinoa and vegetable soup, trout with 4 different varieties of potatoes and mint tea. We are on a “Discovery Tour” and this was certainly one! After lunch the girls showed us some of their hand made hats, gloves and woolen ornaments for sale.
After good byes we hiked down the hill to the water to take a boat to the Uros islands.