Welcome to Travel Tuesday!
It’s time for this month’s travel-themed prompt: where have you been that was unexpected in some way? Perhaps you didn’t expect it to be amazing and it blew you away?
My unexpected destination is Lake Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia (half to the lake is in Peru, and half of it is in Bolivia–I stayed on the Peruvian half!).
Before I studied abroad in Peru, Lake Titicaca was a funny name we learned in elementary school. It is the highest navigable lake in the world, and is a sacred site to the Incas, as legend goes that their civilization sprang from the water of this lake.
Even with how well known the lake is, when I started my semester abroad in Cuzco, Lake Titicaca did not enter my radar for awhile.
If several classmates and housemates had not decided to go, I probably would not have even made it there.
I went on a whim–my host brother knew a guy who knew a guy who ran a tourism business in Puno, Peru, the main town on the Peruvian side of the lake. The tour consisted of a visit to the famous “floating islands” of the lake, a home stay on Isla Amantani, and a visit to a few other islands on the way back for scenery and history.
The tour did not start out well–we arrived in the freezing rain before the sun was even up after a long, overnight bus ride. Light started to seep into the city, but unfortunately Puno is not the prettiest Peruvian city (except for the views of the lake, which we couldn’t see yet anyway!).
As we wandered the city, avoiding piles of trash and sad stray dogs, I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into. It was freezing and I was soaked. When we finally hopped on our tour boat, even my underwear was wet! (TMI?).
Thankfully, the rain stopped and my socks began to dry, just as we arrived at the first island–a small little one made completely out of reeds! It was one of the famous Uros Islands, or the “floating islands” of Lake Titicaca. The floating reeds, despite being, well, floating, have solid enough roots for little villages to be built on them. I have never seen anything like it. Everything was made out of these reeds–from the little village houses to the boats they use to navigate around the islands.
^^the children were terrified of me so they ran away. But how cute, right? ^^our last view of the island. You can climb up into this fish for a view of everything. It used to be a reed boat but is now just for decoration.^^there were tons of little guinea pigs running around. Peru’s favorite dish happens to be these little guys…or “cuy”
From there, we took a looooooong boat ride to Isla Amantaní, where we would spend the night. The sun had come out in full force, and it was beautiful when we arrived on the island. We were greeted by our home stay families and taken to a local soccer game, where if you had the skill and the energy, they were happy to let you join in. As I had neither (and will never have the skill), I declined. Instead, I hiked up to Patchatata with another group, the highest point on the island. The views were incredible–it was suddenly so clear, we could see all the way to Bolivia!
On the way back, we managed to get lost (how on this tiny piece of land??) but it gave us a chance to explore the island more. The island had very little electricity (although I still saw a man walking his donkey and talking on his cell phone…so there was enough for that!) and little running water.
Prior to this trip, I had very little idea that such places still existed. It was like going back in time–we did have nice, kind of comfortable beds, but the kitchen was a little dirt hut with a fireplace. The food was amazing, although I don’t have any idea what most of it was. They were pretty decent Spanish speakers (and mine was passable), but a lot of the food only had Quechua names, the local language with Inca roots that is still spoken by the indigenous people of Peru.
Our home stay on this tiny island was an incredible night. After we ate (and had tons of their delicious, local herbal tea), our family took us to a local fiesta all dressed up in traditional garb. They attempted to teach me local dances, but mostly I was just spun around, trying not to fall in the heavy dress. (There may or may not have been a few clumsy incidents).
After a late night, I stopped to see some of the best stars I have ever seen, out in the middle of a giant mountain lake.
It’s safe to say that Lake Titicaca surprised me in every way. I didn’t expect my delight at the floating villages, the warmth of the natives, the peace of the simple lifestyle, and the absolutely stunning views.
what’s a place you’ve visited that completely surprised you? I want to hear all about it!
This week I am spotlighting Courtney from Adelante and her amazing trip to Santorini! Santorini is at the top of my list and her magical photos make me want to get there as fast as the next flight takes me.
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