One alpaca, two alpaca, three alpaca, snore – do you think Peruvians count alpaca rather than sheep to bring on sleep? Intrepid’s Chotie Moloney snuggled up in a cozy bed of alpaca blankets on her most memorable homestay in Peru…
“Lake Titicaca has fascinated me ever since I was a child. Imagine living on man-made reed islands in the largest lake in South America and could the colour of the water really be so dark blue that it is nearly purple? I couldn’t believe I was going to actually experience a Titicaca island homestay!
After heading out from Puno harbour in a motorised boat, we stopped to explore the floating Uros Islands – built from many layers of totora reeds that grow in lake. It was here I met the Aymara speaking inhabitants, tried some river salmon and re-hydrated potatoes, joined in some games with local kids, climbed up the small viewing tower and browsed the museum filled with cases of stuffed regional of birds.
As we cruised to our overnight destination we marvelled at the huge expanse of water in every direction. It was with great excitement I stepped on to the rich red soil of Amantani Island. I had been billeted out to a local family with another female Intrepid traveller. Our home for tonight was at Mummy Melani’s and after a welcoming smile and brief introduction, we headed off on foot together. She was dressed in the traditional brightly coloured multi-layered skirts, embroidered white shirt and black sandals made from discarded tyre rubber. A small scarf covered her hair. She was a delight!
At 3,800 metres (12,467 feet) above sea level, the short walk took some time. As I stopped every few steps and gasped for air, our host looked on, mildly amused and with great patience. As we walked in through the courtyard, a small main adobe house to the right and our quarters to the left came into view. A tiny wooden staircase led to the door and inside to our room. Two single beds with a table and chair. There were 5 alpaca blankets on each bed; a sign of things to come. No electricity, running water or plumbing. The squat outhouse was a short distance through the vegetable patch and doorless. It faced into the neighbours, and yes, they were all smiles when I went for a visit later that day, torch in one hand and paper in the other.
We settled in comfortably with an early dinner of fried eggs with potato wedges accompanied by lovely flower tea. Our host and her eldest daughter had prepared the meal over an outside fire. My roommate and I sat out on the landing; the sun was shining and the view spectacular. We wandered to the water’s edge and were surprised at the pastel colours of the stones that had washed ashore. It was getting dark and the temperature was dropping rapidly.
At 8pm our group met up at the local hall on the island for the evening’s entertainment that had been arranged by our host families. There was beer and soft drink, music and dancing. As Quechua is the main language on Amantani, conversation was limited to a few words of Spanish and lots of hand signals and facial gestures. The traditional folk dancing was fantastic but exhausting at that altitude. With tired but happy spirits we walked home with Mummy Melani. It was freezing so we were quick into bed and under the blankets, that were heavy but very effective. Sleep came quickly.
Daybreak streamed through the small uncovered windows. I was anxious to leave the warmth of my bed. A quick wash of the face and a dash into our clothes; we were ready to meet up at the pier. Our homestay had come to an end. It was an unforgettable unique experience and one that would be relived many times in my memories and when chatting to family and friends.”
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* photo by Iain Puzey – Intrepid Photography Competition