Not long after the sun rose over the water, Johnny, Sam and I were up and about, packing up our gear and tucking into a traditional Amantani breakfast brought down to us by Edgar. Consisting of Tukti, a type of Peruvian fried bread, a hard boiled egg and a lovely cup of tea, we had just what we needed, albeit quite different from what any of us were used to, to get us going for the day of travel back to Puno, via the unique floating Uro Islands.
With a brief amount of time allowed to explore Gabino’s modest property in the daylight, we soon found ourselves giving our thanks and saying goodbye while handing out the gifts we had brought along with us to give to the children in the family – a skipping rope for little Evellyn, a bag of marbles for Edgar and clip on koalas, of course, for everyone in the family!
Gabino then walked us back down through various crops to the port on the water’s edge where we found a “spirited” Julio who obviously had quite the night partying with friends, and the rest of our merry band of travelers who were all saying goodbye and thanks to their respective host families.
Back aboard the “Rio Willy” it was obvious pretty much straight away that it wasn’t going to be a “plain sailing” kind of day as the Captain was already off the boat’s stern clearing weed from the propeller and rudder. Given he was frustratedly parading up and down the cabin in nothing but his budgie smugglers, there was at least a little amusing entertainment for us despite the danger of apparently not being able to go anywhere…
Eventually leaving Amantani, we made a beeline… well as straight a line as the carved channels through the reed beds would allow us, to the Uro Islands, situated not that far offshore to the north-east from Puno.
We found ourselves having to “punt” our way through to navigate some sections of the reed channels, before finally reaching the collection of 32 islands/communities that make up the “floating islands”.
Home to groups of fishermen and hunters, mainly of birds, the Uros people rely heavily on the local vegetation, namely the tortora reeds from which they expertly craft and maintain their homes, boats and even the very islands they settle upon.
The island was pretty cool and unlike anything I’d seen before, but, at the same time it was almost instantly apparent that we were arriving at a pretty established “tourist trap” which gave credence to the rumours I had heard about the “floating souvenir stalls” we would encounter today.
Greeted “on shore” by a colourful collection of village ladies, we were led to a circle of makeshift reed benches where we all gathered and received a pretty decent educational session about the region by our guide Oswaldo.
Assisted by a well-worn map of Lake Titicaca and various other props, he gave a good account of daily island life from the use of the tortora reeds to make just about everything we could see around us, to the daily fishing routine undertaken by the men, in the 19m of water depth below the islands.
Educational session over we all had some time to wander throughout the village and wander upon a few surprising things like a chicken coop, a flamingo pen and a wee rainbow trout farm.
Beyond these attractions, there were plenty of makeshift trinket stalls set up all around the place giving us all more than enough time to consider buying stuff we don’t need and probably will never use.
What I did find, and indeed buy, was a really neat “Pacha Mamma” tapestry from a lovely lady who wasn’t at all pushy, choosing instead to encourage a sale with a little spirited bartering accompanied by a wicked, wide smile. I’m such a sucker sometimes…
We could hardly come all this way and spend some time with these lovely people without going for a brief ride on one of their expertly crafted reed boats, the ones that look somewhat viking-like (see below). So with a couple of the lovely, brightly-dressed ladies ably attending the oars at the front, we climbed aboard and went for a relaxing, awfully touristy, and probably unnecessary jaunt along the edge of some of the neighbouring islands.
Back on terra firma (of sorts), there was minimal time to run around and snap off a last few frames before our hosts gathered and sang sweetly to us as we boarded “Rio Willy” one final time, bound for the port back in Puno.
The hunt for Tunki Coffee
Back at the hotel, we all had the chance for an afternoon siesta before heading into town to take a look around. The afternoon mission for a group of us, including a few coffee nuts, was to track down and purchase a locally available, organic bean known as Tunki which was recently voted the best in the world.
So what makes it so special? Here’s a brief description given by the coffee blog, rijo42:
“Tunki is a beautifully balanced 100% Arabica, single origin, premium coffee originating from the Peruvian Andes. Tunki boasts a superb floral aroma with sweet chocolate and treacle notes, enhanced with undertones of citrus and red berries.”
“Grown approximately 1700 metres above sea level in the Sandia Valley, in Peru’s southeastern region of Puno, Tunki coffee cherries are picked by hand and are fully washed. Produced without the use of pesticides and chemicals, Tunki coffee is certified organic by the Rainforest Alliance and cultivated following international fair-trade standards.”
We searched high and low before we finally found what we were looking for in a cute little out-of-the-way cafe set just off the main town square (see below).
Monies were exchanged, gifts of Tunki beans were secured for the java lovers, additional coffees were purchased and consumed in quick order and it was back to the hotel to wash up before dinner.
As has almost become custom now, we trekked out to a local restaurant for a delicious dinner accompanied by the sounds of a lively band and dancers who put on quite the show.
While our bellies may have been full by the time dinner was over, there was always going to be room for a beer or two, so we headed into a nearby haunt where we drank, compared stories of our time in Peru, played many games of Jenga and laughed a WHOLE lot.
Tomorrow it’s time to leave Peru and travel across the border into Bolivia where a whole new set of adventures await us!
Posted in: Travel