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Amantani Island Peru.
I had never heard of it before arriving in Peru. But Lake Titicaca was a place I had dreamt about visiting. Possibly it was the name. Or perhaps the sheer size. Maybe I had heard that it was the highest navigable lake in the world. Upon reflection, it is most likely the photos of people wearing traditional dress and living a lifestyle so diametrically opposed to mine that drew me to Amantani Island Lake Titicaca. Sheer curiosity.
An Amantani Island homestay, during your South America itinerary, gives you the ability to take part in an orchestrated and yet unforgettable cultural experience living on a remote island floating in Lake Titicaca with the local people of Amantani.
Let’s first of all answer some questions about Lake Titicaca, Peru such as where to stay in Lake Titicaca and how does one arrange an Amantani Island homestay?
FAQ | Lake Titicaca Peru
The blue waters of Lake Titicaca Peru stretch out as far as the eye can see. I keep expecting whales or dolphins to appear before me until I remind myself that this is a vast lake and not an ocean. My group is a lively bunch with people from Peru, France, Mexico, Germany and the Netherlands. Our chitchat is interrupted sporadically by our local tour guide speaking in both Spanish and English.
Isla Amantani rises from the water and as we draw nearer, a scattering of houses appears on the hillside. We are welcomed at the dock by the “mamas” and “papas” who will graciously host us in their homes. We are subsequently divided into groups and head off with our roommates. Mine are a young German girl, Moana on her first solo travel expedition, and 2 friends from Mexico.
Like everywhere in Peru, getting to our Amantani Island homestay is an uphill climb. We make our way along little pathways following our “papa” in silence past grazing sheep and women in traditional clothing. I stop momentarily to catch my breath and take in the panoramic vista.
We are given our rooms (a private one for me) which is a simple bed with blankets. We are introduced to our “mama” and her young son as she diligently cooks our lunch over the open flame in her tiny, dirt floor kitchen. With her ruddy cheeks and quick smile, I am immediately in awe. No fancy appliances. No running water. But “mama” has whipped up a tasty quinoa soup, three types of potatoes, fried discs of cheese, a few vegetables and a thermos of tea for lunch. Bienvenidos a la Isla Amantani! It has been a warm welcome.
I have arrived on Isla Amantani knowing very little of this way of life. I know these few facts.
- There are no dogs on the island nor cars.
- The inhabitants of the island are all vegetarians (no meat, nor fish eaten here)
- The local farmers grow potatoes and quinoa.
As we wander to the main square to meet the group for the afternoon hike, signs of authentic life on the island start to build my impressions of Isla Amantani and her people.
The adobe church sits neatly at the side of the main square
and close by is the main store or tienda where it is possible to have a drink and buy your groceries.
A shepherdess ushers her sheep quickly through the main square
and ladies are tasked with carrying burdens up steep hills.
I couldn’t have been more right. Here is a culture existing as it has for hundreds of years with only a few signs of the 21st Century.
Isla Amantani | Hike to the Peaks
The hike to Isla Amantani’s two mountains peaks Pachatata, “Father Earth,” or Pachamama “Mother Earth” is straight-up for 90 minutes. The views are bucolic
and help build a sense of place.
At the summit, we are welcomed by the ancient ruins of temples which open only once a year, in January.
We are told to make a wish and walk counter-clockwise around the temple dedicated to Pachamama. Three times we circle hoping to bring luck to our lives in prosperity, love and health. Thank you, Pachamama.
It’s freezing at the top as we watch the sun setting, look over to Bolivia and see the snowy peaks of the Cordillera Real.
The walk down is capped off with a beer in the local bar.
We are on a timeline, for dinner is served at 7 pm. The kitchen is a buzz of activity when we arrive. Other family members have joined us and “mama” is hard at work with her sister finishing the dinner preparations. Steaming soup, vegetables in a sauce and rice grace our plates. There is very little communication with the “extranjeros” (foreigners) but many friendly, non-verbal exchanges take place during this Amantani Island homestay.
Isla Amantani Homestay | The Evening
Shortly after dinner, there is a knock at my door and “mama” enters with a handful of clothing. She promptly starts dressing me in the traditional costume of her people. Aside from eye contact and a smile, there is no communication except her steady hands adjusting everything to my body shape and height. I am ready to attend the traditional dance show in the town hall.
I study my attire, an intricately embroidered white blouse, a red heavy skirt and a colourful fabric sash that has been wrapped tightly around my waist many times. Over my head and shoulders is carefully placed a black, beautifully embroidered shawl. I am the closest I will ever be to a local “Amantaneño.”
It is dark as we head down to the hall and a little uncomfortable. Papa leads us in silence. As we enter the hall, there is live music and dancing. We stand off to the side but the mamas that are in attendance are quite adept at pulling in the foreign visitors to dance. A small group of Peruvian men sit in the corner drinking beer.
Walking back uphill in the pitch black and silence of the island, the blanket of stars is extraordinary. I wish I could lie in a field and soak up the universe.
The final candle in the bathroom is extinguished, a sign that the day has drawn to a close.
We are back at Amantani Island’s dock by 7:30 am the next day. “Papa” has gone to work and “mama” has fed us (a pancake and coffee) and led us with her son to the idling boat.
We receive our farewell and yet another group of 21 st century foreigners leave the island behind holding a scant, yet sincere, perception of real-life on Isla Amantani.
Guided Tours In The Area
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