February 26th, 2008

Eighteenth report from Peru.

On Sunday when we arrived in Puno we hiked around to see the sites. On the top of a mountain at the top of several steep streets there were 4017 steps up to an enormous metal condor. I huffed and puffed and gasped and stopped often but I made it. Jim doesn´t seem to be bothered by the altitude but it really exhausts me. That evening after supper we were just so lucky to find ourselves in the middle of the annual Puno dance festival. We saw at least six groups and they all had between 15 to 25 couples and large bands. We loved it. The women wore black bowlers, elaborate shawls, full colourful skirts and white boots and the men were in black suits and fadoras with elaborate white scarves. Both men and women carried kerchiefs and this was part of the flirting and intrigue.

Yesterday we were picked up at 6:45 and taken to the ferry for a day trip. We visited two of the floating reed islands. The Uros people started building and living on these reed islands in 1100- They are quite large, and accomodate more than 600 people. The houses, boats, and the islands are all made of reeds. ¨The islands are 2 meters thick in 70 meters of water. Eventually they become waterlogged and new islands have to be constructed. In bits of the old islands and old boats, they grow their crops, especially potatoes.

We then took our boat two hours further to Isla Taquile. This island has had a fairly isolated existence and we enjoyed a long mountainous hike here. The women of the island wear blankets on their heads and the men dress in black pants, white woven shirts, and vests with elaborate woven sashes and they wear hats that they´ve knit themselves. White and red for unmarried men and long intricately designed red ones for the married men.

This morning we are catching an early bus to Cusco. This will be the first place that I have seen before, having been there four years ago.