Peru: Lake Titicaca – Amantani Island homestay

So. Lake Titicaca. Teehee.

Go on. Get it out of your system. 🙂

Lake Titicaca is located in the Andes on the border of Peru and Bolivia and happens to be the highest navigable lake (by commercial watercraft) in the world at an altitude of 3,812m (12,507ft) above sea level. It’s also the largest lake in South America by volume of water and has a maximum depth of 281m. Basically, it’s massive.

The lake is home to several communities, one being the Uros, who live on artificial islands made from floating reeds. We started our day on Lake Titicaca with a visit to one of the 44 floating reed islands.

You know what? It did seem a bit weird and slightly Disneylandish but… I’m sure that the income that’s generated from tourist visits helps the Uros maintain their lifestyle on these islands so I’ll put away the first world guilt/judgement.

Lake Titicaca is so massive that it has several larger natural islands in its waters – one being Amantani Island. After visiting the reed islands, we travelled on for a couple more hours to Amantani, which has a population of about 4000 people.

Amantani Island has about ten communities, and many of the communities offer homestay experiences to tourists. Life on the island is relatively simple – there’s no cars, no hotels, and no running water. There is a generator on the island which is no longer used, so their power is generated via solar panels, which powers lights and TVs (priorities!).

We spent an evening on Amantani, staying with a host family. Our host mama was named Norma, with two young daughters and a husband (and a tiny cat that kept sneaking into the open kitchen!). Families who host tourists need to have a licence as well as a special room set aside, which was clean and comfortable (please ignore my camera equipment scattered everywhere!). Night time on the island gets extremely cold, so there were about four *very* heavy blankets on each bed.

We arrived on the island in time for lunch. Families there are mostly vegetarian, and Mama Norma had put together a simple but delicious meal for us.

First we had quinoa soup, which was unexpectedly delicious. Unexpectedly because I’m not normally a big fan of quinoa and yet she had managed to get so much flavour and depth in the soup, with what looked like just quinoa, potatoes, carrots and peppercorns.

After the soup we had boiled potatoes and a fried egg plus a cup of peppermint tea.

In the afternoon we walked up to the football pitch, but weren’t foolish enough to join in a game of football against the locals considering the altitude was 4000m.

After watching some football and seeing the local kids totally outrun the foreigners, we hiked up the hill to one of the two peaks – Pachamama. It was only a 20 minute walk – but the height made it a bit harder than a normal walk uphill.

It was beautiful up there though.

That evening Norma cooked us dinner – again, it was simple but delicious fare. We started with a big bowl of flavoursome potato soup.

After which was rice with pasta and potatoes. Yep, totally carb loading! I laughed when I saw Alastair’s serve – it was massive – my theory is that Mama Norma was trying to fatten him up.

During dinner there was lots of awkward conversation and lots of gesturing. Norma didn’t speak English, and we didn’t speak Quechua (the main language on the island) nor was our Spanish any good. AHHHHH. Despite the language barrier we still managed to communicate – we told her where we’d been so far, where we were headed to and where we were from. Well I *think* we did anyway…

After a sound night’s sleep, we were up early and had breakfast – delicious fried sweet dough with jam, and more peppermint tea.

We did our dishes and soon it was time to farewell Norma and her family and head back to the mainland. Norma walked us down to the boat while her older daughter skipped off to school ahead of us. At the jetty Norma joined the other host mamas in the farewells, which consisted of a convoluted exchange of Quechua, Spanish, one sided English and mutual gesturing.

We then boarded our boat, waved one last time to our host families, and promptly broke down 100 meters offshore. Ahh Peru. You have to go with the flow.

(We made it back to Puno safely in the end.)