It would appear pompoms play a significant role in Peruvian culture. The keys at the hotel in Cuzco were attached to giant pompoms… and then I discovered I could own my very own pompom keychain if I so desired… Unfortunately I didn’t realize this until late in the journey so don’t have any guides to quiz about this interesting cultural phenomenon…
So instead you will be subjected to my limited knowledge and personal theories… hey, we have been down this road before. If you want expert knowledge, you are not listening to me 😉
Other than wandering the streets of Puno and trying to stealthily take photos of the local market or the women in wonderful local dress my main activity was a trip to the Uros islands. It sounded cool and I wanted to get ON Lake Titicaca.
So that was my plan… cruise around on Lake Titicaca and take photos with my expensive camera. Anything else was gravy….
As often happens in life, serendipity hit me right between the eyes. Our guide was excellent and that is how I learned that in the Amayra language, Titicaca means grey puma rather than what the Spanish translation would suggest.
The puma is one of the sacred animals in this part of the world, along with the condor and the snake. Personally I am partial to cats… and have a fondness for birds… but it is nice to see the snake getting a good rap for a change even if they are a bit slithery for my taste…
Lake Titicaca itself was marvelous but you should really visit the Uros islands. I am going to attach a link to this post to make sure everyone can get the correct info as my knowledge is shallow at best.
But it was one of my favourite parts of Peru. It really helped that our guide (Franz I think) was so incredible. He was very knowledgeable and had a great rapport with the women of the Uros. The concept is that you travel over Lake Titicaca on a regular size boat and then they drop you off on one of the islands so that you can learn about the history and culture of the Uros.
My pedestrian understanding of it all is that this part of South America is pre-Inca and the Inca conquisadors forced the local people to flee and some of the tribes moved onto Lake Titicaca and built homes and surrounding real estate out of the reed plants that grew on the lake.
The plants provided not just shelter but also food and relief from heat and exhaustion. We were given a part of the plant to apply to our foreheads and it was a true natural air conditioner.
The women of the tribe seemed to be in charge 🙂 They helped with the pantomime history. They performed, both in song and in a short play. They invited us into their homes. They dressed us in native costume. They weaved merchandise to sell to tourists. I’m not sure where the dudes were…
Maybe they are just stud horses 🙂 Apparently the single women use pompoms draped around their neck to advertise their status and attract a marriage partner. No need for match.com in these parts 😉
Once I had been selected by my “mama”, checked out her home and spent a decent amount of soles to support the community, I handed over another ten soles to ride on a Mercedes Benz type reed canoe paddled by my mama (who was apparently head of the tribe) and a colleague.
They paddled us to our second village where I missed getting my passport stamp because I was busy buying more goods! It felt like I was directly supporting a local culture. And I wore the shawl I bought there all over Peru. But there was no opportunity to buy pompoms until I got to Lima… fine by me… I might be single… but I am not waving my pompoms looking for some dude to notice me 😉