a unique perspective on this crazy world

Posts tagged ‘lake titicaca’

waving your pompoms ;)

puno plaza des armes

puno plaza des armes

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.

cruising the lake - note the reeds

cruising the lake – note the reeds

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 ladies of the uros

the ladies of the uros

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.

a cadillac made of reeds!

a cadillac made of reeds!

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 😉


lake titicaca!!!

I am on line at pearson!!!  goal is to add one post per day… we’ll see… but I have been typing and still have lots to say about Peru.  You should go!  it’s amazing…

Apparently I am eating ceviche twice in one day!  But I am in Peru.  And menus are not always totally clear…

But the ceviche at lunch was delicious.  And apparently the trout is fresh from Lake Titicaca so I think it will be fine…

I finally made it to Lake Titicaca!  Unlike most people I knew about Lake Titicaca long before I yearned for Machu Picchu.  When I was about 15, a group in their early 20s came to our tiny, remote community.  I can’t remember the name of the program but its purpose was to link young Canadians with their counterparts in developing countries.

lake titicaca

lake titicaca

They learned each other’s languages and did work in the community.  The group our Canadian team was paired with came from Bolivia.

I think it might have been the slideshow from the Congo that I saw in third grade (someone from the town had worked there so his wife brought her slides).  It’s not entirely clear but it might have been the DRC pre-independence.  She definitely painted Africa in a wonderful light as an interesting place one should visit.

She was the first inspiration in my desire to explore the world.  I was also inspired by the history of my country, which emphasized brave Europeans who had discovered us… not entirely accurate of course but my childhood was full of new places and long journeys so exploring the world seemed a kind of birthright.

From an age so young I cannot remember it, I yearned to see the world – and was always pestering any foreigner who wandered into my path as to the real scoop on the place they came from.  As a teenager, I had penpals in at least 30 countries…. it might have been 50… so my theoretical knowledge of the world at 15 was vast!  But I hadn’t been outside my own continent.

Back then I had bonded with a young woman named Angèle.  She was from Québec so came and helped out in our French class.  I desperately wanted to learn French so this was a dream come true.  And, through my friendship with her, I hung out with the Bolivians.

So I learned about Lake Titicaca, altitude sickness and the frequency of military coups in Bolivia.  The Bolivians seemed very resigned to it. The only problem was that the coups tended to shutter the universities so getting a degree was a challenge.

This morning I got to wave at Bolivia.  It was only a few metres away.  Another trip…. but Lake Titicaca totally lived up to my childhood dreams!

The weather in Puno has been amazing.  A bit cold – but hardly the tundra everyone in Lima led me to believe J  I did break down and buy a pair of Inca mitts on my way to dinner but my hands are always cold – and my mitts have llamas on them 😉  This morning though I was overfleeced!  If I have any sage advice for a trip to Peru, layering is key – the temperature variation over the day is pretty exciting.  And check out Lake Titicaca!

Looking at it from afar is impressive but I recommend getting a little more adventurous… just keep reading…

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