I decided to do some “non-linear travelling” as I wanted to see the salt-flats of Uyuni in Bolivia before it got too cold. Yes, it’s insane; yes, it’s far – but I wanted to do it. So I spent the next 5 days in busses, crossing about 2000km of Peru and arrived on Lake Titikaka, already close to Bolivia. Because Lake Titikaka is at an altitude of 3800m and I ascended too fast from Lima, I had pretty strong symptoms of altitude sickness – had I only listened to my body and stayed in Arequipa, where the volcano looks like Mt. Fuji, but no I wanted to move on. Lake Titikaka itself is pretty, but very touristic…
…actually in all those years of travelling, I have never been in such a tourist trap as on Lake Titikaka before: I just wanted to book a boat-ticket to the island Amantani and stay there overnight. The person at the counter ensured me: “no guides, no tour, just transport”. Once on the water a guide showed up and explained that we are soon going to visit Uros Island. Ok, I wanted to visit these islands as well, as they are pretty special because they are made completely of reed (de: “Schilf”) and are movable. Just a few families live on one island and there are about 80 of them in Lake Titikaka. But it seemed as most of these islands exist soley for tourists. Colorfully dressed people waved as our boat arrived and then explained how the island is constructed of reed and that you can actually eat the reed (tastes allright), showed us around their houses and wanted us to buy some souveniers. At the end most of the group took a tour on a reed boat with the locals singing songs (“Amazing Grace”) for them, while I and some french guys wondered what we got into here.
Before we arrived on Amantani island the guide explained that we will be assigend to a local family where we will stay overnight (that’s actually part of their community-based tourism system, which ensures that the whole community benefits equally) get lunch, and after 2 hours of “free-time”(!) we will meet at a certain place to go to the top of the island to see the sunset. So we did as about 50 other tourists that day. After dinner we were invited to dress up like the locals (russian-doll like dresses for the girls and plain ponchos for the boys) and join a party with the locals. Well, the other option was to sit alone in a dark, freezing room, so “vamos”. They sold expensive beer, a bad band played music and traditionally clothed locals showed us a dance and asked us to join. Ouch. Looking around I saw amused/awkward looks in the ponco-dressed gringos and an expression in some faces that said “What the fuck am I doing here?”.
Unexpected came another question:
“What do you want for lunch tomorrow, sir? It’s 20 Soles (expensive)”…
Aehm… “I just want to take the boat back tomorrow.”
“But the boat is going to visit Taquile Island and we will not come back before 5PM. We will have lunch on Taquile.”
“Is there no other boat going back directly?”
“Well… I’ll have the trout then…”
At this point resistance was futile and it was better to just play along and try to enjoy it anyways. Taquile turned out to be even more touristic than Amantani, but at least the trout was good. And as you can see in the photos, I liked the wheat and cereal crops on Amantani and the beautiful landscape there. But I definetly underestimated the tourism industry in Peru.