As our boat headed to Capachica Peninsula, a little less than 20 miles away, I couldn’t help wondering what could possibly follow our morning adventure with the families on one of the floating totora islands we’d just left that would not be anti-climactic. It would be a hard act to follow. There would first be a several-mile-walk to reach the house of Tomás, a member of the community who was beginning a new venture of hosting meals to visit tourists eager to learn more of the Quechua communal way of life. Members of this pueblo community of about 500 families have been very receptive to the fastest growing industry in Peru–tourism–as a supplement to their income from farming.
Here we are at last, ready to walk for our lunch. Right away the path from the lake (Lagos Titicaca) goes up. ALWAYS up or down, seldom level! By now, we’ve become more used to long hikes up and down and around and over, and we’ve been assured it’s not too far, only about a mile. But we’ve learned to suspect that not too far means something quite different to Peruvian guides than it does to touristas.
The path is so picturesque with the lake behind and beside us as we walk, and everyday village life going on all around us, so that I was totally unaware of time passing. At the same time I was totally aware that–at the end of this path–we would be meeting and talking with people who live very different lives from ours.
We have reached the home of Tomás. Marta and Caroline are among the first to enter the courtyard. I’ve noticed that the entrances to all these pueblos have arched entryways adorned by two small statues either at the top of entries or on housetops throughout the high plains. They look at first glance to be pigs but they are Pucara bulls. They’re supposed to bring luck and fertility to the household.
Inside the compound, on the way to the dining room or what Tomás calls his new restaurant, I admire these lovely little villas all flanked by beautiful flowers and our guide José explains that these are rental units for tourists.
If Hubby or I were a bit more fluent in Spanish it would be tempting to come back someday and stay several days in this peaceful place.
Llachon certainly compares in beauty to any island I’ve visited anywhere, even Hawaii, but without being saturated with commercialism. I really hope that these simple, peaceful places never vanish. Can you imagine a McDonald’s or a Ben & Jerry’s, or a Starbucks littering the landscape?
José takes a few minutes to point out the different varieties of tubers gathered from the farm that morning. He demonstrates a primitive garden tool farmers still use, and tells us we’ll be invited to try our hands with it later in the afternoon.
Just before entering the dining area, we pass one of the women who was helping out in the Tomás kitchen that day as she washes and prepares some of the tubers that will make up one of the first courses of lunch.
Tomás and his wife stand at the head of the long dining table made up to accommodate our group of 10, or 11 counting our guide. Mary’s knee had been giving her problems and was swollen that day so she decided to rest it and stay behind in the hotel. A voracious reader, she had taken a loaded kindle e-book along with her. It came in handy as it turned out.
After assorted appetizers using different types of tubers and a first course of delicious quinoa soup, the main course was served: chicken breast pan grilled in butter, with sides of assorted peas, carrots, squash and tomato slices, each fresh from the garden that morning, accompanied by very hot salsas and unlimited cups of coca tea.
All the while we were in Peru, Hubby was quick to grab hats of all different sorts and try them on as you’ll see if you read further posts of our Peru tour. I guess we forgot to tell him, however, this one was for women.
We noticed lots of different styles of hats all over Peru. We learned that designs differed for each community, and is distinctive to that area. So if you’re a native Peruvian, all you need do is observe the hats worn and you know what region the wearer comes from.
After lunch was finished, we paused for pictures with Tomás and his daughter Marielle on his left, who is visiting from Puno where she’s in her 2nd year of college. The other ladies are relatives who live nearby and have come by to help Tomás with his visitors. They showed off some of their crafts of colorfully embroidered fabric, knitted hats and loom weaving. I felt someone plunk one of those hats on my head. Clearly it was my turn to try one. Is it my imagination? Or do they really look look better on the ladies that made them instead of gringos like us?
Despite our promise of sorts to help Tomás with some farm chores after lunch, time restraints forced us to head back to the boat. So he grabbed his hand tool and went to work just to show us what a backbreaking job it is. Maybe it’s just as well all us 60-something gringos were spared by our hectic schedule. Just walking back down to the boat would prove to be a big enough job.
Along the way it was obvious that what we were seeing was a typical day in the lives of the Llachon people. Tomás wasn’t the only community member working hard. This man is carrying a load of dried grasses for feeding livestock off-season and the cool temperatures suggested winter was on the way.
The walk back would be longer than the walk in, because the boat had moved down river so that we could walk through and observe the village on the way back. Most of the faster ones in the group went on quite far ahead, and others of us, including me, stayed behind to check on Robert (Mary’s husband) as we knew he was not feeling well and didn’t want him to feel he was slowing everyone up. Besides, it’s always best to go slower and take time to smell the flowers as you go. Or, in this case, the watercress patch. . .
. . .as well as checking the lay of the farm land and taking dozens of pictures as we walked. The terraced farm patches, the houses, the flowers growing wild, the stones, the red clay soil, offered such a textural and sensuous delight.
The blue mountainous looking island you see in the distance here is Bolivia. You may remember José telling us that, while Peru claims 60% of the borders of Lake Titicaca, Bolivia has the rest. Or to put it another way, titi for Peru and caca for Bolivia.
In the meantime, Robert was feeling worse by the minute and as robust a man as he appears normally, it was clear he was suffering because he asked José if he thought someone on one of the small rowboats could help get him to our boat. We didn’t know it then, but he had begun to feel chest pains and he was very pale. The boat was in sight by that time, but still little more than a speck that seemed to get further and further away with every step.
Luckily, José knew the people on the island and was able to get help. A woman out walking called out to her son who was out on the lake in his boat. He and his mother and José together were able to get him down the bottom of the hill. Long story short, with the assistance of these generous spirited people, Robert made it back in a rowboat with Judy, a fellow traveler who had stayed with him all the way back. For the rest of us, knowing that our friend could possibly be very ill, the walk along the sandy beach after we made it to the bottom, is one of the longest walks of our lives.
On the boat, Robert was administered oxygen, a pallet was mad up along the side passenger bench. By the time we made it back to the hotel, he was getting some color back and feeling well enough to make it back to the hotel on his own two feet. It was not a heart attack after all, more likely the usual traveler’s problems plus a combination of heat exhaustion and altitude sickness. As they say in all the storybooks, all is well that ends well.