I woke up Halloween morning and decided to take a tour of the nearby Uros Islands. The Uro people have created floating islands on Lake Titicaca as a way to isolate themselves from invading civilizations. Now considered a tourist attraction, the islands are well worth a visit, and the Uros still do live there. They create the islands using a two-meter thick soil matrix that floats to the lake surface at the end of the wet season. A one-meter thick layer of totora leaves is added to the top layer, and then shelters are constructed with the same reeds. The islands, which are no bigger than half an acre each, are anchored to the lake’s bottom using ropes and large sticks pounded into the mud. Sitting on one of the islands, you can actually feel and see it rotating.
Returning to the mainland, I improvised an awful Halloween costume, and bought some bags of candy. Much to my surprise, I had never seen Halloween celebrated like it was in Puno! The main avenue was jam packed with children in costume, all begging local storeowners for candy. When it was noticed that I was passing some out, I was immediately besieged by small children, screaming “Feliz Halloween!” Forced against the wall, I had passed out two bags of candy in less than five minutes. It was a slightly scary and invigorating experience, and I spent most of night doing more the same.
On Nov. 1, All Saint’s Day, I hopped on a 4 hour boat ride to the large island of Amantani. There I could find a homestay, and have a 2 day visit with the locals to see what life is like on their big remote island. Jacinto and his lovely family took me in like family, and we spent the days talking, laughing, eating, taking photos, and learning Quechua.
The next day, The Day of the Dead continued, and Jacinto invited me to the island’s cemetery to honor his family’s deceased. I felt like I was completely intruding, but he insisted. So as the only gringo in the packed cemetery, I took a back seat, and watched the rituals of this beautiful and peaceful day. It was an introspective experience, and I’m not even going to try to describe it in this blog.