What it's like to do a homestay at Lake Titicaca

Short answer: humbling, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you are traveling from Cusco to Bolivia.
Sunset from Amantani Island

After hiking the Inca Trail for four days, finally seeing Machu Picchu, and a quick recovery day in Cusco, Godwin and I took an overnight bus with Bolivia Hop from Cusco to Puno to see Lake Titicaca.

Our beds from 11 PM - 5 AM.

I took a melatonin, but still had a rough time sleeping and it was not very comfortable. We stayed at a random place in Puno from 5-5:30, and then shuttles came to pick up people who were staying in Puno vs others headed to Bolivia staying on the main bus.

We opted for the 2 day, 1 night tour where we would arrive in Puno, go to two islands, stay with a local family, see another island, and then return to Puno. Our schedule the next two days:

We were shuttled off to a hostel a little earlier than scheduled- which was nice since we had extra time to use the bathroom, brush our teeth, and reorganize our bags/repack for the homestay. We met other members of out tour group: Mel, a typical Aussie-hippie who was traveling for several weeks and just came from the Inca Trail, and Chris and Greta from Quebec, a generally friendly Canadian couple. After conversing at breakfast, we went to the lake, where we all boarded a boat and were greeted by this very mediocre guitar and flute player:

First stop: Uros Floating Island

The islands are completely made out of reeds which help them float, and four-five families live on each floating island. We learned about their simple life and how to eat the reed.
Don't eat the green part or you'll have to poop in 15 minutes.

We had a demonstration of how the islands were made, and how they are attached to rocks at part of the lake. Here is a model of a floating island:

We then walked around the island, looking at their homes and stores and pets (including a puppy and a kitty.) My clumsy ass also mis-steped and got my shoe and sock wet, but luckily during the next boat ride I dried them. We rode the cat boat where we were essentially forced to pay 10 soles ($3) to another floating island with some stores- a restaurant, a cafe, and a passport stamp location:
The stamp cost 1 sol. 

After this, we had a 1-3 hour boat ride to Amantani Island, and I'm very grateful for dramamine knocking me out and helping me nap for most of the ride.

On Amantani, we met our host family, had home cooked lunch, and dropped off our belongings.

After lunch, we met with our group again and began our hike to Pachatata, a temple at the top of the island. It only took 40-45 minutes to walk up, with only a few parts being slightly steep. Watching the sunset over Lake Titicaca was definitely one of the highlights of the visit.

After the hike, we ate dinner with our family, and around 8 pm we changed into local garb to go dancing. The family seemed to enjoy it, and we mostly just did a large circle/conga line. After 30-40 minutes we were really tired and wanted to knock out.
With JD and May who were also staying with the same family.

The next morning, we had breakfast really early around 6:45 AM and then said goodbye to our host family and left to Taquile Island. We hiked up 45 minutes, and then chilled at the plaza for almost 45 minutes before our tour resumed. We learned about the marriage customs/clothing of the Island inhabitants, and then had a trout lunch with a nice view of the lake.
There was also this turkey. 

Afterwards, it was a quick 15 minutes hike down, and then a 3 hour boat ride back to Puno. I took dramamine, but the nap was not as nice as my nap the previous day.

Overall, it was interesting to learn about the simple lives of these island inhabitants (they were described as living long lives because they had little stress in their lives). There were no cars, some houses had no electricity (we were fortunate to have a light in our room), and most of our meals were vegetarian and made out of very few ingredients (quinoa and vegetables and veggie stock were quite common). I guess it's cool that I can say that I've been to the highest navigable lake in the world, but the experience was not worth the hassle of an overnight bus and having to taxi for an hour to Juliaca and take a (relatively) pricey flight just to get back to civilization. Maybe if I had more time I would check out the Bolivian Islands and side of the lake, and go to Copacabana and La Paz in Bolivia.

Verdict: SKIP Lake Titicaca unless you are traveling from Cusco to Bolivia and taking a bus or train passing by the Lake.

Comments

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