After a two hour boat ride, we made it from Puno to the island of Amantaní. Stepping off the boat was almost like walking onto a movie set. Here we are on this tiny island in the middle of a lake bordering Peru and Bolivia--the same lake that was once thought to be the cradle of the world and the origin of Andean civilization. The island is terraced with old stones, and the sounds of bleating lambs and the lapping of water against the shore pepper the air.
As privileged guests of the island, the people prepared us a traditional feast of chicken and potatoes cooked in the ground with smoked sage. This feast, called "pachamanca," is usually only prepared for big holidays, so it was a special opportunity to try it. Many of the islanders still live somewhat traditionally. They eat together, preserve their native Quechua language, dress traditionally (for the most part), and even keep their old gods (Wirakocha, Pachamama and Pachatata, for example). The island felt different. There was a sense of calm that other places don't have.
The evening of the day we arrived, we hiked up the tallest mountain of the island, Pachamama, so we could see the sunset over the whole island. Because of the altitude and the cold (it's higher than Cusco), the hike was not quite leisurely. It was somewhat of a struggle for most people, but it was worth the views that I soaked in every chance I could get.
|On the way up Pachamama Mtn.|
|View of Pachatata Mtn.|
When I finally made it to the top, there was a lone donkey walking around an enclosure. He looked so sweet with his deep, sad eyes and his little saddle. I went up to him to pet him and sing to him. I called him "Mansito." Manso is Spanish for docile, and -ito is the diminutive ending that people use frequently as a term of endearment.
I sat at the top of the mountain away from the rest of the group and watched the sunset in quiet. It was beautiful to see the way the sun played off the ancient waters. Soon after, it was dark enough to see the stars. As a note about the stars, since I am in the Southern Hemisphere, the night sky is different. It is also easier to see stars here because of the altitude, dry air, and less light pollution. On this island, the stars were brighter than I have ever seen them. They were numerous, and I was even able to see the milky way across the sky. I thought of Ryan, my astronomer, and wished he had been there to see it. It's a memory I won't forget.
That night, we got to see a first hair cut ceremony for one of the little boys of the island. The first hair cut is a rite of passage, and guests each cut a piece of hair and give money to the child. The hair is then offered to Pachamama. After the hair cutting ceremony was a small celebration across the island with live music and outrageous dancing that consisted of my professor eagerly grabbing hands, forming a chain, and snaking as fast as we could around the room to the beat of the music.
Leaving the island the next day, we said "Sulpayki," Quechua for "thank you," and gave the islanders a cheek kiss on the way back onto the boat. From there, we headed to the island of Taquile...