After four hours by boat we came to Taquile Island. The island juts starkly out of the Incas sacred Lake Titicaca. We had elected to spend the night here. As we stood on the highest point and watched the tour boats one by one pull away leaving a handful of other gringos and us on the island I wondered, 'What if these people decide they are sick of tourists?'
Taquile is a special place. The inhabitants still wear their traditional dress and refuse to allow any hotels or dogs on their island. If you want to stay the night you must first register with the indigenous people and then are shown to a family.
The house we stayed in had several adobe rooms, a kitchen & a bathroom around the block. We were on the 2nd floor. There was a skinny set of stairs on the outside of the building and a narrow platform with no railing. As with many doors in Peru it was very short. This one was designed so that if Jim, my traveling companion, forgot to bend down and hit his head, which he had been know to do, & stepped back in blinding pain he would land on top of a chicken in the courtyard below. Our accommodations also had no running water. I devised a plan to solve the potentially fatal midnight bathroom run and how to wash up. I asked for a pan of water from our host family. After we washed we had a great bedpan. Our room was provided with a small stub of a candle and the bed looked like no one had changed the sheets in the last few years. We were glad of the sleeping bag liners we had brought with us. Since the island is so small we did have a great view of the sunrise and sunset from our bed.
We were there on a Sunday when the island comes together in the main square to discuss business. ie: how many tourists came to the island, what part of the island is best now for grazing sheep, etc. Each family has a representative. I didn’t think the locals seemed particularly interested until after the official meeting when I discovered a flock of women gathered around some accounting books.
Their clothes are brightly colored. The men’s hats signifying their marital status, their shirts are white and pants and vests are black. At first I kept thinking I was seeing waiters with floppy woven hats. The women wear brightly colored skirts, but have a dark shawl that covers their heads modestly. All of the people speak in mo more than a whisper. The women are so shy that they avert their eyes then they pass you on the road.
No hands are idle here. The women are spinning wool into yarn as they walk and the men are knitting constantly. The island has a tranqille hush. Wandering around we saw only the glimmering of the sacred water, the splashes of color of the people and lots and lots of sheep. The island is very tiny, but has several Inca ruins and beautiful beaches. It is possible to hike for hours and hours.
The indigenous people seem to have always been creative in their survival skills. Another island that we stopped at was constructed entirely of reeds. It was built up by many generations laying down reeds until they had a platform. As I walked across it it moved and squished under my feet. The boats are also made of tightly woven reeds. Many boats resemble mythical creatures of the deep. All day the locals either fish or sew. They can be seen sitting quietly on their island that is no bigger that a football field. Days must grow seamlessly together.