From Puno we took a shuttle boat out to Amantani, a large island in Lake Titicaca. There we were picked up by a local family and taken to their home. Having worked the soil for centuries, the local farmers grow corn and potatoes cultivating the entire island. The family gave up their bedroom for us, moving the entire family down to the kitchen area, which was no more than an elevated earth hearth and a table under a thatch roof. Our meals consisted of eggs, potatoes and an occasional guinea pig.
Lake Titicaca Indian Woman
The floating islands can be enormous in size having populations of several hundred in some villages. 2,000 people live there. Predating the Incas, the Uros Indians were forced from the main land centuries ago by warring tribes and sought shelter on the lake. Their houses and boats, as well as the islands, are made from reed. This woman was grinding flour for the evening meal.
Lake Titicaca Reed Island
We stopped off on Uros Island, a floating island made entirely of the local totora reed. The reeds are gathered from the perimeter of the lake and laid on the islands. In some places the island can be 15 feet thick. The reeds are constantly deteriorating on the bottom of the floating mass creating the need for repair. The mother and her daughter were busy with the reeds, oblivious to me as sat behind them watching. Her buns were going to get cold that night.
Peruvian Indian Beggar Girl
She came out from behind a tethered group of llamas beside the tracks when the train stopped at the high point between Juliaca to Aguas Caliente. She had a bag and was asking for money and food. Her party dress was not going to be much good that night as it was starting to get cold in La Raya late in the afternoon at 14,000 feet above sea level.
Quechua Indian Boy
Later, nearer to Cusco as the train slowed again, a Quechua boy came out on the tracks looking for a handout. He was dressed warmer, but still appeared to be very needy. Along this route it was rare to see many villages or houses. The country and environment are most severe and demanding. Little could be grown at the high elevation. Llamas and alpacas were the only living things we saw along with the kids.
Quechua Indian Girl
In the village of Chinchero we were greeted by women and llamas at the gates with ample amounts of enthusiasm. A market town, Chinchero was well supplied for the tourists coming up on our heels. It was inside the walls of the town in the central park that we found the authentic. We were watching some children playing and their mothers parleying about the day, when I shot this quiet scene off to the side. The Quechua girl was wrapped up against the chill and enjoying the last of the day’s warm sun.