On Saturday night we said goodbye to Cusco and boarded an overnight bus for Puno, a port town on Lake Titicaca. We arrived in the wee hours of the morning and dropped our extra bags at our hostel and made our way to the docks to catch a boat to Isla Taquile. It is a small island about 25 kilometers from Puno and is entirely owned by its indigenous inhabitants who operate their own tourist operations on a collective basis with all the families on the island sharing responsibilities on a rotating basis. This allows them to maintain support themselves while maintaining their traditional way of life.
On the boat over we met the wonderful Felipe and he and his family became our hosts for the next twenty four hours. He led us ashore and up to his home in the center of the Isla and introduced us to his wife, Ines, and ninas, Analies and Eliana. He was also hosting a group of 7 Hungarians with guide. He let us camp in his terraced fields for free and only charged us 50 soles for lunch and dinner, but that was only the beginning of his kindness towards us.
We set up camp, much to the interest of Felipe's daughters and were then called to lunch prepared by Ines. She had made egg tortillas (omellets) , rice, and home grown fried potatos. After lunch we wandered the island admiring ruins and drinking in the views of Lake Titicaca before returning to our tent to relax and read. Felipe looked in on us from time to time expressing concern about our comfort through the night and interest in our camping gear.
As night fell Felipe and his daughters approached again to invite us to dinner and also to request our presence at an after dinner party/ceremony for his eldest daughter Eliana: she wanted Annie to become her honorary 'godmother'. Needless to say we were honored and a little unsure of what to expect. We searched our bags for a small gift and came up with a pink LED flashlight. Dinner was two courses of soup /stew with rice and plenty of hot Muna tea (Muna is an herb like thyme that is local to the titicaca region). After dinner, the ceremony began: Felipe introduced his daughter and she explained that she had chosen Annie and the Hungarian guide, Andres, to be her honorary 'godparents' and that she loved school, learning English, and the culture of her home. Then Annie and Andres were presented with gifts of traditional Taquile fabrics (the girls also presented everyone with friendship bracelets) and we proceeded to take turns cutting off locks of Eliana's hair! Andres hacked it like a maniac and Annie did her best to make it lo Each lock was placed on a plate with a gift: our flashlight and cash and candy from the Hungarians. The night finished with Felipe explaining more about the unique Taquile culture and relating the story of he and Ines's meeting and courtship in Lima. It was a delightful and unforgettable evening. Annie and I already look forward to following Eliana's growing up and staying in touch with this amazing family.
The next morning, after a wonderful night's sleep, Felipe insisted that we join the family for breakfast and afterwards we were treated to a presentation of weaving by the islanders. Interesting side note : the men of Taquile knit while the women weave and their clothing in particular their hats are highly symbolic. Single men wear white hats, when dating/courting they wear half white/half red, and once married the wear a fully red cap. The women knit beautiful, intricate belts for their husbands. Very cool.
After breakfast, we wandered the island before departing at 2. We stayed for just a day , but it is one of my favorite and most memorable of our whole trip because of the open hearted kindness of Felipe and his family.