After visiting Uros, we arrived on Amantaní, where we would be spending the night with host families. It was a peaceful farming land, divided into different communities, each of about 1,000 families. Ours was Occosuyo.
Everyone on Amantaní grows their own food, for the most part, so there are fields and sheep and cattle everywhere, and everything is drenched in sun and long, quiet hours as people go about their business, stopping to say hello. Occasionally a man will ride by with a little radio tied to his donkey, but even that had its charm.
Though peaceful, this stay was not restful. We were allowed a few hours to decompress and eat lunch, but then it was time to hike to the top.
…which I wouldn’t have minded except (have we forgotten?)…I was sick! So sick! With some sort of respiratory infection, and we were at a higher altitude (12,507 ft/3,812 m) than even Salt Lake (4,226 ft/1,288 m), and climbing! I honestly thought my lungs might collapse; they kept doing this strange shivering tremble, and my heart rate would suddenly spike. I suppose it was all worth it for the view. And the delicious, warm, Peruvian beer I enjoyed at the top.
There were men, women and children trying to sell us hats they’d knit, chocolate bars and beer all along the hike. Just in case you thought we’d escaped the tourist trap aspect of the trip, we hadn’t.
Later, after dinner, we had to hike up again (though not as far, yet my lungs still spasmed) to go to a “customary” dance night, dressed in the traditional clothing of our host families. I suppose it was supposed to be fun, but again, I was just kind of bummed out. They put on these cultural experience nights nearly every night–not the same families every night, but it’s the same community and center–basically “on demand” for the tourists to have an authentic experience, yet it didn’t feel authentic to me. It felt more like a hollow shadow of what once was, reanimated in order to make ends meet. They can’t be happy doing this, right? Right?
I never quite found the answer to that question.
And then it was time to go.