Mama Yolanda gave us a wide toothless grin as her gloved hands handed over two steaming bowls of hearty potato soup. Ahh potatoes. Who would have known there are over 4000 varieties in Peru alone?! That’s right, four THOUSAND!
Sitting on a little sack of rice in the corner of the toasty stone kitchen, I glanced around full of admiration. Everything had a place and a purpose. Pots and pans occupied little stone shelves cut into the walls. Yolanda sat proudly by the little stove, adding more firewood to keep both the soup and us warm. I listened to Hopan (our new Japanese friend!) slurp his soup in satisfaction. We sat in silence a while. Appreciating the cosy atmosphere. Appreciating the soup. Appreciating the moonya. Moonya, we learnt, is this amazing multi-purpose plant that does everything from preventing altitude sickness, acting as a contraceptive, and just making a really good brew! Between us we exchanged words in English, Quechua, Spanish and Japanese to find out this information… so perhaps moonya does neither of the above!
I loved our little homestay on Amanti Island. A tiny island in the middle of one of the highest lakes in the world; Lake Titicaca. No running water didn’t bother me one bit. No electricity didn’t bother me one bit, in fact I kind of liked there being no lights. I was even getting used to the freezing cold by this point, my lips had already adjusted by taking on a new tinted shade of frosty blue! There was one little thing that bothered me slightly though. It’s just kind of awkward when you’re sat down having a wee in darkness, you look up, and you lock eyes with someone on the stairs outside. Ok it’s really awkward. A face was looking at me. Illuminated by the moon. I was looking at the face! I didn’t know whether to carry on weeing or stop! I didn’t know whether to carry on looking or turn my head. I think the face was thinking the same thing because it just kept looking in my direction, frozen to the spot. If I turned away the face would know I saw it and would be embarrassed. It was watching me have a wee! If the face turned away now, I’d know the face knew that I knew that the face knew! So we just kept staring. Me and the face. Until I finished weeing and then had to hunt for toilet paper in the dark. When I dared a little peek back up, the face was gone. Mildly relieved, I chucked a bucket of water down the toilet and legged it back to our little bedroom.
Later that evening there was a little knock at the door, and the eldest daughter of the family came in with her arms full of masses of colourful woollen fabrics. I was almost certain I recognised that face…
Before I had time to even think about being embarrassed, she whizzed around Don like a whirlwind, adding a pink and grey poncho over his shoulders and completed this very sexy look with a gorgeous woollen hat. Already in fits of laughter, it was now my turn. I was wrapped in folds and folds of pink, white and blue woolly garments and given a long thick black headscarf to drape over my head. I don’t think either of us has ever looked more attractive. We were most definitely ready for the town disco. So was Hopan. He was totally rocking his brown poncho and little llama hat.
Rocking our Peruvian Ponchos The disco gang
The young woman (or ‘the face’ as I’d first known her) led us across the darkened fields of the island. Looking up this time rewarded my eyes with the most wonderful sky full of stars. It was incredible! The stars were so big I felt like I could almost reach out and grab them. We eventually came to an empty hall where we sat and waited for the rest of the families and tourists to arrive. No-one appeared to own a watch so I’m not really sure how they all kept track of the time.
What happened next was almost so strange I’m not sure if it was partly a dream. Two little Peruvian men carrying all sorts of wooden instruments over their shoulders hopped onto the stage and began to play unforgettable Andean tunes! Meanwhile, we were all ushered to our feet, in our new Peruvian outfits, and ordered to form a large circle holding hands. Then began the hilarious Amantian dancing. We were flung high and low, under people’s arms, round in circles, we jigged; we jived; we rocked; we rolled. I have never seen anything like it and don’t think I ever will again! As I struggled to breathe in the high altitude, I forced myself to stay upright and keep dancing. Holding onto a young Peruvian girl and an elderly man with a leathery face, I shuffled the conga in a huge pink puffy skirt and trainers to the sound of a wooden flute. How the hell did I end up here?!
Dancing the night away on top of the world.
Goodbye to a beautiful place in the world.