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August 3: The Island of Taquile

I stayed pretty warm during the night and was awakened at around 530am by the sunrise and sound of a donkey. No need for alarms here. I sat for awhile looking out the window and watched the community come alive. We had breakfast of quinoa pancakes and then our host mama took us to our boats by 8 am.

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We took a short boat ride over to the island of Taquile. Our day would be spent walking around the island seeing and experiencing local culture. One of the local authorities was there to check us into the island. We would learn there are 20 of these men that volunteer to be the officials of the island. Each day they walk around taking to the members of the community to see if everything is ok. There are no police or firearms but they do carry whips.

The St James (San Santiago) Festival & Taquile Textile Art Fair

There are 2,200 Taquileans living on the island.  They speak Quechua and we were to learn that they live in a cooperative society where all work is done to benefit the community  The local economy bases itself on fishing, potato farming, textiles, and tourism.  The work such as knitting, a male task, and weaving, a female task, is undertaken as part of the daily chores.

We just happened to be visiting during the time of year that they had a festival dedicated to their patron saint, the Apostle James.  It hit me that St. James was appearing again in my life – the Camino de Santiago being the first.  They had demonstrations showing their how they made  their hand-woven textiles, considered the best in Peru.  Taquile´s textile art were proclaimed by UNESCO “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”.

When we reached the main plaza many of the community members and the officials were watching and enjoying singing and dancing.

The doorways and arches were decorated with their national flower – Kantuta.

We walked along a beautiful path – the islands only way of getting around.  Our destination was the other end of the island where our boat would pick us up.

But first, we stopped at a wonderful and beautiful home for lunch.

After lunch we were treated to a presentation about the local traditions and customs they’ve preserved for centuries:

No handshake, just coca leaves

When two people meet on Taquile, both parties pull out a handful of coca leaves from the waist bag on the right side and exchange. Chew the coca leaves first, and then you can start talking.

Prove your worth by drinking out of your knitted hat

When a man wants to marry a woman, he needs to prove his worth by drinking water out of his knitted hat. If the hat is knitted so tightly that the water doesn’t drip, he has successfully proved his abilities.

We thought we were in for a “perfect storm” kind-of trip back to Puno – but our captain simply went around it.

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