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Amantani, Taquile, and a Surprise Wedding
Peru Part Deux!

Two immature condors at Cruz del CondorTwo immature condors at Cruz del Condor (Andrea Edwards)
Andrea wakes me up at about 5:30 a.m. to see the sunrise out our window. It's gorgeous! We step outside to try to get a picture and we're surprised that it seems much warmer than last night, mainly, I think, because the wind isn't blowing. Everyone said the sunsets and sunrises here would be spectacular because of the thin air and they weren't wrong. We lay around until about 6:15 -- getting ready is going to take all of 5 minutes this morning! Although we'd brought cereal for breakfast, the family has made us pancakes that we eat with the hot chocolate Santiago makes. Isabella is especially sweet this morning, laughing and playing like babies all over the world. Although I'm not sure how much how mama appreciated us letting her have cookies for breakfast!

After we finish breakfast we pack up our belongings and say goodbye to the family. We take many pictures with them and they are happy to oblige, although I see no pictures of them anywhere. Andrea takes a beautiful picture of Papi with Isabella, and we arrange for Andrea to send prints of the family to Santiago, who will eventually bring them to the family.

At the market in Puno yesterday we had purchased a large bag of candy to give to the children and the locals. We forgot to bring it on our climb yesterday, so offer it to the family. All of them take a large handful. They seem delighted. The love of candy is universal! Graciela even comes over and hugs us, which is very touching. When we ask Santiago if we can give our family a tip, he tells us to give it to Graciela because the women take better care of the finances than the men!

Papi walks us back to the dock. Today we are traveling to Taquile Island before returning to Puno. Taquile is about an hour away from Amantani. The weather is beautiful, and everyone sits outside on the upper and aft decks. When we reach Taquile, we will walk approximately one hour to a village for lunch. This walk is easier today, not constantly uphill, and the scenery is gorgeous. We are hugging the coastline, and all around us are terraced gardens, farm animals and homes. The people on Taquile are apparently a little less isolated and shy than those on Amantani. They dress in a similar fashion, although their clothing does not feature the flowers of the traditional Amantani Island clothing. This walk is one of the most beautiful I've ever taken. When we arrive in the village, we have time to look in a store featuring some of the textiles that the people of Taquile are famous for: bags, scarves, hats, belts, etc.

We walk a short way further to have lunch at a local restaurant. We eat outside and while waiting to be served, Angel tells us a bit more about the history of this place. At one point, he pulls Andrea up and dresses her in traditional clothes and then has a waiter model the men's clothes. At Santiago's urging, he says a couple of things, wraps a scarf around Andrea and the waiter's hands, and then we're pretty sure Andrea got married to the waiter. Or at least that's what Santiago says. Of course Santiago says a lot of things! Lunch is trout and fried potatoes, preceded by quinoa soup, all quite good. We talk with a young couple from Belgium, who are traveling throughout Peru for an entire month. They tell us that their homestay was a bit of a disappointment because the family spoke little with them and did not eat with them, even though they speak Spanish. Santiago explains that this is not because they are unfriendly, but because they are shy and have been conditioned from early times to think of themselves as inferior to those who captured and later ruled them. This just underscores again the value of having had Santiago with us, enabling us to cook for the family and bridge the gap between their world and ours.

After lunch we have another 20-minute walk to the dock, mostly downhill on unevenly cobbled steps. It's a little treacherous but much easier on the heart and lungs. Our boat trip back to Puno is another 3 hours, some of which is spent outside until we decide we are getting too much sun. We sack out inside the boat, writing our journals and napping. By the time we return to Puno it's raining. The van that meets us at the dock in Puno delivers us back to our hotel. The shower in Puno feels so good after our 2-day trip to the islands.

After showering and changing clothes, we go to the lobby to check email and wait for Santiago and Marco. When Santiago comes down, he informs us that he will need to take the bus back to Cusco tonight, because the farmers are going on strike to protest a new tax and will shut down the roads around Cusco tomorrow.

We head out to dinner and share a pizza at a local restaurant. It's kind of sad-- we will be saying goodbye to Santiago and Marco after dinner--and we decide to share our high and low points of the past two days. Some cause us to laugh, and others make us cry, like when Santiago says that his low point will be saying goodbye to us. We all agree that it's been a wonderful time and we will stay in touch on Facebook and hopefully cross paths again someday.

Back at the hotel we bid adieu with more than a few tears. How lucky we are to have friends that it is this hard to say goodbye to.

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