The day before Lewis the Lion visited the island of Amantani for his home stay with one of the families from the community, the tour guide had advised him to take a gift for his host family. Ideally, that gift would include pasta, sugar or lentils – things that the islanders couldn’t get very easily. So, Lewis the Lion and Helen headed down to the vast indoor market in Puno where a lovely grocer weighed out a kilo of each of the requested items. Lewis loved the market as it was rich and colourful with great big baskets of basic food stuff.
He then also bought a bag of sweets (just in case there were children there… but he knew grown-ups also liked the occasional sweet too!). He was surprised how heavy it made Helen’s day-pack and as ever, was glad that he wasn’t carrying it! However, she didn’t have to carry that extra weight for long as there was just a short walk from the boat to her host family’s house on the island of Amantani.
Lewis and Helen weren’t the only guests welcomed to this humble abode; there was Luisa and Valentina from Germany, and Steven from New York as well and they all soon became good friends.
The home of Denesia and Juan was simply idyllic looking out onto the beautiful Lake Titicaca. The couple and their son made Lewis the Lion very welcome into their home and Lewis thought that they were simply delightful people to open their home up to strangers in this way.
They shared the house with Juan’s brother and sister and their families too. For all it was basic (there was an outside toilet with a bucket of water to flush it and you had to wash yourself in a bucket of cold water too!) it had lots of grazing ground around it
and terraces for growing potato crops.
There were even hens running happily around the yard
which produced their fresh eggs on a daily basis.
Lewis the Lion just loved it here and even more so when he met the two young sons (who were cousins) who showed him their baby kitten and other animals. They were also keen to learn English and had fun trying to learn the song “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes!”
In the small kitchen where an old lady was cooking lunch, Lewis the Lion was reminded of Helen’s house at home as there were lots of potatoes to peel! (Helen’s family, who were of Irish origin, always had a sack of potatoes in the kitchen but here in Peru there were more than 3,000 varieties of potato!).
There were a couple of stoves being heated by some wood that was lit from underneath. It wasn’t long before the guests and family were eating a hearty vegetable, potato and quinoa soup. It was delicious!
Lewis the Lion was then surprised to discover that this was only the starter! Then followed some fried cheese (that tasted like Hallumi), rice, potatoes and vegetables. One of the vegetables looked like a long potato but tasted sweet like beetroot. Very tasty! Lewis the Lion thought that the grandma was brilliant to do all this on only a couple of stoves. Lunch was rounded off with a herbal tea with a local herb called muña which Lewis thought tasted a bit lemony.
After lunch, the friends (with the exception of Steven who stayed to do a special task that Lewis will explain later on) went on a special tour of the island.
They met with the local villagers and other tourists in the main square.
Lewis the Lion thought that it was just wonderful to see the locals in their traditional dress: it was just so different to the way that he was used to seeing people dress back home in the UK.
Their tour guide then led them on a steep climb up to the highest point on the island.
The walk seemed to pass more quickly as some local teenagers accompanied the walkers by playing some panpipes, in the hope that the tourists might tip them. Click here to see a short video of them. Lewis thought that they were very industrious even if he didn’t care too much for the music!
The group then proceeded through an archway which was a marker of entering a different neighbourhood on the island. The guide told the group that they could either visit the Pacha-Mama or the Pacha-Tata ruins so Lewis opted for the latter and had a very pleasant evening stroll past the agricultural fields
and terraces on the island.
Before they reached the summit, Lewis the Lion was surprised to see lots of women lining the highest point of the route with woollen goods such as jumpers, hats and scarves that they had made. What an effort it must be to carry all those goods to this high point!
A particular hat caught Lewis’ attention but he didn’t mention anything just yet…
From the top of Pachatata, there were incredible views from the island even seeing the Cordillera Real (the Andean mountain range) on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca. The ancient ruins left the shape of the Inca Cross and Lewis posed beside it,
as well as getting some more photos as the light started to fade in the evening sky.
Brrrr! Both Lewis and Helen shivered. Once the sun had started to set, it suddenly got very cold. Lewis the Lion whispered in Helen’s ear that it might be a good idea to buy a woollen hat and so they did precisely that as you can see in these photos:
Lewis thought he looked really smart in his new hat.
What do you think?
The friends then quickly headed down the hillside as night was setting in. There were no street lamps on the island and the torches they had weren’t very powerful. Nonetheless, they soon made it back to the main square where their hosts were waiting for them, luckily with better torches! Lewis the Lion noticed that without light pollution from street lights, the stars were so much brighter. It was as if he were back in the desert: he could even see the Milky Way the stars were so bright.
Once they got back home, a surprise awaited them: a traditional Peruvian dinner. However, what was on the menu was a bit of a shock for Lewis the Lion. It was ‘cuy’ or what the Spanish call guinea-pig! Lewis the Lion knew that in the UK, guinea-pigs were a pet but here they were a delicacy! Steven had helped the family choose the three that they would eat for dinner and Lewis, Helen, Luisa and Valentina arrived just in time to see them being gutted.
It was almost like a biology lesson naming all the internal organs and Lewis the Lion learnt that guinea-pigs internal organs are in the same place as in a human body!
What internal organs do you know?
The cuy was then smothered in a hot, chilli sauce before it was cooked and served with rice, potatoes and salad.
Lewis thought that there wasn’t a lot of meat, it was a bit chewy and tasted a little bit like chicken. He was glad he’d tried a local delicacy but wouldn’t be in a rush to have it again! By this time, Lewis the Lion was feeling very tired. It had been a long day but before he went to bed with the other children in the house, he saw Helen and her friends being kitted out in Amantani traditional dress: the adults were going to a party in the village.
Helen was dressed in a white blouse and a heavy, layered green skirt. She was then span around as a thick belt was tied around her waist. The finishing touch was a black veil that was beautifully embroidered in brightly coloured threads. (Lewis later discovered that is usually the men who do this intricate embroidery). Lewis the Lion waved a sleepy goodbye and asked Helen to take some photos for him so, here they are:
Here is a short video clip so you can see some of the traditional Peruvian music that was played at the party too! Helen told Lewis that some of the dancing reminded her of an English barn dance or an Irish ceilidh.
Have you ever been to a barn dance or ceilidh?
Do you know any traditional dances from your country?
What are they?