Living the local life at Amantaní island
Inhabitants of Amantaní on lake Titicaca don’t want any hotels on their island. Travellers can stay at their homes. A special way to experience local life.
Three hours by boat from Puno life is different. Instead of traffic pollution there’s the smell of eucalyptus trees. And apart from sheep and tourists wandering around the walkway there’s complete silence. Since fifty years, inhabitants keep investors away: they don’t want any hotels on the island of Amantaní. People themselves know what’s better.
Local tourism project
So does Juana Carisoaña (36) from the municipality of Occopampa. Since ten years she’s participating in the local tourism project. With a microcredit she managed to expand her family’s house and improve her living conditions. Three rooms on the first floor are now for rent. De chiefs of the municipalities keep an eye on the distribution of tourists. Every family has the right to receive an equal amount of people.
Juana and her fiancé Juan de Dios receive tourists twice a month. A nice change to break daily routine, which consist of working on the farm land and knitting. Juana likes to chat with her visitors. ‘And I love to prepare nice meals.’ Today she’s preparing quinoa soup and different types of sweet potatoes from her own garden, fried cheese and a mix of red peppers, unions and coriander. Finished by a cup of muña tea, a local herb similar to mint. Drinking a lot is necessary on this altitude, 4.000 meter above sea level.
After lunch, she shows the guests the colorful earflap hats she has knitted. ‘Pick one for the walk to the top of the island. The alpaca wool will keep your ears warm.’ Juana’s mother, who also lives in the house, smiles when the foreigners try the Peruvian headgear. Eventually everybody leaves with covered ears.
Dance to stay warm
Life on the island is simple, but Juana is happy to live here. ‘There are no cars, you can still breath fresh air here.’ She is not exaggerating: at night temperature drops to -10 degrees Celsius. And there’s no heating. But the family invented something to stay warm. All the guests are invited to put on traditional clothing. At the same time everybody is prepared for the party. When the locals arrive with their pan flute and drums, Juana starts to move her skirt. ‘Come, dance with me!’
Text and photos by Ellen Weber.