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Saturday, June 15
The Indiana Daily Student

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Peru’s Great Lake

The sleepy island of Amantani sits in the middle of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world.

Most of the time, the sun is surrounded by a circular rainbow and the water in the mountains is frigid – the average temperature is about 46 degrees.

The ferry to the island leaves at 8 a.m. and takes about three hours to arrive.

Red tiled roofs mark out which houses might have tourists. The island receives a boatload of tourists daily, and staying with a family is incredibly easy.

Many native families wait in the port city of Puno to offer their homes, especially in the low tourist season, like the Northern Hemisphere’s winter.

The island is too remote for the state to offer electricity or even running water most of the time. When asked about the water, they say they are perfectly happy with water that comes from 7 to 8 a.m. most mornings.

Although the island’s income comes mostly from tourism, inhabitants also grow crops native to the Andes, such as the wheat-like quinoa. But most of the meals are still incredibly simple and cooked on stoves that trap all of the smoke in the house.

Interestingly enough, the nearby islands of Taquile and the Uros don’t suffer from the same level of neglect.

The Uros – floating islands constructed entirely of grass and reeds – have been outfitted by the government with solar panels and even the occasional television. They are anchored to the bottom of the lake in an effort to keep them from floating to Bolivia. The island of Taquile also has plenty of running water and electricity.

So why not Amantani?

The truth is that it’s not the most famous island on the lake. The floating islands are the tourist icon of the area, and each island has been streamlined into a complete tourist presentation, including miniatures of the island’s pieces and an additional “traditional boat ride” for a couple of dollars more.

And the island of Taquile, which has restaurants with a mixture of English, Spanish and the native Aymara names, charges admission and asks most of its people to stay in traditional dress for the tourists.

So with a humble offering of three meals, a bed for about $8 a day and the occasional tourist dance in borrowed traditional dress, Amantani continues to be not only the cheapest place to stay on Lake Titicaca but also the most neglected.

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