This morning we had been told we were being picked up by Limos, which sounds as far fetched as it eventually was. What we did get were some keen locals in cycle rickshaws which were then raced down to the harbour, we tried to help our guy off the lights by spinning the back wheels by hand and saw more the odd rickshaw being propelled forward at the expense of another being pushed back. All good fun. Today we were heading over to an island on Lake Titicaca for a home stay so the first  job was to buy something as a present when we arrived. On our trip the previous year the home stay had been to a head hunters tribe in Borneo who were rather partial to a pigs head or two but I'm very pleased to say that this year it was the more mundane affair of staples for the kitchen.

We loaded our boat and step off. The first stop was at the famous floating reed islands. These curious constructions are made by cutting blocks of mud which float, and then laying reeds on top - about 10 metres square. These can then be tied to other platforms to make a loose amalgamation of houses. Each floating platform takes a year to make and surprisingly lasts about 25 years. The float town generally keeps close to the shore by Puno where there is a ready supply of reeds for repairs and building almost everything they need from houses to boats. The main drawback of reclaiming somewhere to live in this way was demonstrated by the guide when he jumped up and down and a bad smell was released from the rotting reed below. The islands were first made who a group who were being hounded into slavery and they felt they were safer on the floating islands than on land. Currently there are 63 islands and their main economy has switched from reed goods to the tourist dollar. The people who lived there seemed very jolly and the women came out to sing to us as we got onto reed boats for a slow trip around the islands and made us all laugh when in perfect unison they chorused 'hasta la vista baby' as we pushed off. Our reed boat trip was very peaceful and after visiting one more island we were back on our big boat for the trip out onto the lake proper.

On the boat was warm and sunny and almost everyone had taken the opportunity to grab 40 winks but then our guide chose that moment to pick up the microphone and give us a history lesson in the islands we were to visit and finished off with trying to get us all to repeat some simple local phrases, I don't  think he got the enthusiastic response he was hoping for. Once we arrived at the island itself we were greeted by a surprised group of women who were to become our 'mamas'. The surprise was due to the fact that they weren't expecting all of us but they soon recovered and sent out some runners to whip up some more sleeping opportunities. We were all led away to the homes we would be staying with for the evening. Eleanor and I followed our mama to a simple building, with a single dinning/kitchen area and a few bedrooms. The husband was at home working on building an extension exclaiming 'much work to do' but luckily our  room was finished. We went down into the kitchen to help and were asked to peel possibly the nobbliest potatoes I have ever seen. With only a single knife Eleanor and I played a game of choosing the potatoes for the other to peel and timing who would take the longest which seemed to amuse the family as we started on the truly awkward specimens first.Lunch soon followed and if the potatoes scored 11/10 for nobbles then the chili sauce scored at least 15/10 for heat. We had a nice soup to go with this and the husband kindly gave me more soup to dilute the chili sauce I had unwisely added.

They had a small girl aged about 5 who was just getting used to us after we had spent the afternoon in the house when it came time to head up to the middle of the village for the traditional game of football with the tourists. For those who don't know, Lake Titicaca is the highest in the world and sits at an impressive 4000m. What doesn't sit so well at this altitude is the lack of oxygen in the air which the locals had had a lifetime to adjust to. This severely hampered our efforts at sprinting too much. Initially our team had one local on it and it was a winner stays on sort of affair. With Russel, Carl and Carlos we were never going to go down without a fight and the final result was four straight wins for our team, something which would have been at very long odds at the start. Carl was tireless at the front, Carlos stern in midfield but surely the star would have to be Russell who was diving around the goal like we were playing on rubber mats rather than hard concrete, and had the cuts on his legs to prove it. I'm pleased to say that despite gasping for breath for most of the games I managed to bag two winning goals. We cracked out some beers in celebration before the little girl from our home stay came to bring us back in the gloom.

Back at the house we gave the little girl a colouring book and spent a while flicking through it repeating  the names of all the animals until it was time for food. The meal was simple, soup, vegetables and rice, but very good. Afterwards we presented the family with our bag of shopping and they seemed very pleased so hopefully we had filled a few holes in their larder. For the evening we were to meet up with all the women in the village hall for a dance but first we were dressed in traditional clothes. For the guys this was simply a poncho which was nice and easy but the lasses things, as ever, were a little more complicated; an under skirt, an over skirt, a blouse, a large belt and a head scarf. Needless to say our normal routine of Colin tapping his foot while waiting for Eleanor to finish getting ready to go out was observed.

At the hall all the mamas were there with their charges. I got a beer but before I could sit down was being dragged up for the first dance. Luckily for all involved this was simple enough to learn and soon everyone was being shepherded to the dance floor. Occasionally the dancing would spill out to form a large circle including everyone at which point we would run round the room. All good fun and I think the locals enjoyed it at least as much as we did.