Puno, Lake Titicaca, Peru- Puno is a town I’ll forget as soon as I leave it but serves it’s purpose – A juncture for those traveling between Peru and Bolivia and the gateway to the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. While not an exciting place I’m here for one reason and one reason only, and [...]
Puno, Lake Titicaca, Peru-
Puno is a town I’ll forget as soon as I leave it but serves it’s purpose – A juncture for those traveling between Peru and Bolivia and the gateway to the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. While not an exciting place I’m here for one reason and one reason only, and that one reason isn’t in Puno nor is it even on solid land. That reason I’m here are the floating islands of the Uro people. An entire community that exists on self-created islands made of reeds floating several kilometers off into Lake Titicaca.
I knew going into this it would be overtly touristy but curiosity had gotten the better of me so I put down my 20 Soles ($7.30) for a tour and got my final taste of “The World’s Highest Navigable Lake.” It’s a twenty five minute boat ride to the islands which was enough time for a Peruvian woman with two kids to chat me up and offer me a cheese sandwich and a way-too-sweet energy drink/soda. I’m never one to turn down free food so we chatted about where she was from, where I was from and various other small talk while I ate my cheese sandwich. Not a bad trade-off. For the rest of the morning I noticed various ‘looks’ shot my way that in any club would be an open invitation for dancing and…I digress.
The islands truly are amazing and for anyone who wants to live ‘Green’ should try this on for size (Some even come with solar panels!)…
Everything is made from Totora reeds and their root systems. And I do mean everything – from the very land you walk on to the houses, boats, mattresses, all other basic living necessities. They even eat the things. The base of the islands are made from the Totora reeds’ roots which weave themselves into a 1-2 meter thick base in which the actual reeds are then cut and layered on top. The reeds create a spongy surface in which each step sinks down a couple of inches and creates an ideal walking surface for those with arthritis or joint pain. The only problem is that you can’t walk far as each island is no bigger than 10 or 15 meters.
I was a bit skeptical of the ‘families’ that lived on the particular island I visited. The island was comprised of 5 or 6 women and 1 male. Either that’s one lucky man who is truly ‘king of his island’ or my particular island was created for show only. Judging by the motor powered boats docked behind the reed houses I’m guessing these Uros are commuting to work each day from the mainland and that guy isn’t as lucky as he may seem. Thus is the tourism aspect to anything now-a-days.
Anything claimed to be ‘interesting’ is gutted of everything that truly made it fascinating in the first place and boiled down to it’s basics. Natives don their ‘traditional dress’, smile, wave, pose for pictures, sing cheesy songs in a native language and top it all off by trying to sell you some crappy trinket. That’s what makes tourism, “tourism” and that’s what the floating islands of the Uros have turned into.
Still, tan colored reeds floating atop a sparkling blue lake in the mid-day sun with mountains in the background is a beautiful sight to behold. And, there are those who do still live on the islands and have created a unique community unto themselves and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
All Photos of Lake Titicaca: