FLOATING ISLANDS ON LAKE TITICACA
This is not a trip to sleep in! Up at 6:30 am and out to the port by 7:30 to take a boat to the different islands on Lake Titicaca. We took a local bike taxi to get there. It poured rain and then hailed! The rainy season has begun. But we were prepared with our rain gear and rain ponchos.
Lake Titicaca is at an elevation of 3800m. It is the highest navigatable fresh water lake in the world. Our first stop was at the Uros Islands. Uros people describe their boyant life as living "between water and heaven". They built these islands to escape the hostile cultures on the mainland. They consider themselves to be "the oldest people on earth". Legend says they existed before the sun, and could not drown or be struck by lightning. The largest floating island is estimated to be 160 years old, housing a meeting hall and a school. Most islanders earn a living from fishing and tourism.
The islands are made of totora reeds. These reeds have to be laid weekly as those below decompose. When you walk on them they are spongy since they are 1 to 2 m thick deep. There are over 100 islands but only 64 will allow tourists. The island we visited had 5 families living on it. It was 11 years old. It had a kindergarten class as well. The classroom was built in metal rather than reeds like the other buildings. The reeds are also edible near the roots. We tasted it but it had no flavour. This island was also raising guinea pigs. They will sell them at the port.
The Uros people also make their boats out of the totara reeds. We got to ride one to another island. Paul helped paddle the boat. This island raised flamingoes and chickens for eggs. They also had nets to catch fish. The women on these islands wear many skirts like most Peruvian women do. It makes their hips look bigger which is a sign of beauty and fertility. The men dress like the spanish with dark pants, poofy shirts and short vests. We are now off to Taquile Island.