But what brought us to the area was the world's highest navigable lake at 12,397 feet, and the intriguing Uros people living on Lake Titicaca. Hundreds of years ago, they were driven from their homes and onto the waters due to repeated attacks by Aymara tribes, and later the Incas. Hiding in the Totora reeds, they developed a unique lifestyle, which they have maintained with minimal changes. Living year round on the floating islands created from the reeds, they have subsisted on fishes, birds and the reeds for food, but also trade with people living on the shore to obtain other necessities. Housing, boats, rope, and even their beds are made from the reeds.
Arranging a tour on the lake through our hotel, we headed out the following day. Roughly an hour later, we disembarked on a floating island. Tourism is now an important part of the economy for the islanders, with curious visitors wanting to see a glimpse of their unusual life. Tourists are rotated on different islands to help distribute the income source. On the island we visited, through our guide/interpreter, we received information from the island's mayor on how the islands are constructed and maintained, and their diet. Roots of the reeds are dried to create a base which is then topped with reeds in multiple alternating layers 2- 3 meters thick. Lasting up to 30 years, the islands are replenished with reeds 4 times a year. We were also given an opportunity (for a minimal fee) to ride in one of the reed boats, which are still used, and a chance to buy the beautiful handiwork created by the women. It was a fascinating visit, and impossible to imagine the daily hardships incurred by their decision to remain on the floating islands.
|The frame before this I was almost crawling, not a pretty picture!|
We moved on for a "typical" Taquilean lunch which started with a vegetable quinoa soup, and then
|Looking up to the village from the dock|
Next day, we were up before sunrise to catch our 6:15 AM bus to Arequipa.
|Parade in Puno|
|Indigenous women sitting on the church steps.|
|Cathedral near the main plaza|
|Painting by Carlos Dreyer, a German artist who settled in Puno in early 1900's|
|Gold breastplate from Inca era at the Dreyer Museum|
|Channel through the Totora reeds on departing Puno|
|Larger reed island with a school, health center and watchtower|
|Mayor of the village explaining through our guide how the islands are constructed.|
|Girl munching on a reed. We tried some, it reminded me of celery, but not quite that crunchy.|
|Interior of the Totora hut|
|Young Uro girl imitating her mother, carrying items wrapped in a blanket|
|Looking over to Bolivia from Taquile Island|
|Taquilean man knitting, the red hat means he is married. If wearing a red and white hat, it would signify that he is single.|
|Young Uro girl helping her father steer the reed boat|
|A woman wearing a red top is married, any other color means she is single and available|
|At entrance to Taquile village center|
|Our lunchtime entertainment on Taquile|
|Potato fields on Taquile|