We are standing on the shore of the highest situated lake in the world – Titicaca (3812 m). We are not here only to boast about our accomplishments, but also to visit the locals, who live on floating islands on the lake itself.
It was early in the morning when we arrived at the harbor in Puno. It was very early and very cold. It was one of the days when you look forward to the rising of the sun so it can warm you. As we were awaited for the sunrise we hopped onto the boat that was ready to take us to the Uru people and then – to Taquile Island.
There were many clouds on the lake that morning. The low-hanging clouds make you feel suppressed, but in the same time – inspired, because the view they form is magnificent.
The Uru (Uros) people live on floating islands made of bundled reeds. They remain loyal to the traditions of their ancestors and still live on the floating islands. They make everything they need from reeds, which are widely spread around Lake Titicaca. The Uru tribe is a protected community, which has preserved its traditions and lifestyle for centuries. The government of Peru aids them financially and they make a living form the tourists who are invited to their homes to sample their mode of living, traditions and hand-made souvenirs.
We received a warm welcome. Our boat took us to one of the little islands. The women of the family lined up alongside the port side and we were greeted with smiles and handshakes.
|The president of island/family Kantuta|
We gathered in a semicircle to witness a demonstration explaining how a reed island is built and maintained. It is obvious that the key component is the reed and its roots. The plant is used not only for construction, it also can be consumed (it has a sweet taste).
The interesting thing is that every island is inhabited by several families who need to get along very well and live in harmony. Every family brings their own house and part of the island to the community. The house is attached to the bigger island and in case of disputes or quarrels their part of the platform can be easily unhooked and reattached to another island. The whole island is anchored to the bottom of the lake with weights. Otherwise, as the local saying goes, they could wake up in Bolivia without passports.
We were invited into their houses – the walls are lined with clothes and the floor is used for sleeping. The rooms smell a little funny because they are not aired enough. We bought a souvenir or two and then went for a ride in one of their traditional boats to the central island, where we found something like a café. They have a small school, church and a hospital. In emergencies they use the not-so-traditional motor boats to go to Puno. We asked the logical question where the toilet was. They answered that when nature calls, you get into the boat and do what you have to do in the reed, which is a natural filter of the lake.
We left the floating islands and the smiling faces of the Uru people with many delightful memories. We had more than two hours ride to the Taquile Island ahead of us.
We arrived in Taquile. The local population consists of 2200 people, identifying as Taquileños who speak the ancient language Quechua. They are famous for their textiles, which are protected by UNESCO. They have an interesting culture – everybody knits, including men, women and children. The social status in their society depends on the ability to knit. The women choose their husbands by the hat, which the men make themselves. The prettier the hat – the prettier the wife.
From the island itself you can enjoy the view of lake Titicaca if you stand in the town square, at an altitude of 4050 m.
|This gentleman is married, you can tell by the colorful hat.|
|You can judge if a woman is married or not by the size and colors of their tassels.|
|The men who wear black hats are of higher status and must be addressed with respect.|
We noticed the colorful bags every man wears. In these special bags they carry coca leaves and instead of saying hello, every man takes a single leaf and places it into the bag of the other. Interesting way to greet a friend or acquaintance.
|A bachelor – a big portion of the hat is white. If the hat can be filled with water and not lose a drop, that is the highest-quality headwear and what all the girls are after.|
We say “Hasta luego” to Taquile and the exciting culture of its inhabitants. We proudly accept the fact that we’ll be sailing for 2-3 hours to Puno and depart with a smile.
Bye, Titicaca and Puno, you are very beautiful, but also situated very high. What remains to be done is to catch the bus to the valley of the sun with final destination Cusco.
This article was brought to you in English by Marta Petrova.
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