The Uro’s islands are located at 3810 meters above sea level floating in Lake Titikaka
Roger was our guide for the day, you can find him on www.ioverlander.com
We left Puno behind us and was heading for the islands
We got to visit one of the local schools. Here Aymara is their first language, Quechua is their second language and Spanish is their third language.
40 kids at he age of 7-13 go to school here from 8am-2pm
Every tour that Roger makes is different. In total there are 120 floating islands in the Uro’s community, of which you can visit 100 of the islands. The islands have 3500 inhabitants, and the population is stable. Esben could fly with the drone to take a picture of some of the floating islands. A you see they are quite small. Roger has his own island.
But how can the islands float? The islets are made of totora reeds, which grow in the lake. The dense roots that the plants develop and interweave form a natural layer called Khili (about one to two meters thick) that support the islands. The reeds at the bottoms of the islands rot away fairly quickly, so new reeds are added to the top constantly, every 15-20 days. The islands are 3 meters thick, and the fresh straws forms the top layer, which is 1 meter thick. This is especially important in the rainy season when the reeds rot much faster. The islands last about thirty years (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uru_people). The second way to built and island (more traditional) is to use several rafts built from the straws, they are tied together, and on top the straws a stacked upon another.
Transport of the straws
The straws are called “La totora” (in Latin “Schoenoplectus tatora”), and grow in Lake Titikaka. The plant is not only used for building the floating islands and houses, but also provides medicine and food for the Uro people. The straw can reach a height of 2-5 meters. The special construction of the islands make them soft, and as you walk around you can feel how you feet are sinking. They have stones underneath the wood fires stove, so they don’t let the island on fire. We have never been a place, where life is so relaxed, it felt like being in a different world with a different feel of time. Here the husband is doing the laundry (right picture).
Melt the locals. In the right picture you see Rogers wife
During the rainy season the water level in Lake Titikaka raises 2 meters, and so does the islands. The islands are anchored with ropes attached to sticks driven into the bottom of the lake in a shallow area no deeper than 2-7 meters, keeping the islands together (left picture). They even have a network of roads, “water ways” that connect the district of the floating islands to other parts of Lake Titikaka (right picture).
The tour is cheap, we only paid 15 soles per person (4.5 USD or 30 DDK) for 4 hours. A part of the tour is to buy souvenirs from Roger, this way he can keep the price down for the tour, earn a little bit of extra money by selling souvenirs (some of them are homemade) and you get a memory from your visit. We also had lunch on one of the other floating islands. Fresh caught trout, and it was cooked to perfection (right picture).
The handcraft of the straw are amazing
They also make traditional boats. There are three sizes of boat, which each have a different purpose. The largest one (lower picture) are used to transport several people and tourists. Many years ago the Uro’s people were living on the boats and not on the floating islands. The boats were built completely of straw, and would only last for about 3-5 months. Today they fill up the sides with plastic bottles (2000-3000 bottles per boat) and wrap the bottles in a tarp before putting an outer layer of straws. This makes the boats last for 2-3 years instead. It takes about 1 month for two men to built a boat.
We had a great day, and as we returned back to Puno it was in a tuk-tuk. Yes, we are back in the country of tuk-tuks, and we love them
What are our plans for Peru? If you read the post “The pleasure of owning a Chilean vehicle” you already know, that I have been having problems with my right knee. The conditions of my right knee is not good, and I will not be able to do multi-day hikes in Peru. Instead we have decided to get the full “rock experience” here in Peru when we get to Cusco, but first it is church day.