Uros + Taquile
May 19, 2014 § Leave a comment
Annnnd, Simba’s back in business (well, almost. I had to pass up on an evening of Puno-ese salsa dancing because I’m exhausted, but, starting tomorrow, travel life’s gonna be back to par).
Today was an early start so as to catch the day-long tour of Lake Titicaca’s Uros and Taquile Islands.
In other words, the touristic route. And, while I can definitely see why people are put-off by the Tourist Train, I thought that a few dollars for an entire day of sitting on the roof of a boat and hopping on and off islands was great fun. Part of this might be because I took the community boat, instead of a tour boat, so there was no “group”, “itinerary”, or “guide” to deal with. Just a little, ruggedy boat with a few locals and a few really interesting tourists. I spent my entire day alternating every sentence between Polish, French, Italian, German, and English… and my head is spinning (in a positive way). Fun balance of people, and some cool stuff to see.
Our outing started with a 45-minute ride from Puno to Uros. Before entering the islands, there was a security point to pass, as all people have to pay an Island Tax.
They just kind of peeked into the boat and then waved us along.
When that rather informal procedure was done, we pulled up to one of the islands.
Uros, also known as the Floating Islands, is a net of around 300 families (with anywhere between one and ten families living on each island, depending on its size) living on forty-two self-floating islands on the western part of Lake Titicaca.
I’m not sure how much of the performance is genuine and how much of it is touristic, but I still found it very interesting to see. Each island is formed of dried totora reeds, whose reeds mold and grow together to form a one- to two-meter thick layer called khili, which is what keeps it all together and afloat. This mass of dried grass is then assigned to its general location by being attached by a piece of rope to a big stick anchored to the bottom of the lake.
And, voila, you have a floating island.
It was fun to walk on; it bounced a bit with the waves and was slippery. Which gave slipping repeatedly a legit reason. And some parts were a bit more squishy than others… as the reeds rot, they have to be replaced. In other words, maintaining the island is a continuous process, as new layers of fresh reeds have to continuously be added.
The family that (supposedly) lived on this island enacted the history and building process of the islands, and then explained some of their customs. Then, it was time for the obligatory browsing of the market:
and an optional ride in the reed boats (balsas mats):
I opted out of the boat ride and, instead, stuck my nose into all of the corners of their little island.
Can you imagine living on one of these?
After about an hour on Uros, we all got back on the boat and spend two hours driving over to Taquile, the next stop.
To be honest, I don’t know why Taquile is the other ‘popular’ island.
Other than a few stone archwaysand an empty main plaza, there wasn’t anything there.
No historical treasures that I could see, no alluring architecture, no special characteristics. But, that’s alright. A little hike from one end of the island to the other amidst some green fields and brown pathways, to break up the blue-and-yellow of the day so far.
I did buy a bracelet from a little girl:
And then, time back on the boat. Three hours, into the sunset, back to Puno. By the time we pulled back into the port, I was questioning myself why we all sat on the roof, instead of inside, on the cushioned seats. I guess that the view and air is better up there, but so is the wind and cold. Already, at 4,000 m. altitude, you can imagine that it’s never particularly warm here. And, we just happend to the pick the only cloudy day that I have had in Puno so far, so, not even the sun was there much to keep us company.
But, frozen and wobbly-legged, we returned, with smiles on our faces.