Peru - Lake Titicaca and
The Floating Islands of the Uros

Andrys Basten, photos taken 5/20/97

At sundown, on the 19th, after flying Aeroperu from Arequipa to Juliaca, we were met at the airport and driven to Puno, a town on the shores of Lake Titicaca. We almost didn't make it, as the car stopped a few times, unable to move. Transportation in Peru can be a little iffy. Our driver tried to make it easier for the car when going slightly uphill, by weaving from side to side. It was a very strange ride, but we finally made it.

On Lake Titicaca Lake Titicaca is said to be the highest navigable lake in the world, at almost 13,000 ft. above sea level. The direct sunlight's incessant rays (well, flare) you see here, at that height, can cause very serious sunburn, so the riders spent a lot of time putting on layers of heavy sunscreen.
Hats are recommended, and the Peruvians, if not the tourists, wear them almost always when outside.

Taking off from the shore city of Puno, this particular boat officially holds 22 and we were 24, but the top of the boat took the overflow. The main destination was the island of Taquile, about 4 hours away. On our way, we stopped at the floating islands of The Uros, which we're approaching, on this page.

Part of Lake Titicaca is in Bolivia. According to legend, Viracocha, the creator of the universe, emerged from its waters. It's agreed that the culture of Tiahuanaco, which was absorbed by the Incas, originated here.

The floating islands are man-made, created from cane, or cane-brake (totora), pulled away from the bottom of the lake by the movement of the waters. Walking on the 'ground' surface was very strange, essentially walking on reeds. Even the huts and most of the boats are made of cane. The boats are used for fishing as well as for collecting cane when it's needed for restoring the islands as the lower levels rot away in the salt water. More on that on the next page to come.

(The clickable enlargement is 120k).
Approaching a floating island of the Uros

The larger version may be worth the slow viewing, as it looks the way it felt. Results are best on monitors set for 800x600 video resolution.

The people who live here are called the Uros and neither the Aymara Indians nor the Incans were ever able to control them. Obviously pretty independent, floating wherever they feel, they spend most of their lives in this strange, mobile world. While many consider this part of Peru a somewhat depressing visit, I wish I had read, first, the article on the Uros people that I will attach for those who would like to know more about this culture. It presents a very rich picture of what life is like for the current Uros, no longer a purified form as they intermarried with the Aymara people. The Uros began their long journey several centuries ago when they needed to isolate themselves from aggressive visitors, including the Incas.

Nearing one of the islands. About to land on a floating island

That's our guide standing up (most guides we met are Indian and also speak Quechua).

Here's the really beautifully-written article I found by Miranda France, on the people of the Uros. I requested permission from the newspaper to include the text and assume it's pending. The comments added are mine, written to e-mail friends.

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Next ... On the Floating Islands of the Uros . . .



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