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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Peru Vacation Day 7: Uros Islands

As mentioned in the quick update here, on this day, we visited two islands on Lake Titicaca. Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world at an altitude of over 3800 meters. What exactly does navigable mean? It means that the lake is deep enough to support cargo ships and even submarines. In fact, at its deepest point, the lake is over 280 meters deep. The lake has an average depth of 107 meters, and is the largest lake in South America by volume.

One of the islands, the Uros, is actually a group of about 42 islands that is entirely man-made. They are floating islands that can and do move from place to place (but are usually about 5 km off the Puno shoreline). The other island, Taquile, is a rocky island about half way between Puno and the dividing line between Peru and Bolivia in the middle of Lake Titicaca. It is about 40 km from the Puno shoreline. I will talk about Uros in this post, and about Taquile in the next one.

The tour to both these islands was part of our tour itinerary. Because of the distances involved and the slow mode of transport, the tour takes up the whole day. Lunch was not included in the price of our tour, and tourists had to pay 20 soles per head to have lunch on Taquile island. More about that in the next post.

We left the hotel around 6:30 in the morning, and were taken to the Puno docks by bus. Once there, we were split up into groups that would fit into the boats, which had a capacity of about 30 to 40 people each. Boats are tied up to each other right next to each other, and we had to get to our boat by walking across other boats from the dock. This was quite an adventure as the boats bobbed up and down on the water independent of each other making a level walk one second a 2 foot step the next second as one boat went down and the other went up!

Several boats leave the docks at about the same time and head off on these tours everyday. We left just before 7:30 AM. It takes about 20 to 25 minutes to reach Uros. Our guide explained a little about these islands on our way there, including how to say hello to the inhabitants of the islands in Aymara language. Tourists were not allowed on to the top deck of the boat because our guide feared trouble from the Peruvian coast guard. After we left Uros, there were no such restrictions, and lots of people did spend at least some time on the open deck during the ride to Taquile.

Each boat from Puno docked at a different island in the Uros group (the islands form a long channel in the lake with individual islands on either side of the channel). You can read about the Uros islands at various sites on the internet. I am not going to bore you to death with more details, instead, I will leave you with these photographs.

Puno LighthouseView of the lighthouse near the Puno docks.

Puno DockBoats crowded together at the docks. Our boat looked like the boats in this picture, with an open top deck and an interior cabin.

Live music on tour boatWe were entertained with some live music just before we left for Uros. The interior of the boat consisted of a center aisle and 2x2 seating in seats typical of those you would find on a bus. The windows were nice and big allowing good photography through them if you did not want to bother climbing up to the open deck.

Totora reeds growing in Lake TiticacaClumps of totora reeds like these grow in the shallows of Lake Titicaca. Uros islanders harvest these reeds to build their floating islands, and also use it as food and feed for animals. The reed is also made into handicrafts by the islanders.

Uros islanders in boatA few Uros islanders out for an early morning boat ride.

Uros islanders welcome touristsWomen of the Uros island help an elderly tourist off our boat on to their island once our boat docked there.

Uros island building demonstration for touristsWith the group gathered around our boat's guide interprets for the village chief who explains how they construct these islands. They use the roots of the totora reeds as the foundation. Then they lay several layers of the reeds in perpendicular directions until the island surface is built up. They then construct houses and other structures on raised platforms built of more reeds.

Completed floating islandNow the model island is complete, along with houses and inhabitants. The dolls used in the model are handicrafts available for sale on the islands. They are also made of dried reeds.

Eating the pulp of totora reedsOur guide shows us how one extracts the white pulp of the reeds, which is used as a food by the Uros islanders. The pulp was quite tasteless, somewhat like celery, but wasn't as chewy.

Handicrafts in UrosThe islanders show off some of the handicrafts they have for sale on the islands. The paint for the fabrics comes from the mainland.

House of island chief on Uros islandThe island's chief shows off his humble abode. Notice the overhead light in the hut. Some islanders have radios, TV's and other trappings of modern technology. The Uros islanders live in somewhat primitive conditions, but do not eschew technology, unlike people such as the Amish.

Solar panel to power electrical appliances on Uros islandAnd the lights and other electrical appliances on the islands are powered by solar energy produced by panels like these.

Marketplace on Uros island selling handicrafts to touristsHandicrafts for sale on the island. In addition to fabrics, there were beads, dolls made of reeds, rattles made from calabasa shells, etc., for sale here. We bought some bead necklaces and a rattle made from a calabasa shell.

Trout pond on Uros islandThe islanders also grow trout in trout ponds like these and sell the fish on the mainland for money (in addition to eating some of the fish!). They also fish in the lake on which they live, but trout ponds like these provide more reliable food than the vagaries of fishing on the open lake.

Reed boatA reed boat that is used to transport tourists from one island to another. The islanders offered rides for 10 soles per head to tourists. They would be transported to another island in the group, and our boat would then pick them up from there before leaving for Taquile.

Reed boat with touristsReed boat with tourists that took the islanders up on the offer to ride to a different island on the group.

View of several Uros islandsA panaromic view of several islands from the top deck of our boat as we were about to leave the island we were docked at.

Reed decorations on Uros islandsMany of the islands are decorated elaborately with reed sculptures and writings like in this photo!

Tourists having fun on Uros islandSome tourists having some silly fun on an island's floor. We docked at this island to pick up the tourists who took the reed boat ride with the islanders. We left for Taquile from here.

I will talk about our trip to Taquile, and what we did there in the next post.

1 comment:

Port Clinton Boat Docks said...

It's nice to know that there are many tourist that uses their boats to sell their products. And it is also good to visit this kind of places.

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