Have you checked the previous part of my super plan yet?
Where to buy the tour?
The day before in our hotel we bought a tour for 40 soles (I believe) per person that would take us to some islands on the lake Titicaca. Before I had no ideas what islands could be there, so it was a pretty random choice. Now I wouldn’t worry too much about where to buy a tour or to what place because I guess all the providers will take you to one of the islands at the same place.
The morning of the tour came and I was pretty happy to wake up, as it was too cold to sleep at night. They took us from the hotel by a minivan to a local port. Everything was organised pretty well and very soon we found ourselves in a little boat. Well, yeah, we had to wait in a port for our departure for 40 minutes, but it was a nice to time know each other.
Advice: Use a sunblock cream.
We finally put out to sea and it appeared to be such a beautiful experience. It was a very sunny and a pretty warm and day and on our way to the island I so just pure water and a lot of plants growing in the lake. We passed, once or twice, little floating islands where local people waved us and I personally couldn’t understand what it was.
On an island.
After about 20 minutes we moored near a big island where there were a lot of native people. I stopped on the island but absolutely didn’t have a feeling that everything around was stable, though it wasn’t really shaking. I could feel comfortable as everything was going up and down, up and down. It was a pretty interesting feeling as my body didn’t feel confident and couldn’t explain what was happening. I saw that tens of people were rather confidently walking around and with the time I got used to it too.
Our group set on benches in the middle of the island where was a spare space and 3 native people started showing us a little performance about the history of their nation and these islands. That was really interesting but unfortunately only in Spanish so I had to ask my friend to translate something. They also gave us to try fresh Totora reeds that are used to build these islands. Only two or three of us brought ourselves to taste it and I actually liked it! The reed smells like grass and tastes like a cucumber — nothing special, just very watery and healthy, I guess.
The Uru people (- The Uros) explained that they had to leave the mainland because of a conflict on their boats, had nowhere to go and nowhere to live. So they decided to build floating islands only by themselves from Totora reed that is growing in the lake Titicaca. They just take dry reeds, spread it on the top of the lake surface (apparently a lot of reed 😀 ) to build quite a high layer. Every month they refresh the islands because the bottom that is always in the water rots.
How do The Uru people live?
Naturally, I thought The Uru people are so poor that they didn’t have any comfort of a modern life but I was mistaken. They have several solar panels as well as TVs and some technology to provide them quite a comfortable living. The biggest drawback I’ve noticed for myself of the life on a floating island is cold. The Uros build their houses of reed that doesn’t provide enough warmness. That’s why native people of these islands say their blood if black: because they don’t feel cold.
I am not sure if their children are being educated, have a possibility or a will to go to school. The Uru families make money from receiving tourists like me from the travel agencies. Thus they buy food and provide the whole colony with all the necessary stuff.
How does it feel to be on a Totora island?
I didn’t find any problem being or walking on the island. There is not much difference between these floating islands and the land, except the feeling of being on a ship: they’re not that stable and can probably cause sea sickness.
After the excursion around the island, where I bought a handmade necklace with the name of the place, we made our way towards a capital of the reed islands — the biggest island of the lake settlement. The native people move around on handmade boats from the same reed as the islands. And as the most curious and the most active tourist, I guess, I climbed its second tier and had a chance to observe all the floating land and the lake from above. It was really cool so I definitely advise you to do the same.
As it is supposed to be when arriving in a new country in the capital of the islands they make a stamp in your passport (if you want) for 1 sol (≈ 0.3 US$) that you have visited Isla Utama of Uros Lago Titicaca. It is an official stamp indeed like the one you can get, for example, in Machu Picchu. And as it should be in the capital, in the biggest city, there were so many tourists that the place, unfortunately, lost its unique atmosphere.
Peru — Bolivia.
After the floating islands, our group went to see Taquile island that was pretty far from the previous place and much closer to Bolivia. The plan was to reach the top of the island in half an hour and have lunch at a local (and the only one) restaurant. There are two ways to reach the top of the island: for elderly people, that is meant to be the easiest way, and for active tourists. Well, as I am not as sportive as I want to be it was pretty difficult for me just to go up, up and up. Finally, after 40 or 50 minutes I have reached the restaurant where they gave us traditional Peruvian soup, a meal and a cup of tea if I’m not mistaken.
The island itself is extremely unique. It’s 5.5 x 1.6 km and there are about 2000 people, who speak Quechua language, living on the island who have nothing or no one to support their lives but themselves. Once in a while, they go by boat to the continent to buy some products, but mainly they live on their own, growing vegetables and raising domestic animals. On my way to the restaurant, I’ve seen several territories with some sheep and dogs and even a street store where an old guy sold me a bottle of water (that was quite expensive, but the price was totally reasonable for the place). From the top of the island at your right, you can see Peru and at your left — Bolivia.
The atmosphere of the Titicaca lake.
Standing there on the highest stone seeing two countries feels incredible. You understand how small the world is and how huge it is at the same time. You feel an endless flow of energy that comes from nature, from the air, from the lake and from other plans. I personally found it the most ecological place I have ever visited because literally nothing, but one or two boats per day influence its natural condition.
The way down was much easier and I was boating back to Puno being embraced by a stunning sunset. The last rays of the Sun going through the water creating tens of gradations of orange colour completed my day. Pure life as simple as it is and essential as breathing.