UROS FLOATING ISLANDS, Titicaca, Peru
At roughly 3,800m above sea level, Lake Titicaca is widely considered the world’s highest navigable lake by commercial sailing. Deep blue water, bitterly cold winds, golden marsh reeds, remote island communities and legendary floating villages: the story of Titicaca contributes a unique component to every visitor’s experience traveling in Peru or Bolivia. For us, our Titicaca experience was centered at our visit and home stay on the peaceful Taquile Island. Before reaching Taquile, we made a brief stopover at one of the floating Uros Islands.
In the morning, we headed out to the main pier at Plaza del Faro. A row of boat ticket cabins stood at the entrance of the pier. We approached the ticket booth which sold tickets for local boat to Taquile. We then boarded on a small boat among a boat cluster. Our plan was to sail to Taquile, stay the night there at a local home, and return to Puno the next day. We thought of getting some fruits as gifts for our potential host at Taquile, but we missed the chance to do so the night before. While waiting for the boat to depart, our friend returned to the pier and to our surprise came back with a bag of oranges.
Sailing northeast from Puno through a labyrinth of water networks in an enormous marsh filled with totora reeds, our boat soon reached an area where the floating islands concentrated. The boat ticket includes a brief tour to one of the floating islands which are the home of the Uros tribe. Our boat captain navigated slowly among the floating islands and docked by the island that is available to take in visitors. There were about a dozen of passengers on our boat, including both tourists and the locals.
The Uros villagers use bundle of a native reed to make boats for transportation and to build floating island on which they reside. Layers of dense roots interweave to form a one-to-two-meter thick base for the island. Villagers have to constantly add layers of reeds on top of the island as the reeds at the bottom rot away. To us, the floating island is soft and stable to walk on. We were told not to run around as there might be hidden weak spots. We enjoyed the time spent on the island, wandering in front of houses and checking out souvenirs from vendors. Although it was a short visit, we appreciated the little introduction given by the villagers about the floating islands.
We boarded a community boat that took us to Taquile Island. Our boat was smaller and slower but quieter than the other tourist boats. With our limited Spanish and the help of other travelers, we expressed our interest on spending the night at Taquile to the captain who then made arrangement for us.
The boat moved slowly away from Puno. All boats entering or exiting Puno in Lake Titicaca has to pass through a narrow watercourse through the dense reeds.
When the engine of the boat was turned down, we were embraced by an indescribable tranquility. The weather was nice and the lake was calm.
We were on a community boat with the locals. They seemed accustomed to the presence of tourists. We tried to keep our voice down when we talked. Since we couldn’t speak much Spanish, we could only show our friendliness by sharing our snacks with them.
The boat ride to Taquile included a brief stop on one of the floating islands. The captain steered the boat slowing into the area where the Uros community is concentrated.
Reed made canoes were parked along one of the Uros Islands.
After minutes of searching and asking, the captain finally found a village community which was available to give us a little introduction about the unique floating islands.
We landed on the floating island with great excitement. The sun was warm and the ground was soft to walk on.
There were about 10 small houses on the island. The villagers showed us around the island. We were told not to walk too far away from the main open plaza as we might accidentally stepped onto the weak spots.
Every island has a welcome arch made out of reeds.
A boat with a big roof was approaching us. Its big low roof was designed to keep the interior from getting wet.
Looking at the small boat from the side, we saw it carried all different kinds of snacks, food and drink. The boat moved from one island to another.
A villager on the island was preparing the presentation materials to give an introduction about the floating islands to the visitors.
These are the handmade crafts that villagers used to tell visitors story about the floating islands. We played with the little reed boat with our hands. It felt very light but strong. We decided to get one of these little reed boat as a souvenir.
Each floating island has its unique design. The welcome arch is visible from afar.