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September 28th 2012
Published: September 28th 2012EDIT THIS ENTRY

27thSeptember – Puno and Lake Titicaca

Puno is the capital and largest city of the Puno Region and Province in Southeastern Peru.

It is located on the edge of Lake Titicaca, the worlds' highest commercially navigable lake, at 3,860mtrs above sea level. Puno's economy is dependant on tourism and agriculture and livestock, particularly llamas and alpacas which graze on the immense plateaus and plains.

Inca tradition has it that Manco Capac, the first Inca, rose from the waters of Lake Titicaca under the orders of the Sun God to start the Inca Empire, which would be centered in the neighboring region and city of Cusco. In 1668, viceroy Conde de Lemos established San Juan Bautista de Puno as the capital of the province of Paucarcolla. Later it was called Carlos de Puno in honour of the ruling king, Charles II of Spain. From that moment the town began to change physically, as the Spanish priests, in their eagerness to convert the natives, built the churches which still stand today.

Floating Reed Island of Uros

Today we visited the floating islands on Lake Titicaca. There are around 41 floating reed islands and our guide informed us that water pollution is an increasing concern due to the growth of inhabitants in Puno outpacing the sewage waste treatment facilities. It can be argued that they are a bit touristy, but it is also a fact that for thousands of years up to now, the Uros people have lived on and maintained these unique islands, depending on the lake for their survival. There are only about 2500 people living on the islands now and they need to make a living like everyone else. These days once a lot of the children finish school on the mainland they don’t want to come back to the islands and stay in the city. Life expectancy is around 60 for inhabitants of the islands.

We were provided with a demonstration of how an island is created. Very long process and quite unreal how the islands are established and maintained. Part of the process involves the inhabitants laying fresh reeds every month to keep the height of the island above the water level and everything is made of reeds (named totora reeds). These reeds are found in the shallow areas of the lake. We were also invited into the homes of the residents and of course bought home made crafts from them. Each island has a watchtower to watch out for invaders but these are now used for tourist purposes. Also had a ride on a straw boat. I was glad we had the opportunity to see how these people live and hope they can continue to do it for a long time.

After visiting the islands we came back to Puno for lunch and later in the afternoon took a walk around the city but it started to rain heavily so we all returned to the hotel and played cards and had our dinner there. We go to Copacabana in Bolivia tomorrow.

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