Lake Titicaca: Of Floating Islands, a Homestay and Gasping for Air...


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September 24th 2012
Published: October 15th 2012
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UrosUrosUros

...with one sweet ride outside!
September 24th, 2012


The time had now arrived to get out and visit one of the highlights of this trip for me, Lake Titicaca! Again as mentioned in a previous blog, this place holds an almost mystical impression, and we were going to spend the better part of the day exploring it. The plan was to visit the floating reed islands of Uros, then head to Taquile for lunch and finally finishing with a homestay at Luquina Chico (was supposed to be Amantani Island but plans changed just before we departed...).

So we left the hotel for the waterfront, and this time instead of a bus our guide had arranged for some Triciclos to take us to the boat...cool! Basically a bicycle with a bench seat for two on the front, and thankfully for our driver it was all downhill to the water...as you would expect, competition ensued as to who was going to get to our destination the fastest, very funny! We were all passing each other and being passed ourselves, weaving in and out of the morning traffic and laughing all the way, it was a lot of fun...and a nice break from the usual bus
Triciclos!Triciclos!Triciclos!

Sara and I awaiting departure, with Dominik and David behind us...
shuttle...We all made it in one piece to the docks, and after picking up some last minute supplies we were on board our boat and heading to the first destination: Uros...

We again had a beautiful, clear sunny day on our hands as we pulled out of the harbour...Uros was not all that far, think it took us about 20 minutes or so to reach it, and watching the islands come into view was a fantastic sight. We pulled up to a control point to find out which of the islands we were to stop at (all the islands are connected in this vast horseshoe type pattern) and not long after we were docked and greeted by the women of this island in full colourful regalia...

Hard to put into words just how cool and amazing this place is; these islands are built solely on the reeds that grow in the shallows around them, as well as the buildings, boats and souvenirs they make for the tourists. There are many, many layers of reeds on each of the islands, and as the bottom layers rot, more reeds are added on top to maintain structural integrity. To walk around on these islands is to walk on what seems like a sponge; the ground is soft and springy...they are anchored using the root system of the reeds, and while they are set in amongst the reeds for protection from the winds, they have been known to dislodge in really bad weather and end up down the lake...bit of a surprise waking up in the morning I would imagine!

After a talk by a local on the methods of construction and general usage of the reeds, we were all hauled away by the women to various houses to see the construction and how they lived, followed by being dressed up in the local attire...very funny. Then out came the souvenirs and handicrafts; I don't generally buy things in the first couple of days of a trip but the tapestries they had hand stitched were quite something so decided to splurge. Hoped they would be unique to the area, and while I did see similar ones later in the trip they weren't nearly as nice...perfect...haha...

Took a little tour of the lagoon in a boat made of reeds and then it was time to say goodbye and continue our journey,
Woman of UrosWoman of UrosWoman of Uros

...hanging out doing some stitiching...
next stop Taquile Island...the women gave us a singing sendoff, first with a local tune and then a rousing rendition of "Row Row Row Your Boat"...very funny!

So now we were back on our boat and heading out of Uros...it was about a 2.5 hour journey to Taquile, so just relaxed on top of the boat for a bit (chilly though in the wind, didn't stay up very long) and napped a little before arriving at the docks. We then had about a half hour walk to get up to the top of the island and the lunch point, and this was my first experience hiking in altitude, and man was it tiring! Didn't take long before I was stopping to catch my breath, and couldn't climb very far without having to stop again...gah...thoughts of the Inca Trail crossed my mind again, a few jokes about that were going back and forth between the group but kept reminding myself that it was only day two, still getting acclimatized...

At any rate we all made it to the top, nice little outdoor terrace where we were to have lunch...grilled trout of all things, apparently this species was introduced to
Musical InterludeMusical InterludeMusical Interlude

Enterprising musician serenading us before departure....
the area with the aid of the Canadian government...glad they were, the trout was very tasty! Poked around the little town for a bit and then it was back down the other side of the island where the boat had circled to meet us...

Now we were off to our final destination of the day: Luquina Chico. A peninsula on the way back to Puno, there was a community there that worked in partnership with G Adventures and we were all to stay overnight with a local family...cool! It was late afternoon when we arrived, and we were greeted by a couple of the local women before being ushered up to the local school. We were greeted there by some kids all ready for a soccer match on a concrete court, so six of us went out and it was game on! Needless to say we got our asses handed to us, about 1 minute into the match our entire side was completely out of breath and not very effective...a second G Adventure bunch came in after us and they didn't fare much better...our guides put together a side and managed to beat them, but final tally was locals
3 Generations3 Generations3 Generations

Matilda on the left, the daughter and Pedro's mother on the right...
2, touristas 1...

We were then introduced to our local families, and shortly thereafter each family dressed up their guests in traditional clothing, very cool...very colourful and thankfully very warm as well; the sun had started to set and a cold wind was blowing...once everyone had been fitted with the new attire a group of locals put on a show of traditional dancing for us, accompanied by a local band...amazing! And of course the tourists were then dragged onto the court in an attempt to recreate the dance moves...while we may not have been nearly as smooth I think we did alright! Haha...

It was dark now and time to head off to each of our homes. The two children guided Dominik and myself to our stay; the home of Pedro and Matilda (for the life of me I can't remember the two girls' names, dang...). Perched high up on the hill, much to my dismay, we eventually arrived and met our Mama, Matilda...very nice people, all of whom spoke a bit of Spanish (Aymara is the local language) so we could communicate on a very basic level. We were shown to our room which was very comfortable; with beautiful heavy handmade blankets on the beds...we changed out of our local attire and joined the family for a wonderful dinner consisting mostly of root vegetables, the majority of the crops grown in the area...

Fortunately my fellow traveler Dominik is a little outgoing so with his German-Spanish dictionary he strung together questions for the family that were generally understood and reduced the amount of awkward silences..haha...we chatted for a bit after dinner, and then the girls were given the colouring book and pencils much to their delight (didn't realize there were stickers too and this seemed to be a big hit!). They drew a bit and giggled, and then handed us the book to draw pictures of ourselves, gah! I went first, and not being much of an artist I looked a bit like a Sasquatch with glasses after I added my beard, this was met with much laughing....haha! Dominik didn't fare much better either, and after a few more laughs it was time for bed...

Woke up to another beautiful morning (we had been lucky so far) and joined the family for breakfast...simple enough, but the bread Matilda had made was amazing, couldn't stop eating
Lookin' good!Lookin' good!Lookin' good!

...think I pulled off the local trad garb!
it (in fact when we got back to the boat I discovered our guide Ruben had given his Mama a bit of money for a take-away bag of bread, wish I'd done the same!). We were all expected to do some work around the homestead that morning so off we went to a field full of adobe bricks (they use them to build their houses) and were instructed on how to lift them off the ground and shave off the excess along the sides so they were flat and consistent...fortunately they had already done most of them, there were only four rows to finish up...didn't take all that long, but it was nice when Pedro returned and inspected them, only to proclaim them "Perfecto!"...sweet! Nice to know some of my work will be used in a building there...

We helped stack some wood and then went for a wander around the community. It was fun seeing what some of the other folks were doing for chores: leading mules laden with adobe bricks from one site to another, sifting grain etc. I was glad to be out and getting some more exercise in the thinner air...still gasping for air more
On our way...On our way...On our way...

...with Puno in the background...
than usual but feeling stronger all the same, gave me some hope as the Inca trail was now only three days away...*gulp*...haha...The locals were all friendly; a simple "Kamisaraki!" ("Hello" in Aymara) brought out smiles and waves and invitations to inspect whatever work they happened to be doing at the time...fantastic...

Had a quick lunch and it was back down to the waterfront, the time had come to leave our new community. We all said goodbye to our Mama's (all of whom were decked out in the traditional bowler hats and pink skirts) and then it was on the boat and on our way to Puno...

What an incredible time; the islands of Uros are one of the most amazing things I've seen on my travels, Lake Titicaca itself was beautiful and the homestay was simply brilliant. I can't say enough about the people themselves, and this will go down as one of my favourite travel adventures...


Additional photos below
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ReedsReeds
Reeds

Our first view of them up close in the boat...
Reeds IVReeds IV
Reeds IV

Our first glimpse of the houses on the islands...
Control PointControl Point
Control Point

At the entrance to the Uros Islands...
Uros IIUros II
Uros II

Now in the lagoon, pic of one of the islands with what seems to be a field of reeds behind and Puno in the distance...boat is made of reeds as well...incredible...
In the lagoonIn the lagoon
In the lagoon

...looking for our docking spot...
And here we are...And here we are...
And here we are...

...with a very colourful greeting committee...
ReedsReeds
Reeds

There it is, that is the island...I think it's about 1 metre thick, could be wrong on that...very cool nonetheless...
Class is in...Class is in...
Class is in...

...great chat about how the islands and other items are made with the reeds...translated by our guide for the day Roger (left).
The lesson continues...The lesson continues...
The lesson continues...

...seeing the variety of uses of the reeds...


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