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frenchfrog Lake Titicaca - A travel report by Isabelle
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Lake Titicaca,  Peru - flag Peru
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frenchfrog's travel reports

The Uros or "reed people" on Lake Titicaca.

  22 votes
Divided between Peru and Bolivia at 3812 metres, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. Its name in Quecha means Grey Puma. Its deepest point is about 230 metres. The lake is over 8000 Km. square and has over 40 islands.

Uros's reed boat
Uros's reed boat
Lake Titicaca has fascinated generations of people since pre-Inca times with its intense blue water. Here, Indiginous culture is at its height despite modernisation of the rest of the Andes. The Uros Islands are divided into 35 floating islands with about 1000 habitants divided into 250 families. Uros means "wild animal" in Quecha, but it was not their original name. They were first called Kappi which means fisherman/hunter in Quecha. In the 13th century however, the Incas coming from Cuzco had in a few years conquered all the Andes including Lake Titicaca which is the source of their mythology (they believed that the sun was born on the lake's waters). At the time of the conquest, the Uros Indians were first living on the edges of the lake. They took refuge in the middle of the lake's water in order to escape slavery and fighting with the Incas. They adapted to their new life quickly thanks to the use of the reeds called Totoras and they lived a completly self sufficient life. They were thriving, they created more than a new way of life, it was a new "reed civilisation" based on fishing and hunting! The Carache is the main fish of the lake and the Uros use it for food and to barter with Aymara Indians living on the mainland in Puno. They swap fish against other products such as potatoes, fruits, clothes ...

Favourite spots:
Uros women
Uros women
I arrived here having booked a pre-paid excursion. There are 4 main islands welcoming tourists: Toranipata, Huaca, Huacani and Santa Maria. The boat stopped at Toranipata island, where the local Uros live mainly from tourism by selling souvenirs.
The bigger island will host about 10 families; the smaller one, only 30 metres in diameter will only have 2 or 3.
All the houses or huts on each island are built in reed, there is only one level, usually comprising of one room with a separate corner for the kitchen. Toranipata island even has a small museum with stuffed animals and birds found on the lake.
Walking on the floor of the island was a curious sensation.
The islands, comprising of reed, are fragile. The islands rot from the bottom very quickly so new reeds must be added constantly on the top.

What's really great:
House on Uros island
House on Uros island
Only the end root (the white bit!) of the Totoras can be eaten. The rest is used to built boats called Balsa. We also took a boat ride which was built entirely of reed. We received a warm welcome from the Indians, and the children were inquisitive. It was the experience in general that was really fascinating.

Amantani island
Amantani island
Amantani Island, where I stayed overnight, was marvellous. The island is situated about 30 km away from Puno, the nearest town on the mainland. It is the biggest island on the lake. I was booked on a planned excursion and access to the island was made by motor boat. Strangely enough, some locals are scared of the water. There is no monster on Lake Titicaca (unless you drank 3 bottles of Pisco)! The island is very beautiful and peaceful. Amantani is divided into 8 differrent communities. All the women on the island wear the local costume which is very colourful. On the top of the island there is the temple of Pachamama or Mother Earth. Pachamama occupies an important part in the life of the local Aymaras people, as it is seen as the source of life. They believe that Man was created from the land. According to them, the Earth is our mother.

Local women on Amantani island
Local women on Amantani island
I spend the night on a bigger island (not floating) called Amantani. We had a home stay. I was privileged enough to stay in the home of the local Chief.
To welcome us, all the women of the island wore the local costume. Prices charged varied depending which travel agent you used, but the locals gets only $6 per night per person. Food is included.
Before leaving the mainland, I bought some fresh fruits, which cannot be found on the island . As a 'thank you' I gave these fruits to the wife of the Chief.
I helped the lady of the house prepare the dinner by peeling the potatoes (over 600 varieties in Peru). The familly uses a small wood oven made of clay. It was nice sharing dinner with the familly. You truly experience their lifstyle for one day. The only problem was that I did not speak Quecha, and could barely speak Spanish, so communication was difficult but sign language was perfect!

View from the top of Amantani island at sunset.
View from the top of Amantani island at sunset.
In the evening the family took us dancing in the local village hall. It was difficult to dance to Andean music at this altitude! We were all dressed up as the locals, the men in ponchos and the ladies wearing the local costume.
Obviouly there was no clubs on the floating islands as they are too small.

Another Uros Island
Another Uros Island
No pubs around here. However, on Amantani Island on the way to the top of the hill to access Pachamama temple, a small shop was selling beer.
All the locals seems to hang around at the football pitch half way up the island. No need to say that the locals have beaten us!

View of Taquile island from the boat.
View of Taquile island from the boat.
The food provided by the familly was very delicious. On Taquile, the other main island on the lake a few miles away ,there was a restaurant.

Other recommendations:
Church of Taquile's Plaza.
Church of Taquile's Plaza.
Taquile Island is about an hour by boat from Amantani. The island is about 45 Km. from Puno. The island is about 1Km. wide and about 7 Km. long. It was more popular with tourists. There is a nice gentle walk between the harbour and the main village. All men and women wear the traditional costume. There is a co-operative shop on the plaza selling woollen articles (hats, jumpers, bags..). They might be more expensive than in Puno but the quality is exceptional. Taquile was very attractive with more wild flowers to be seen.

Published on Friday January 27th, 2006

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Wed, Feb 28 2007 - 10:04 PM rating by antonioagui

Great report, made me feel like arriving there tomorrow!

Wed, Feb 21 2007 - 05:25 PM rating by travler

Super report. No one took me dancing when I was here. I'm amazed you could do anything here because of the altitude.

Thu, Feb 02 2006 - 12:21 AM rating by ehs1193

Makes me want to go there.

Mon, Jan 30 2006 - 02:05 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

excellent report

Sat, Jan 28 2006 - 05:06 PM rating by mamielle

encore un super reportage ! bravo ! c'est vivant et interressant

Sat, Jan 28 2006 - 01:09 PM rating by mortimer

Interesting read and good informations, thank you for sharing :-)

Sat, Jan 28 2006 - 12:19 PM rating by rangutan

Far beyound the quick tourist stop I made there, this is an excellent and perfect travel report of a special and adventurous destination. Most of us (specially me) dream of writing reports like this!

Sat, Jan 28 2006 - 08:45 AM rating by davidx

This is so full of information that I find it hard to believe I was on the same trip with you! PLEASE don't make me wait too long for the ones where you went and I didn't - the Inca Trail and the jungle. A really great report!

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