Yes, Lake Titicaca is real.

Trip Start Jan 06, 2010
Trip End Apr 20, 2013

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Sarah- If you can remember, I specifically said the one thing I was afraid of in Peru was the buses and the bus to Puno validated those fears in a terrifying way. As Chris wrapped his seat belt around his arm because the latch was ripped out, I cringed at every windy turn. As we made the left into the Juliaca bus station we just barely hit a man on a bike so I concluded this bus driver had no concern for anyones life, perhaps not even his own. Once we were stopped everyone got out and started yelling in Spanish, I ignored this and waited in the bus for our departure to Puno but after a while I had to find out what was going on. Not to my surprise the reason why the bus driver did not stop for the biker and drove so recklessly was simply because the breaks were out. So we took another bus to Puno and checked into our hostel. Puno maybe the folklore capital of Peru but it's really not that great of a town so we only stayed two nights, we were not in Puno for Puno anyway but for Lake Titicaca. Yes, it's true that funny named lake we all grew up making fun of is actually real and is shared between Peru and Bolivia. Thanks to our friend and neighbor, Frank, we knew this had to be one of our stops. 

Lake Titicaca is the largest and highest navigable lake in the world. It's huge. Living on this lake are the Uros people, a tribe older than the Incas, who have been almost untouched by the outside world for hundreds of years. When the Incas came they didn't want to have anything to do with them so they built large boats made of reeds and lived on the lake. Eventually they made floating islands made of reed and before they allowed tourists too visit they only had 10 islands but now with all  the income from tourism, they now have 40. The islands house about three families each and if there is an issue between them they will saw the islands in half. The people use reed boats and motor boats for special occasions. There is a school on one of the islands and parents take the children to school by boat. The women are fairly big and wear many layers of clothing so that they look very fat so that the men will think they can have many children  and marry them. They eat bunny rabbits, guinea pigs, and have a trout farm and garden. The Uros peoples are very kind and brought us into their homes made of reeds and even feed us reed. They make crafts and we bought many. We visited two different islands and they were very happy to see us and thanked us for visiting them. As we left the first island the women sang to us in their own language of Quechua and then "my bonnie lies over the ocean" in English as they waved us goodbye. **See video**

The second island we went to, Taquile, is an actual island and the last to be conquered by the Spanish. The Incas did live on this Taquile as well and there are signs of Inca stone work on the island. When the Spanish came they made the people change the way they dressed so their clothing a different then the Uros and they wear mostly black. The children on the island speak in high pitched voices and try to convince you to give them one sol, the equivalent of $.30 cents, in exchange for a picture of them and a bracket they made. As much as I wanted to take many pictures of people, unless you pay them, they find it rude and offensive to take their picture all the time like they are a spectacle in a zoo. They also think that you steal their soul when you take their picture. The Uros believe this too, but we bought things from them and paid entrance fees onto the island so they gave us permission to go snap-happy with the camera. We ate lunch on Taquile Island at one of their restaurants and were served trout and soup. No matter what restaurant we dined at, we were to be served the same meal because the people don't want to create competition between one another so they decide what they will have on the menu together each day. Most of the restaurants were closed because the tourist season is in the winter (our summer). Even though currently it is the rainy season now, it mostly rains during the night. Our tour was on a clear day and without many other tourists, so tourist season shmourist season. 

The cost of the tour with out lunch ($5 US) was only $12 per person and it was all day. I love Peru.

Chris- So what do you do when you sense a change in your land and you refuse to accept your new unwelcome presence. Of all the possible choices of moving, welcoming, integrating, or fighting the people of this land voted a long time ago to build large reed boats and set out to the huge lake to only then gather more material to make larger boats and more islands. When new occupants came to claim the land they noticed worthless floating real estate tethered to the land from a far. They probably thought these people were loony tunes and left them alone. so while the world went through all it's changes the Uros people stayed perfectly preserved in time. Today modern technology has spread to almost every corner of the world bringing appliance and hardware stores to only rowing distance to these people. So because they are a nationally preserved people they still choose to live on their islands but often make trips to the mainland for supplies like batteries and candy. They also are incredible at handcrafts and make a small living selling boats and mobiles made of reed and knitted souvenir blankets telling the story of their people. So now people from all over the world can use modern technology to take trips to Titicaca and use modern technologies to learn about the Uros people. Though these people said no thanks to the forceful integrated changes of the world the offer stayed on the table and was brought right to the shore and now they get to indulge in many of the new innovations that make human life easier. So what's next for them, high speed Internet. With the presidents donation of solar power I bet they're on their way. 

As far as the town of Puno goes I'm not so sure there would be to much to see without the amazing people of the Titicaca Lake and their truly amazing lifestyle. Puno is far from being a beautiful city and though the center part of town is safe it doesn't give me that cozy feeling that touristic Arequipa did. We took a walk from the bus station after our taxi van was disabled by a commercial bus. With no cash on us and no ATM cards we walked back to our hostel actually comforted with our hands in our penniless pockets knowing there was nothing to steal. the walk wasn't dreadful but was a little shady and since we obviously looked like tourist the locals would often stare at us. We got in to the safer zone right before full night set in and wondered if we would take that walk again. We agreed to bring enough change for a taxi from now on. As far as the center of town goes it's definitely charming especially during a festival while hundreds of kids hit the streets with cans of silly string. They like shooting tourist the most so i pulled Sarah's arms behind her back using her as a human shield as we walked through the pedestrian streets. I would have stayed cleaner if she had stopped squirming while the kids shot her point blank in the face. So that's Puno for you. An ugly town with charming people a shore a mammoth lake hosting a separate floating city of welcoming people.
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Fanny on

Dubai can take a lesson or two from the Uros people on floating islands. Absolutely amazing.

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