Lake Titikaka, Floating Islands, Isla Taquile

Trip Start Jan 08, 2007
Trip End Mar 13, 2007

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Hola Amigos!

Today we travelled from Cuzco to Puno on Lake Titikaka.  After the Inca trail we were so tired and not looking forward to the 6 hour bus ride but it wasnīt too long so we would survive....................until we arrived at the bus terminal and found out we were on a tour bus which would be taking 9 hours to Puno with numerous stops in villages in visit churches and ruins.  Oh Great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  We were not into this but nothing we could do.  Actually, on the positive note the stops did break up the trip.  The trip included a few stops in villages to visit churches, some ruins and have lunch.  We opted out to pay for the visits to the churches and ruins as they didnīt look too interesting compared to what we had seen thus far.  It was optional to pay for the sights so that was good.  So after a few stops, lunch beside the old prison in a small town we arrived in Puno.  The temperature was quite abit colder.  Our tour person picked us up and took us to our hotel.  Puno is mainly visited by tourists with interests of boat tours on Lake Titikaka.  We didnīt do too much that night, just went for dinner, dropped off some laundry at a lavanderia and turned in early.

 The next morning we got up for out tour on Lake Titikaka to the Floating Island (Islas Flotantes) and Taquile Island (Isla Taquile).  We boarded our boat with 6 other people and headed out on Lake Titikaka.  Lake Titikaka is an enormous lake, in fact it is South Americaīs biggest lake and the highest navigable lake in the world.  Itīs the largest lake in the world above 2,000 m. Lake Titikakaīs shape is that of the puma hunting a rabbit (which was a very sacred animal to the Incas).  ĻTitiĻ means puma amd ĻkakaĻ means stone which represents the color of the water. Lake Titikaka is both in Peru and Bolivia as the border passes right through it. Apparently 60 % of the Lake is in Peru and 40 % is in Bolivia, but that fact will vary greatly depending whether you ask a Peruvian or a Bolivian.   Our first destination was the unique Islas Flotantes (Floating Islands) of the Uros people.  Intermarriage with Aymara-speaking Indians has seen the demise of the pure-blooded Uros people.  The Uros people have always been a small tribe, they started their floating existence centuries ago in an effort to isolate themselves from the aggressive Collas and the Incas.  Today, there are several hundred people still living on the islands.  The islands are made of the buoyant totora reeds using many layers of the reeds piled on top of one another with the base of the islands being the roots of the reeds cut into blocks and anchored by the trunk of a eucalyptus tree.  Wood stakes are used to hold the blocks of the roots together with a string attached. The reeds grow abundantly in the shallows of Lake Titikaka.  The top layer of reeds need to be replenished once in awhile, so new layers are laid as they rot away.  In dry season the people lay a new layer of reeds on top about once a month and in wet season they lay a new layer of reeds about once a week.  The reeds are not only used to make the islands but also the Uros people use the reeds to make their homes, boats and the crafts they make for tourists.  As you walk on the islands, the ground is soft and springy, it was the strangest feeling when we first stepped onto the island off the boat.  As we arrived a group of women were there to greet us at the edge and help us step off the boat.  We listened to a presentation by our guide and one of the men on the island about how the islands are constructed (as I mentioned above with the reeds, roots and eucalyptus tree) and the meaning of Lake Titikaka (also as mentioned above). Then we had a chance to walk around, look inside a house made of reeds and go on a reed boat ride. We were told because of the damp, cool living conditions on the islands, alot of people acquire ilņnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis and many people die young.  The Uros people hunt birds and fish.  They have small fish farms on the islands.  Their are several families on one island and if they have problems with each other, they get together and talk about it  (they govern themselves) and if they canīt resolve their problems, they can cut a part of the island away from the other part ans start their own little island.  This is such a crazy concept!!!!!!  Wow if it were only that simple, heh?  Also, often times they join different islands together to ahve football and volleyball matches.  We also had the chance to see a freshly killed and skinned bird that one of the ladyīs was about to prepare for dinner.  It really was fascinating, the way these people live.  Then we hoped on a reed boat for a ride.  Some little girls even sang their rendition of twinkle twinkle little star in Quecha.  It was really cute, but of course they wanted money.  After this we headed back to our boat to continue the tour to Isla Taquile.
 As we headed out toward the next island, it truly looked like we were on the ocean as this lake is so big and the color was so blue.  You could just see forever out in the distance.  It was an absolutely beautiful day, and the sun was so hot.  We grabbed a nap out in the sun and I burned my legs within that hour.  We arrived at Isla Taquile after about 2 1/2 hours.  It was really gorgeous.  The green grass against the color of the blue water was beautiful.  The main agricultural activity on this island are growing crops of maize, beans, dry potatoes and quinoa.  There are 2,000 types of quinoa.  Black quinoa is good for depression.  The people on the island wash their hair with the water used to wash the quinoa as it is healthy for the hair.  They also sometimes wash their hair with human pee and they believe that a manīs pee is better and healthier for their hair.  A herb that grows wild on the island called ĻmuniaĻ (from the mint family) is used for the symptome sof altitude sickness as well as a means of contraception.
On the island the women spin the wool and the men do most of the knitting.  Men will knit their wiveīs and daughters clothes and the woman will knit her husbandīs and her sonīs clothes.  Single men wear a red and white knitted hat whereas married men wear a red knitted hat.  We saw a single man with his red and white hat and he was sitting knitting and selling necklaces.  The island also governs itīs own community and the authority men wear a multi-colored hat.  The men also wear a wide belt as a part of their traditional costume and this belt is amde from wool and their wiveīs hair.  The woman makes this belt for her husband when they are first married and she cuts her long hair so she can weave it into the belt.   The women wear pompoms at the ends of their braids to pull the hair and make it grow faster. 
In this community, men and women usually live together for 2-3 years before getting married.  In this time, they can have children.  After the 2-3 years, if they decide they canīt live together, they can seperate and the daughters go with the mother and the sonīs go with the father.  But if they do get married, they cannot divorce.  So we learned many interesting things about this community.  We continued our tour by walking around the island.  We also had lunch and watched a traditional seeding dance.  Again, I was the victim of having to dance with 1 of the men.......itīs that eye contact thing, gotta learn how to avoid this!!!!!! After the tour we headed back to Puno on the boat and returned to our hotel. We had to prepare for our bus ride to the Bolivian border and across to the Bolivian side of Lake Titikaka.  Our destination will be Copacabana on Lake Titikaka, Bolivia. 

Sorry, no photos now as Internet is too slow in Bolivia. I will try again later.

Stay tuned for stories from Bolivia.....................
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