Floating Island and more

Trip Start Jan 01, 2001
Trip End Dec 28, 2010

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Flag of Peru  , Puno,
Sunday, August 22, 2010


Up for a fairly early start as we have to be at the boat dock for 8 a.m., it was a reasonable night with only a few buses making a noise. On arrival at the dock we boarded and left on time only to have to turn around after about 10 minutes as they had left 3 people behind. After collecting these people we made our way to the “Floating Islands of Uros”. This tribe is no longer pure bred but have been inhabiting these islands for hundreds of years, they first moved a float to avoid trouble from the Inca's. Today there are still hundreds of people who live on these islands, it is quite strange because in general each island is home to six families, so as you can imagine there are lots of islands. The islands themselves are fairly small, only about 100ft by 50ft and are made using the root system of the tortilla reed. The blocks that are the roots are up to 9 ft deep and it seems that they cut the root blocks into a size whereby they use 18 blocks tied together with ropes to make the island. This base is then covered with the reeds themselves, these also float, but that said when you walk on the island you still sink in slightly, like a sponge, but you still have dry feet. On these islands they build the living huts on a big bed of reeds about 1 m deep. They were quite happy to show us inside, which consisted mainly of a bed that was built on reeds again about 1 m deep. The clothes are just hang around the walls. Nowadays they have solar panels so the hut we visited had battery operated electric light and a television! Cooking is done in a separate, conical hut, once again on a bed of reeds and they must take great care because the fuel is the dried root system and so the whole island can burn if ignited. On each island they have one or two areas where they have dropped fishing nets and use the area as a fish farm, although that said they tell us that the lake is over fished and nowadays there are very few fish. The final thing they told us about was the making of the reed boats and they had various examples around from the normal small fishing boat to the “Mercedes” version which is a twin-hulled boat with a tower building which we could go on for a ride around the island. Although there is a heavy sell of souvenir goods we thought it is a good trip to do. From here it was back onto the boat for a three hour trip to the island of Amananti, a rather boring trip as there is not much to see. Once at the island we are met by the women that offer accommodation, all dressed in their normal finery, which is good to see. They work as a co-operative and the names are called on a roster and we are told how many beds they have and just go with one of them. We actually ended up in a big family house and we went with the grand parents to their house and were later joined by a couple of South Africans and a Canadian who were using rooms in the children's part of the house. The accommodation was very basic, we walked up a sagging wooden staircase to get into the top floor room of an adobe house. In the room were two, small double beds and a table. Although electric lights were there the lighting was by candlelight and the toilet was outside about 30 m away. We all had lunch together in one of the two kitchens, which consisted of a maize soup, very nice, and fried cheese and the local version of sweet potatoes. We had mixed views about the cheese and also some of the potatoes were nice whilst others were not, so it was mixed feelings about the meal. The drink consisted of a stem of what looked like the daisy family steeped in water; it was supposed to be good for altitude sickness so I tried some, but did not think much of it. After lunch we were taken to the main plaza where we could then walk up to the top of the hill to see the Inca ruins at the top. We went a short way but then decided it was going to be too much of a rush and too much of a climb to make it worth it and so went back to the main square. Once here we had a rest and then took a path down to the sea. It was quite a pleasant walk , but once again we had to climb up to get back to the main plaza to meet the daughter of our host so she could show us the way back to the house as we could not find it ourselves. We had to walk across fields and climb walls to make our way around. Evening meal consisted of the same soup as lunch but with the addition of spaghetti, still nice, and then fried vegetables and potatoes, served with rice. The rice was far too starchy for us, but the fried foods were very tasty. After the meal it was time for the “Pena” show, we had been told this was a local song and dance show, but as we found out the show was basically us. When we went down to the house courtyard the hostess started to dress us. I had to put on a very nicely embroidered white smock, a purple pleated can-can type skirt, am 6 inch wide multicoloured woven cumber band and a black stole with embroidered ends. This stole is used to cover the head and then hang down. Mike had it easy he just had a striped poncho and their embroidered Peruvian woollen hat. After all were dressed we walked for 5 minutes to get to the hall. Here we did have about 6 local musicians who did perform the music and singing, but only about 6 locals who were the hosts or hostesses of the tourists. Once the music started we were all dragged up to dance along, but after 5 minutes I could not get my breath and so dropped out and soon after so did Mike. We then stayed and listened to the music, which was very enjoyable, and after an hour our hostess asked us if we would like to go back. This we did and went to bed and about 20 minutes later the other guest eventually got back.

23rd – It was a mixed night, the rooms were quite warm, but the mattresses were hard and the pillows could have been stone and so we got some sleep but not a brilliant night. We were very surprised in the morning that there was no water provided for washing, as it was we asked for some water for coffee and got a bowl of hot water so we at least could wash. Breakfast this morning was just the two of us in the kitchen and we got a type of pancake with jam, plus two different types of plain bread. The same flower tea was offered but we had our own coffee and so used that. After breakfast we were escorted to the boat by our hosts and set off to go to the next island, Taquile, which took about an hour. When we got there we were asked if we wanted a very steep climb or a flat walk. Everyone opted for the flat walk and one of the crew acted as our guide, although it was a paved path all the way. The flat walk turned out to be about 3 kms long and climbing up about 800ft, and in places was so steep we could only go up about 50 paces before we had to stop to get our breath. It was not just us, most of the passengers were in their 20's and had to stop. That said it was some very nice views and in general a nice walk. We passed lots of the islanders in their normal dress, which consisted of a white top above dark trousers and a very colourful cumber band. On their heads was a red and white knitted hat that was almost square in appearance. It was certainly distinctive. On reaching the main plaza we found about 80 – 100 of them in a meeting in the collective hall and soon the plaza was full of them. All of the women were busy spinning wool, both when sitting down and when walking about. Once again there was a colonial church and some nice views from where we were and so we just had a short stroll and looked into the collective sale room. Once again their was lots of nice stuff but we have basically bought all we need. We were taken to a restaurant for an early lunch, once again the same type of soup, but this time fried lake trout with chips, cold vegetables and rice. After lunch we had to make our way down to the boat and we found out what they meant by steep climb. The whole way down was basically made using natural flat stones as steps, this meant it was very uneven and with differing height to each tread. When you remember that it is about 800ft high you can imagine it was an effort just to walk down. Once on the boat it was another 3 hour journey back to Puno and most people slept all the way back. At the dock it was just a quick stroll back to the bus terminal where we unpacked and settled down for the night.
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