We decided to make an adventure out of our trip back to Bolivia from Peru. We flew from Lima to Juliaca, where we were picked up by a soldier under the command of a friend-of-a-friend of Santiago (our Lima Dad) from work (did you follow that? Me netither…). Upon arriving in Puno, we resumed our anti-soroche mate de coca drinking and headed out for our first Lake Titikaka adventure: The Uros Islands.
The Uros Islands are man-made, reed islands floating on this ever-chilly, 12,500 ft-high lake. According to some, the Uros people of-old built the islands as an escape from the descent of the fierce Incan warriors into Puno. Rather than wielding the sword, the Uros fled to the reeds and set sail on their reed boats when threatened. Regardless of how they are made, these engineering spectacles are marvelous.
Each of the 44 isles is a separate community with its own name and leader. We visited the isle Suma Kurmi, a small habitation of three families. There, we saw a demonstration of how the islands are constructed (see photo to right), learned how they cook without setting their dried totora (reed) ground on-fire, and visited the home of a 16 year-old mother (see photo below).
Unfortunately, tourism has drastically changed the way of life in these fishing and bartering communities. Now, with hundreds of visitors (like us) coming each day, the islands have become a sort of theatrical production, with the traditionally-dressed women singing songs in English and selling very overpriced souvenirs. Rather than fishing in their reed boats, many of the men merely paddle tourist from one Uros island to another in these incredible craft, as this commission is much better than the best day’s catch. Despite this, the Uros Islands were still worth a visit!