We came to Puno to see its top tourist attraction – the Uros Islands – manmade, floating islands on Lake Titicaca, a large, deep lake in the Andes on the border of Bolivia and Peru. By volume of water and by surface area, it is the largest lake in South America.
The Uru or Uros are an indigenous people of Peru and Bolivia. They use the totora reed, which is plentiful along the edges of the lake, to make their homes, their furniture, their boats, and the islands on which they live.
Just a few miles from shore are approximately 100 man-made floating islands. The larger islands house about ten families, while smaller ones house only two or three families.
The purpose of the island settlements was originally defensive; if a threat arose the floating islands could be moved. Today, if they have problems with the neighbors they move their islands or cut them in half!
The islands are made of totora reeds, which grow in the lake. The dense roots that the plants develop and interweave form a natural layer that support the islands which are cut into blocks. These foundation blocks are anchored together by ropes attached to sticks driven into them and then anchored to sticks driven into the bottom of the lake. Bundled reeds are layed crisscross to a depth of 4-8 feet. The reeds at the bottoms of the islands disintegrate fairly quickly and new reeds are added to the top constantly. Prior to using synthetic rope, the rope had to be replaced every year. Today, synthetic rope lasts 30 years.Much of the Urus’ diet and medicine also revolve around the same totora reeds used to construct the islands. When a reed is pulled, the white bottom is often eaten for iodine.
Some of the islands have netted pools where they raise fish to eat. Birds are also kept for eggs.
After visiting the Uros Islands, our full-day excursion took us another 2.5 hours further out into Lake Titicaca to Taquile Island.
Taquile’s fine textile are are renowned the world over and are protected as a UNESCO world heritage subject. On this tiny spot of land in the middle of Lake Titicaca the only ones who do the knitting are the men.
The craftwork is divided between weaving and knitting; women do the weaving, while the knitting is man’s work. The tradition begins when they are young as boys on the island begin learning their trade at the tender age of 8. Chief among these crafts are the iconic Chuyo hats that many of the locals wear – and designate their marital status: red if married and a white top if unmarried. Women can also be found making yarn and are the weavers of the Chumpis, the wide belts with woven designs worn by everyone in the community of Taquile.
We comfortably traveled on the Cruz del Sur coachline from Arequipa to Puno in 6.5 hours. It was a very short stay in Puno. We booked the Lake Titicaca excursion for the next morning through our hostal which included roundtrip transfer to the marina. We had coffee on the Plaza de Armas and walked a bit before calling it a day. The following morning was another early start, this time back to the bus station to travel more than 7 hours to reach Cusco.
We came to Puno. We saw the number one tourist attraction. We then left!
Much of this information is copied from http://www.atlasobscura.com and Wikipedia. 😌 (Hey! I’m on vacation!)