The Floating Islands of Lake Titicaca

My month in Cusco came to an end swiftly and before I knew it I was on an overnight bus heading south to Puno. I was sad to leave little Cusco; I was starting to feel like a local there, I knew my way around the streets and had my favourite cafes and drinking spots. I was also sad to leave the many new friends I had made there but I knew I would find them again somewhere along the way, a lot of them are travelling the same way I am.

The overnight bus to Puno went quickly – the buses in Peru were just lovely. Huge seats that reclined nearly to horizontal, blankets, charging points and legroom! Legroom is a rare commodity in South America when you’re a tall person and I relished in all the space that I had. I arrived into Puno at the god-awful hour of 5:30am and with the sleep still in my eyes I stumbled into the Puno bus terminal. I was supposed to have a driver pick me up to take me to the hostel but there must have been some miscommunication because there was no driver in sight. I waited patiently for 20 minutes before hailing my own cab to the hostel because I only had an hour until my Lake Titicaca tour started.

I arrived at Qorikancha Hotel and checked into my room before having a quick catnap. It was a full day tour to the floating islands and surroundings and I needed all the energy I could get. My pick up for the tour arrived before I could grab some breakfast so I stuffed some Oreos into my mouth as we drove down to the wharf. I joined our group, which consisted of about 20 other people. We were ushered onto the boat and given an explanation of how the day would pan out.

We had an hour boat ride to the Uros Islands, which are the famous floating islands in Lake Titicaca. There are forty-two floating islands on the lake and each island has been constructed from dried totora roots that grow in the lake. New roots have to be added every three months so the islands don’t sink and the sensation of walking on the islands is really weird. It’s cushiony and soft; I wouldn’t want to be on the island during a rough storm!

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Uros Islands
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Entirely made from reeds, incredible
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Local houses

The leader of the island gave us a demonstration on how they created the island and explained about their daily life. It was hard to believe that people could still live so primitively when the nearest town was only a boat ride away, but despite a few TV’s and radios, these people do. One particular aspect of this primitive living is the way they use the reeds from the lake for many different things, such as diet and medicine. The white part of the reed is eaten like a banana and the flowers are dried into tea. It’s also a good hangover remedy and cooling agent for burns. We got to try some of the reed and I have to say I didn’t enjoy it. It tasted exactly how you would imagine, like wet reeds – not exactly the most flavoursome of foods!

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The mini demonstration of how the islands are made
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Traditional boats
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Traditional Uros women
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The island leader explaining about their daily life

After the floating islands, the boat took us to the next island, Isla Taquile. This was a two-hour boat ride away, so I got to catch up on the sleep I had missed from the night before! We arrived to Isla Taquile and the sapphire colour water looked so enticing! I wanted to jump straight in! We had to hike uphill for about 20 minutes to reach the main part of the island and at nearly 4,000 metres above sea level; I was out of breath within steps! We had lunch at a small restaurant just outside the main plaza which was I so ready for because I hadn’t eaten anything since the couple of Oreos this morning. Our lunch consisted of vegetable and quinoa soup and trout and omelette. It was delicious and I hovered it down! After lunch we walked across the island to the other wharf and were greeted with a spectacular view! The azure coloured water sparkled in the sun and the yellow flowers that sprouted sporadically on the island contrasted perfectly with the clear blue sky.

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The entrance to Isla Taquile
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Life of Isla Taquile
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Plaza De Armas

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The other side of Isla Taquile

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We caught the boat back to Puno and I checked into my next hostel – the Cozy Inn. This sweet little home stay was tucked away into the chaotic streets of Puno, close to the city centre. I found dinner at a restaurant in the centre and headed to bed early, knackered from the last couple of days. Tomorrow I’m off to a new country, bring on Bolivia!

J. x

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