Floating Islands and Lake Titicaca, Peru and Bolivia

By Erin Hancock

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Lago Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world and is situated between Peru and Bolivia. It’s a gorgeous area with icy cold water (thanks to the altitude), but best known for the “floating islands”.

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The floating islands are not natural islands. They are built from weaving together moss roots and then applying a generous helping of reeds over top of them. They float – meaning they shift with the wind and the weather but when you walk around the island you cannot feel any shift or movement. You feel as though you’re on a solid land mass with a lot of cushion underfoot.  The Uru people live on these collection of over 40 manmade islands, named the Uros Islands. These are only found on the Peru side of the lake. They had originally built the islands to avoid having to work (be enslaved) by the Spanish and also to avoid Spanish taxes. Now they still avoid paying taxes to Peru. I want to build an island! I wonder of this loophole would work in Canada.

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When visiting, the leader of one of the islands used a model to display how they build the islands. The brown part at the bottom is the mossy roots that are chained and woven together. The green reeds on top are applied regularly as the top layer. The bonuses about these reeds – well, there are two – 1) the kids never get skinned knees when they fall down and 2) the reeds are also edible!

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Much like tofu, the reeds have little flavour on their own but lots of nutrients. They can be eaten raw and cooked.

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The inhabitants now do well simply based on tourism and selling their wares. The houses remain simple on the outside in traditional form, but you’ll find a tv and computer is most every one of them.

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The women wear gorgeous colorful clothing. They sang and danced for us. Textiles are used to share stories and traditions so you’ll find intricate designs.

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We took a boat between the islands. We offered to paddle as the locals worked hard taking a vessel of gringos around the lake. They accepted!

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On one of the islands you can get your passport stamped (above – at the table under the grass umbrella) since the islands are considered an independent area.

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The boat ride back to the mainland of Puno, Peru is peaceful, as the captain navigates the grassy marshes that give way to little water roads.

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Puno is the less well-known destination town on the shores of Lake Titicaca, whereas the Bolivia side boasts Copacabana.

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After crossing the border into Bolivia, one can take a long boat ride out to Isla del Sol, a beatiful, large, inhabited island. There are hotels/hostels/bars/restaurants and lots of hiking paths. We did a short hike and took in the view of the glacier in the distance, Isla de la Luna and the Inca terraces of Isla del Sol itself.

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It would be worth spending a few days on the island, maybe writing your memoires, drinking cervezas…just suggestions. Cheers

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