Sophie’s sickness was a good excuse for us to take a couple of days to fully recover and allow ourselves time to be tourists. We headed to gringo hotspot Puno for some time off the bikes as we’d heard about the floating reed islands of the Uru people on Titicaca and decided we shouldn’t miss the chance to visit them.
Centred around a huge reed forest a half hour boat ride from Puno, the floating islands represent a way of life that’s hardly changed since before the Incan Empire. The island villages are home to a few hundred Urus, with between two and ten families on each island. Each of the family members plays an important role in the constant maintenance of the totora reeds that form the base of the islands, whether weaving them into houses or replacing the flooring that is constantly rotting in the damp environment.
Why decide to pursue this Sisyphean way of life? The thought is that the original Urus moved out into the lake as a defence from enemies. The lifestyle allowed them to be both hidden and mobile, able to pull up the roped anchors and sail across Titicaca if a threat arose.
It was a strange feeling as the floor sunk a few centimetres with every footstep, knowing that under the metre or so of reeds, roots and silty mud was 20 metres of lake water and kingfish to Titicaca’s floor.
And it was fascinating talking to the inhabitants about how they rely on the totora reeds as construction material, pain relief and even food.
These days many of the inhabitants head to Puno to trade fish or buy supplies. And now there are many solar panels, providing electricity for modern conveniences. But the island building tradition remains: a testament to the ingenuity and imagination of tribal man.
Vida! Saúde! Felicidade!
As ever, if you’ve enjoyed reading these posts, or if you see value and a challenge in this trip, or if you’d simply like to support a wonderful cause, it would be great if you drop a little sum towards my fundraising goal for the Teenage Cancer Trust. Head over to https://www.justgiving.com/Mike-Edmondstone/ to get involved. Thanks