Back in 2001 Hamish and I were in Peru and as part of our tour of the country we visited Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable natural lake in the world.
I do not remember too much about Puno apart from it being blessed cold in September, the starting point for the iconic Puno to Cusco express train and the gateway for the intriguing Uros Floating Islands.
The islands are entirely made of reeds that are collected from the lake and bound together by hand to form a buoyant surface sturdy enough to live on.
Maintenance is carried out constantly to keep the ‘map’ of the area in tact and to ensure there is no danger of sinking into the lake.
Our boat out to the islands was also made of reeds as were the fishing boats, the primary profession of the islanders alongside the burgeoning tourism.
It felt quite weird lounging on the islands knowing that they were effectively a giant waterbed made of straw!
There were plenty of souvenir opportunities, but I made do with purchasing a hand drawn postcode made by one of the local children. I remember giving the boy a sweet as a tip. Two hours later when I left the sweet still remained in its wrapper, something to be savoured much later!
Other memories include watching a small boy happily devouring his lunch and there being a giant bird on show made of, you guessed it, reeds.
Have you ever visited somewhere made of something unusual?
I’ve heard of these floating islands and these people sound like they are very innovative and adaptive. I think I would have a hard time wrapping my head around being on these straw islands!
Good choice, Wilbur, but Lake Titicaca is said to be the highest navigable lake, not the highest natural lake in the world. There are plenty of mountain lakes in the high Andes and Himalaya that make this one’s altitude relatively unimpressive. I’ve been twice. In 1995 it was quite unspoilt. A few tourists were welcomed but life was still fairly simple. I returned in 2006 to find the Islas Flotantes now sported satellite dishes and had electricity; most of the larger islands were developed for tourism which was now big business. The islanders were doing well, education and health care had improved – I guess that’s what you call progress.
Thanks Julia for the correction. Inevitable I guess that things would change but I hope they will keep the core of their traditional way of living at least….