Jun 7, 2012

Discovering the Uros and Taquile Islands

Situated at a very high altitude, 3810m above sea level Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. Geographically it has the distinction of being located between two countries: Peru and Bolivia.

Category: Peru
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Situated at a very high altitude, 3810m above sea level Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. Geographically it has the distinction of being located between two countries: Peru and Bolivia. I had the chance earlier this month to visit the islands on both sides.

In order to reach the islands of Peruvian side one must first go to a small city called Puno. Hence it is very easy to visit the Uros and Taquile Islands either by yourself or through one of the many agencies that offer the opportunity to stay at a local's house for a night on the island. The visit started with the Uros Islands, which are actually small floating islands on which live an Indian community.

They live literally on a layer of floating reeds whose thickness is about three meters. You can imagine that it really feels stange when you put your foot down. It's the inhabitants' lifestyle and the unique structure of these islands that are most interesting to see because this place is very touristy and the visit organized with the guide doesn't feel spontaneous at all. For example in the middle of the visit a group of women came to sing us a song then the guide asked the tourists to sing them a song in return. This was the first time during this trip that I was following a tour and I must say that this first part was rather uncomfortable.

The second part however was much more interesting and rewarding as Matt, another Australian traveler I met in Puno and I left the group to meet a family living on the island with whom we stayed overnight. We met the young family man who leaded us to his house. On the way we asked him all kind of questions about the life on the island. We leaved our stuff in the little guest room and immediately we started to explore the island. The family living at the extremity of the island Taquile, we didn't encounter any tourist on the road, it felt like the island was belonging to us. In the distance we could see women dressed in traditional clothes playing volleyball, we bumped into a few old men chewing coca leaves, some of them knitting a cap while walking. The sunny landscape was breathtaking.

We could see green fields and as the island is located above the water we could perceive the distant mountains. Around 5pm the sun started setting over the water giving us a great show to admire.

It's time to go home. We met the mother who was preparing the evening meal in the kitchen. She took time to talk with us asking us all kind of questions. The house is very simple, it was built by hand by the husband and the family. The floor is not tiled, everything is made of mud. The meal was very simple – tortilla and soup - but delicious. After the meal the father started playing music with his son and nephew. They use traditional wooden instruments that they have probably made themselves. We listened to them while sipping a hot coca leaves infusion. Then we started to doze off, it had been a long day, time to go to bed.

The next morning after a copious breakfast we explored the other end of the island. It was very hot and the altitude made the slightest effort breathtaking. After a forty minute walk we landed on the small beach on the island. Beautiful. We dipped our feet in the water but it was freezing. The water was too cold, we couldn't soak. Then we returned to say goodbye to the family who had been incredibly kind. The mother hugged us and wished us a safe journey. I think that neither Matt nor I will forget these two days spent on Taquile island with these heart of gold people.