As part of my day excursion on Lake Titicaca, Peru, I was honored to see the Floating Islands, a completely new concept to me. To this day, the Uros people maintain and live on these man-made islands, depending on the lake for their survival, and are a large tourist destination. Dragon Boat racing, an old tradition in Puno, the nearest city, is a very popular activity for tourists.
The “Floating Islands” are small man-made islands constructed by the Uros (or Uru) people from layers of cut totora reeds, a thick buoyant reed that grows abundantly in the shallows of Lake Titicaca. The Uros harvest the reeds that naturally grow on the lake’s banks to make the islands by continuously adding reeds to the surface.
According to legend, the Uru people originated in the Amazon and migrated to the area of Lake Titicaca in the pre-Colombian era, where they were oppressed by the local population and were unable to secure land of their own. They built the reed islands, which could be moved into deep water or to different parts of the lake as necessary, for greater safety from their hostile neighbors on land.
Historically, most of the Uros islands were located near the middle of the lake, about 14 km (9 mi) from the shore; however, in 1986, after a major storm devastated the islands, many Uros rebuilt closer to shore. As of 2011, about 1,200 Uros lived on an archipelago of 60 artificial islands, clustering in the western corner of the lake near Puno, Titicaca’s major Peruvian port town. The islands have become one of Peru’s tourist attractions, allowing the Uros to supplement their hunting and fishing by conveying visitors to the islands by motorboat and selling handicrafts.
Additional information, according to Wikipedia: “The Uru’s islands are located at 3810 meters above sea level, and just five kilometers west from Puno port. Around 2,000 descendants of the Uru were counted in the 1997 census, although only a few hundred still live on and maintain the islands; most have moved to the mainland. The Uru also bury their dead on the mainland in special cemeteries.
Food is cooked with fires placed on piles of stones. To relieve themselves, tiny ‘outhouse’ islands are near the main islands. The ground root absorbs the waste.”
Puno is the first city I really had trouble breathing in. But the problem wasn’t air pollution. It’s the altitude. It’s located at 3,830 m (12,556 ft). I woke up at least three times in the night just because I needed more air. Just standing up made me breathless.
Puno is in southeastern Peru, located on the shore of Lake Titicaca. It is the capital city of the Puno Region and Province with a population of approximately 149,064 (2014 estimate). The city was established in 1668 as San Juan Bautista de Puno. Puno has several churches dating back from the colonial period, built to service the Spanish population and evangelize the natives. While most of the area are professed Christians, the pre-conquest ideas about the cosmos still run strong.
But honestly, I can’t tell you much about the city because I only spent the night there. The day was devoted to an excursion on the lake.
According to Wikipedia: “Puno is located at such a high elevation, it experiences more extreme weather conditions than would be expected for its tropical latitude. The average annual temperature is about 8.4 °C and the weather never gets overly warm. During the winter months from June to August, night-time temperatures usually drop well below 0 °C. At this high altitude, the rays of the sun are very strong. Most of the annual precipitation falls during the southern hemisphere summer, with the winter months being very dry.”