A favorite stop on my recent tour of Peru was the Uros Islands of Lake Titicaca. The Uros are a pre-Incan people who live on forty-two self-made floating islands. Their lifestyle is fascinating and we were fortunate to be invited to share their world.
The Uros use bundles of dried totora reeds to make reed boats (balsas mats), and to make the islands themselves.
The larger islands house about ten families, while smaller ones (like the one we visited), only about ninety feet wide, house only two or three. The islets are made of totora reeds, which grow in the lake. The dense roots that the plants develop and interweave form a natural layer called Khili that support the islands. They are anchored with ropes attached to sticks driven into the bottom of the lake. The reeds at the bottoms of the islands rot away fairly quickly, so new reeds are added to the top constantly, about every three months. Simply walking on the island is a treat. There’s a spring to every step as the island sinks about 2-4″ depending on the density of the ground underfoot. As the reeds dry, they break up more and more as they are walked upon. As the reed breaks up and moisture gets to it, it rots, and a new layer has to be added. It’s a lot of work to maintain the islands.
Tourism provides financial opportunities for the natives, while simultaneously challenging their traditional lifestyle. I can only imagine what goes through their heads as each new group of tourists near their homes. However, they graciously invite us to enter their private dwellings. We try on their traditional dress, see how they prepare foods and cook, and meet their children. One tiny, little boy ran straight for my husbands pants leg and grabbed hold, saying “Hey mister!” grinning from ear to ear. What a welcome!
We later boarded one of their dragon-shaped reed boats and were oared to another island community across the calm waters of Lake Titicaca. Breathtakingly quiet!
Our private guide in Peru was Peter Lauffer, ITMI Tour Director. For more information about touring Peru and the the Uros Islands, email firstname.lastname@example.org
The majority of the information for this blog was taken from Wikipedia. Read more about these people and visit soon.