Our 5th stop on our Journey through Peru was Puno:
We arrived to Puno in the late evening, after a long drive from Condor Cross in the Colca Canyon. Our day there started early again with a 6:30am breakfast and a 7:15 departure from our hotel in Puno to the docks.
We were on a large enclosed touring boat, which was nice because the high in Puno was 55F that day. I was amazed to find that Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America and at 3,812 meters (12,507 ft) above sea level, it is the highest navigable body of water in the world.
Immediately we started seeing the famous reeds of Lake Titicaca, floating effortlessly in the water.
The name of the lake comes from the native language. Titi means Puma and caca means grey. Some people think it was called Grey Puma Lake because of the shape of it – the lake itself (on a map) does resemble a wild cat.
As we passed the reeds I couldn’t imagine people making whole islands, houses and boats out of this stuff. It had to be incredible. The reeds were beautiful to look at – especially in the early morning light. We saw a lot of ducks, cormorants and the Andean gull.
Once we arrived at the floating islands of Uros it felt like we’d entered another world.
Brightly dressed women waved from the contrastingly tan reed shorelines, while boats made entirely of reeds floated nearby. It was beautiful. Even prettier than I imagined. A completely incredible experience.
We debarked our boat and got a bit of a demonstration by the locals of one of the islands.
They were very friendly people and seemed happy we were there.
They showed us how the islands are able to float. The roots of the reeds are very buoyant and hardly weigh anything. That is the base. Then, sticks are shoved into each square of root and they’re tied together with a hand woven rope.
Next, the reeds are stacked on top in alternating directions. Once that is done the people jump on the reeds to compact them and make them more dense.
After the island is completed they build houses, which have three layers of reed for the roof to keep the frequent rain out.
The kitchen is kept outside the homes.
The bathroom is a 22km boat ride off the island. Inside the little homes is a bed and hooks to hang clothing on.
Every 15 days they add more reeds to the floor. It seems to be done as needed as well – since as we arrived to the island one of the women grabbed a pile of green reeds and threw it on a sunken wet part of the flooring, then patted it down with her feet.
When boats passed the island and created waves, the entire island moved up and down in a slow peaceful motion. It was really incredible.
One of the younger women came and sat next to Cliff and me near the end of the demonstration. She asked his name and then asked to hold him. He went to her briefly, but she was quite happy to get a minute to hold him :).
The tower where they used to signal to the other islands still stood on this island. John went up and got a view.
It’s not used now since most of the people on the islands actually have cell phones! We also saw solar panels. Although they have no water source besides the lake, where they must boil it before use. They eat a lot of fish, as you can imagine.
It was such an amazing thing to see and a truly great experience. We’re thankful for the hospitality of the people of Uros for sharing with us part of their life.
Next we headed to the Island of Taquile.
We walked up a very steep incline for about a mile. It was winding, at that high elevation, and we had to take several short breaks. But we finally reached the town’s center.
We were touring with a big group for this day so we had a lunch all lined up at one of the local restaurants.
After we enjoyed our delicious soup in pottery bowls, we two meals to choose from – I chose the trout, which was delicious. Olivia and Cliff found a little boy to play with when the meal was over.
The view from the “restaurant”, which was little more than a shack with a long table on a dirt floor outside, was gorgeous.
The walk around the island to the boat was beautiful too.
Such pretty countryside.
It was neat to see farms in working order and using the terraces that the Inkas are famous for.
The kids were so exhausted by this point. Both of them wanted mama, so John and I traded off and on.
I carried Olivia in the Ergo and she quickly fell asleep, but Cliff cried and cried as John carried him down the long path.
Every so often I would take him and be carrying both kids, but at that high elevation I could only manage it for a short distance before giving him back to John.
At one point we passed a herd of sheep and that was a good distraction for our cranky boy.
We were relieved when we saw the boat. It had been another mile or maybe two walk to where the ship had docked and Cliff was still crying. Ah traveling with toddlers. Quite the adventure, it is :).