Lake Titicaca is said to be the highest navigable lake in the world – well there are a number of interesting facts and figures about this mass of water. But the simple truth is that it is a vast and fascinating place, shared between Peru and Bolivia and home to a number of different cultures and languages.
Looking out from shore one can make out the floating Uros islands, a group of manmade islands that have been part of this landscape for centuries.
A visit is inevitable and well worth it, but this archipelago of reed islands are far from being lost in time.
Despite initial appearances of an isolated people making a meagre living, the islands are in fact an integral part of the local economy.
Boats trips to visit the islands, overnight stays, merchandise and tips all combine to create a significant business.
Constructed from local Totora reed and using methods that pre date the Incas, the islands are stable, long lasting homes for the Uros people. A few 21st century touches are visible like small solar panels to run their portable cd players and old TVs, plus their once drab clothing is now bright and tourist friendly.
Once simple fishing communities, they are now part of the tourist industry but they have managed to retain their skills in crafting and maintaining their islands, boats and homes. They also proudly retain their Quechua language and customs – although when presenting handcrafts it’s surprising how linguistically dextrous they become to close a sale!
New additions include a school, healthcare and B&Bs but most structures are still in the original style and all are still based on these remarkable floating islands, anchored amongst the reed beds by long canes.
The islands are astounding to visit and if the price of survival for this community is selling imported trinkets and tapestries and offering boat trips to curious tourists then maybe, just maybe it’s a price worth paying.