Lake Titicaca; Uros and Taquile Island 

City of Puno

30 hours in the city of Puno. 

Emil and I took the 6 hour bus down to the city of Puno to see Lake Titicaca for a quick visit.

Lake Titicaca is the second largest lake in South America and also the highest navigable lake in the world. Sitting at 12,507 feet, Lake Titicaca has an area of 22,000 square miles between Peru and Bolivia. It’s an incredibly beautiful lake with a boat load of history.

Lake Titicaca is said to be the craddle of ancient civilization for the Andes. The Aymara’s are a pre-Incan civilization who’s descents still live on Lake Titicaca. There are also many theories about the connection between ancient civilizations in the Lake Titicaca and civilizations as far away as Easter Island and even Egypt. 

The connection?

Balsa reed rafts.

Balsa reed boat in Lake Titicaca, Puno in the background
This raft is a larger one, it can hold about 30 people. Locals say it takes about two months to make

An Uros Island, Puno in the background.


I recently just read a really great book called Life and Death in the Andes by Kim  MacQuarrie. It’s a collection of short stories about the most insane stories of South America history. One chapter is about Lake Titicaca and the floating Uros islands. The islands themselves are made from Tortora reeds. It’s a long process but the Aymarans and their desecendents have been living on these floating islands for thousands of years. The concept is incredible interesting, the reeds are very good at holding water and soil reinforcements are added to the reeds. An island can take anywhere from 2-6 months to make and will last between 30-40 years. Tortora reeds are harvested and grown to add to the islands. 

The current Uros island community has over 80 inhabitated floating islands with a population of a little over 2,000. Many inhabitants now have electricity using solar. The islands have a primary school, but no high school. Students attending high school take a 40 min boat ride to Puno everyday to attend class. For the most part the locals stay on the islands, but many people go into Puno on the weekend to buy and trade, as well as sell fish and sounvieners. 

The mayor of the island of Flamenco

Children outside of a traditional house in Uros. A solar panel can be seen on the side of the house.

For many places I’ve visited in Peru so far it’s seemed that tourism has not always positively affected smaller more localized communities. This didn’t seem the case on one of the Uros islands we visited. The mayor of that island and several others commented on how the tourism has allowed him to send his children to school past primary school, and has allowed the island to purchase more resources such as solar energy. 

Of course the man could have just been saying this, but I’d like to think it is true. I bought a nice sounvenir model reed boat from a local man. He was incredible kind and even showed Emil and I into his home, which was of course made of reeds. The Tortora reeds are a lifeline for these people. They use it to build the islands, make rafts, you can even eat the reed!

Ok so now back to my story about ancient cilvilization evolution theories. In the book I read, the author spoke of a Norwegian explorer by the name of Thor Heyerdahl. Heyerdahl is most known for his support for the idea that Polynesia has been populated from east to west, starting in Lake Titicaca and elsewhere in South America. Although his theory is the opposite of the widely accepted idea of South American inhabitation from West to east, his way of testing his theory was very interesting. Heyerdahl sailed a balsa raft 5,000 miles across the pacific in 1947. Dubbed the Kon-Tiki, Heyerdahl was trying to prove that ancient civilizations could have made this seemingly impossible journey. 
“Did any of these voyages prove that contact has existed between the old and new worlds or between Polynesia and South America?”

The answer is no. They simply tested the possibility that such contact could have occurred, using technology available at that time.”

– Kim MacQuarrie Life and Death in the Andes 
There are plenty of articles that have been published that discredit Heyerdahl’s theory, I just found this theory so interesting and found it remarkable that this historian made such a crazy journey (and a few more reed raft journeys after that). The mysteries of Easter island stretch much further than just that island. 

Lake Titicaca is full of mysteries. 

I honestly just think the history of South America is extremely interesting and I plan on reading plenty more literature on the subject. 
Back to our tour. We also got a chance to visit Taquile Island. Taquile Island is about a 2 hour boat ride from Puno. Taquile Island is an Island about 2 square miles with about 2,200 inhabitants. The people living here are Quechua and are known internationally for their incredible textiles. 

A Taquileño man creating a natural soap to wash lamb’s wool. On Taquile, men wear different color hats displaying their marital status. Women do the same but with skirts.

Taquile Island was stunningly beautiful. At this point in the lake, the water is as blue as the Mediterranean. I honestly thought it looked like the Greek or Turkish coast. From here you could really see the beauty of Lake Titicaca. 

Some of my favorite pictures I have taken this trip were taken on the water yesterday.

Yes the water was that blue. I didn’t edit these two pictures.

Emil and I are now in the city of Arequipa. Tomorrow we will begin a two day trek in the famous Colca Canyon.

-Jack

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