Today was spent on Lake Titicaca. Its main claim to fame is that it’s the highest navigable lake in the world. The lake forms part of the border between Peru and Bolivia. Lake Titicaca is also huge, the second largest lake in South America. The sheer size of it makes you feel as though you are out at sea. However when you move a bit too quickly and end up short of breath you are reminded that this is a long way from sea level.
Manuel, the affable tour guide, informed us that we were on a fast boat today which would reduce the sailing time by half and allow us to stay longer on the islands. The first stop was at the floating islands of Uros. Uros is made up of hundreds of man-made islands located close together in the bay off Puno. The islands are made from reeds gathered from Lake Titicaca and have a lifespan of around 30 years. They are anchored down to prevent them from blowing across to Bolivia in the event of a strong wind. The Uros islands are home to the Uru people, an indigenous tribe who are able to live a sustainable lifestyle through fishing, hunting and tourism. We had a look around one of the islands, home to four families. One family invited us to have a look inside their hut which contained electric lighting and a television, powered by solar panels. Children go to school on a nearby island, although for secondary school education they need to travel to the mainland.
The next island we visited was over an hour away, close to middle of the lake and therefore somewhat remote. Taquile fits the classic definition of an island in that it is situated on terra firma. Originally a Spanish prison colony, this island is now inhabited by the Taquile people. Until recently Taquile has been largely closed off to the outside world but now tourism seems to be embraced. The locals still live the traditional lifestyle that has been around for hundreds of years, for instance in terms of dress. On Taquile life is certainly simple. There are no cars on the island and not much electricity. It seems a lot less touristy compared to Uros. The floating islands are only about twenty minutes from Puno and attract a lot of visitors who are passing through the area. However Taquile takes a lot longer to get to, hence the fewer number of day trippers. Strangely enough for somewhere seemingly lacking technology and in the middle of nowhere, the mobile phone signal was very good here with 4/5 bars on my phone. We had a nice meal with a family who seem to have some sort of tourism business setup. For about £4.50 you got a bit of singing and dancing (for which I managed to avoid the audience participation) and excellent fish with half rice/half chips in a lovely setting with great lake views.
The German fellow from last night had left the hostel which meant that tonight I had the room to myself. It was situated next to the stairs on the third floor. It’s not uncommon to hear some puffing and panting, and moaning and groaning in a hotel. However here it was more do with people getting out of breath due walking up stairs in altitude and having a breather on the chairs outside my room.