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5th August 2006 - Peru Trip - Day 6, July 9th - Puno, Lake Titicaca, Islas Flotantes and Isla Taquile

Late start today! It's an 8AM pickup by our minibus for the 10 minute trip to Puno’s port. Shoved some much needed coca tea down my neck, left the bulk of my small amount of luggage with the hotel, and ready for the off.

Our guide would be a guy by the name of Julio, who was, I think around 22.

The port was bustling with people and boats – we found ours, blocked in by another two, and stepped aboard. We had chartered our own private boat, so there was plenty of room to stretch out.

Our boat pushed through the throng and out onto the open algae – yes, algae everywhere near the port this time of year, due to the pollution, but after a mile or so we were on the normal waters of the highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca, at 12,507' AMSL (3,812 m). It covers approximately 3,200 sq miles and is around 120 miles long by 50 miles across (at its widest point).

Our first stop was only 20 minutes away on the floating reed islands, or the Islas Flotantes, inhabited by the Uros people.

As we approached our boat had to pay a toll to enter – this was done at full speed, and the hand-off was perfect.

boat trip photos.

The people originally started to live on these islands centuries ago to distance themselves from the Incas and Collas, who were becoming aggressive towards each other. The islands are made from the totora reed, with the base being made from the roots – they really do float, and to stop them being moved by nature, are anchored at various points to the lake floor.

We were told that each island lasts approximately 80 years before becoming too rotten to repair, when they will simply build a new one.

We arrived at our prearranged island to see how the villagers live. We were shown how they cook fish and other various ways of island life.

They can also eat the reeds, and of course we had to try this. You simply peel the outer part of the reed away like a banana skin, and eat the inside – it really wasn’t that bad.

It’s here that you see the little guinea pig pens, where the villages keep them to eat at a later date – yuk!

We were then sent in pairs to individual homes to see inside, and to be dressed in traditional costume, before dancing with the village. Don’t look for pictures of me dancing – someone had to take the photos!

photos of Islas Flotantes.

Next we went on a short ride on one of many reed boats, in our case a twin headed catamaran – there were also trimarans that we spotted. We were rowed over to another island to take a quick peek there. A couple of the kids from the village came along for the ride too.

reed boat trip.

On the other island we were offered stuff to buy etc. Again there were guinea pigs penned in, but this time easier to see – of course they also eat the reeds that grow everywhere. This island also had a tower to climb up and get a feel for the whole area.

second island.

Then it was back to the boat for our couple of hours ride to our next port of call – the island of Taquile – or what was to become a running joke – "the island of [huge pause] Taquile" – this was how Julio always said the name of the island.

boat trip to Taquile.

We arrived at a remote part of the island – most boats go to the other end, nearer to the main square, as most tourists here are day trippers.

We were greeted at the small dock by the family that would be hosting us. A fairly steep walk led to the house – there was room for six of us here and two of the group would be staying at another house up the hill.

Taquile (sorry the island of [pause] Taquile) is only 6 km long with a population of around 2000.

First up, we were shown the various crafts, like weaving and knitting, which the islanders perform to make a living. We were then shown typical food and how they prepare things like flour to bake bread.

The islander’s income is also boosted by tourists like us that stay the night – they are given a good cut of the cost of our trip to host us, so there is no hostility there, like there used to be in the past.

Next up we were treated to a very nice lunch of king fish and rice.

general photos of where we stayed.

We then took a 1.5 hour hike up to the main village square. We saw a lot of sheep, mostly with different coloured ribbons on their heads, so that the islanders know which sheep belong to whom.

For the entire hike one of the villagers that accompanied our group and guide was knitting the whole way – up rocks, along dirt tracks – it didn’t matter – he continued to knit.

The boys you see in the photographs were creating their own fun by flying home made parachutes made of plastic bags and stones.

photos of hike and village square.

After looking around the village square, we went to the edge of the island to see the sunset, where we also saw the main dock where most boats come in.

photos of sunset etc.

We then walked back to the house in the dark – luckily we stayed high the whole way, so it was either flat or downhill.

Dinner was potatoes and rice and then the family built a make shift bonfire, while they encouraged us to dance to the old man and his music – it was very windy and the bonfire did threaten to get out of control some times – but this didn’t deter more kindling being thrown on!

Then it was off to bed under the weight of 4 heavy blankets.