Lake Titicaca is much more than the world’s highest navigable body of water. Do you dream of visiting a place where people live entirely different from the way you do? Lake Titicaca is one of those locations. We took the day long “Fast Boat” Edgar tour of Lake Titicaca. The advantage of a faster boat is that you spend less time traveling on the water and more time visiting the islands. Something you should consider when booking a tour.
The Uro People
Lake Titicaca is home to the Uro people who live on human-made floating Islands. We visited one of these Islands on a recent trip to Peru. A thick, buoyant reed totora, which grows abundantly in the shallow waters of Lake Titicaca is used to make the islands. The reeds at the bottom of the island rot away quickly, so the Uros continually add reeds to the surface of the islands. Even though anchored into the ground at the bottom of the lake these islands can be moved when necessary. The Uros people have been living on the lake for hundreds of years. When the Incas expanded onto their land, the Uros were forced to take up residence on the floating islands, hiding in the reeds of the lake.
Each family on the island will have a simple reed house with a thatched roof. They do not shun the western world. In fact, on our visit, they were eager to show us their homes and to share their lifestyle with us. They explained that they are content and enjoy their tranquil, communal lives. Each family on the island helps with whatever work is necessary. The men of each island will spend much of their day fishing. The Uros create beautiful works either through knitting or needlepoint. Women mainly do handicrafts, but the men are equally talented and will take part in this work too.
Life on the Island
The island we visited had a small boat with an outboard motor attached to it. One of the older boys took the children to the shore of the lake for school and then brought them back in the afternoon. One family invited us into their house. There were many blankets and school books in the home, no traditional furniture. This family had a battery with a circuit breaker which was charged by a small solar panel. The battery powered one light in the house.
Before leaving the island, one of the men took us for a boat ride on a traditional reed boat. It is easy to see why this type of boat would be ideal for fishing since there is no noisy motor. The ride allowed us to see the reeds up close and to get a different view of the island from the water. Boats made using a layered reed system are something you need to see and experience for yourself to comprehend.
I am thrilled we decided to include Lake Titicaca in this trip to Peru. It is a true marvel to see; islands, boats, and houses made using a layered reed system and the Uros people wearing their traditional dress. The floating islands of Lake Titicaca are something you don’t want to miss.
Another fascinating part of our trip was Taquile Island. Taquile is an actual island, not a floating island. Taquiles run their community based on the Inca moral code which is; do not steal, do not lie, do not be lazy. They create fine handwoven textiles and clothing. The men we met were knitting when they were not doing something else. Knitting is exclusively a male thing, and they begin learning at age eight. The women will spin and dye the wool. Women make bags for their boyfriends and husbands. The men carry cocoa leaves in these bags attached to their belts and exchange them with other men as a greeting. The Taquile believe in the idea of living together at either the bride or groom’s house for up to a few years as ‘training’ before getting married. The man will make his bride’s wedding dress.
As we traveled around the island, we could see many terraced areas for farming, especially potatoes. The Taquiles are also fishermen. It was interesting to learn that the Taquile consider themselves Catholic, but they blend their Catholicism with their ancient culture, paying particular attention to the mother earth.
Invited into their Home
An older teen Taquile boy invited us into his home. It was a small modest home with three rooms. The bathroom was a separate building shared with another family. His house had a large dining area, a smaller living area, and one or two bedrooms. The emphasis was definitely on meal time in this house. The young man showed us how proud he was of his computer he had in the living room. It may not have been an up to date or fast computer but it had an up to date flat screen monitor which made us smile.
Lunch in the Ground
For lunch, we traveled by boat to another edge of the island. Two women had been cooking our lunch for hours. They were cooking the traditional Pachamanca meal in an underground oven. Before they unearthed it they performed an ancient blessing to mother earth for the food. Our meal all cooked underground consisted of trout, potatoes, yams, and fava beans. The meal was amazingly delicious.
The ancient Andean people believe that Lake Titicaca is the birthplace of the sun which may be because of Lake Titicaca’s proximity to the sun. Lake Titicaca’s elevation is 3,812 m or 12,500 ft. What I can tell you for sure is the skies are as blue as the shimmering blue lake. The people living on the islands are welcoming, community minded and dress in beautiful bright colors. Hence, Lake Titicaca is not your typical tourist destination and is someplace you have to see for yourself.
If you have visited Lake Titicaca, Please share your experience with us.
A short video tour of Lake Titicaca