The first sight of lake Titicaca under a full rainbow
If you want to take a boat tour on the highest navigable lake on the planet, it will always include stops on the Uros floating islands and on the Taquile island. Both stops are very interesting and different as the day differs from the night. For me, they are the two sides of the tourist industry.
The Uros people have moved from Amazonia to the Titicaca area about 1,000 years ago. All this time they lived around the lake, mostly fishing. They have been outcasts since the Incan empire times and do not own any land. At some point, they started building floating islands and living on them. Now there are about 2,000 Uros people living on forty something floating islands. The islands are built out of reeds and the typical lifespan of an island is about 30 years.
Visiting the Uros islands is a Disneyland type of experience. The islands take turns in accepting tourist, each island is “on duty” for about a week. The island we visited was probably 25 meters in diameter, with 5 one room houses built out of reeds on it. In general, except for the people, one dog and few hens, everything else on the island is made out of reeds.
Once the boat touches the island, the show prepared for the tourists starts. It includes songs, selling local crafts, pictures, etc. Personally, I felt uncomfortable intervening so closely in the daily life of the people and taking pictures of them and their homes from close distance. My fellow western tourist didn’t seem to feel any inconvenience and were entering the homes and taking pictures from point-blank distance.
Taquile island is probably the place which surprised us the most in Peru. It is a home of 495 families and about 3,000 people. The island is incredibly clean and tidy, something not so typical for Peru.
The island is known for the fact that the men are the ones knitting there. Everyone from five years old boys to 100 years old men is knitting. We saw them to walk and knit, to sit in on the side of the road and knit, to chat and knit. We were told that when a young man wants to marry, he goes to the father of the girl and shows him the best hat he has knit. The father of the girl pours water into the hat, and if it leaks, he says to boy to knit a better one and come back when he’s ready.
Despite the big number of tourists visiting the island, you will not see anyone trying to sell them anything. There is one single store on the main square selling the amazing stuff the Taquile men are knitting. Each item there has a number indicating from which one of the 495 families the item is coming, as well as, the price. There is no bargaining. You like it, you pay the price and it’s yours. I liked the idea so much, that I bought a hat and a pair of gloves.