The Floating Islands of Lake Titicaca

When we first arrived in Puno, we immediately felt the effects of the higher altitude. Puno is 3,860 M or 12,421 FT above sea level. Edmonton (our home town) is 668 M, so needless to say there is a huge difference. Even the smallest flight of stairs would leave us feeling winded! Both Drew and I were definitely not feeling hot for the first couple of days, and just took it easy. In other news, Rob seems to be made of pure steel as he didn’t get sick at all. What a jerk. ;)

We eventually pulled ourselves together enough to head out onto Lake Titicaca, one of the highest navigable lakes in the world, and the reason we went to Puno. Initially we had planned to visit a couple islands, but we chose to begin with Uros, which is a group of floating islands made of reeds called totora. The lake itself is quite impressive, and the boat ride to the islands resulted in some pretty cool shots.

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We then arrived at the Uros. The women all wore very brightly colored skirts that added some great punches of color. 

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When we docked at one of the islands we were met by a member of the Uros who gave us a little info session. Unfortunately, it was all in Spanish! But we were able to get a few tidbits of info from another gent who came along and spoke English. The people of Uros use these reeds for so many purposes, it’s incredible. They build their islands with it, through an extensive, year-long process (the islands last for about 50 years before they need to create a new one). They also create their homes, boats, and all sorts of handicrafts with the reeds, and they can even eat them! Talk about multi-functional. 

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I liked this bird that was hanging around. I have no idea what kind of bird it is though. Look at all this information I’m throwing your way!!

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Walking around on the island was quite the experience. It was squishy, and at some points it felt like we might sink right through! They know what they’re doing though, and we were safe and sound.

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Now this was just crazy. They have solar panels attached to their huts and use the electricity to power TVs, hot plates, lights, and radios. They told us they might be getting internet out there soon. Unreal!

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Cat-dog fight!!! The cat totally won. 

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Look what I found!! Can I keep him????”

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And finally, a neat shot from our hotel room in Puno.

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Now, here’s where things get interesting. Our overall impression of the islands was not the greatest. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very fascinating experience, but sadly it is incredibly commercialized. From the moment we stepped foot on the islands, we were constantly being sold, sold, sold. We ended up having to wait around for an hour on the “capital city” of the islands, where people could buy postcards, eat at the restaurant, get a cold cerveza, and buy lots of very very over-priced souvenirs. 

This issue comes up a lot during travel. Often times you find that so many tourists have come before you, that the locals have changed their ways to suit the travelers. Are we perpetuating this by traveling? Is it something we just have to live with? I’m not really sure of the answers to those questions, unfortunately. And it was a pretty upsetting experience. We were all quite disappointed and decided not to spend any more time at Lake Titicaca.

A caveat for all you reading this: this is simply our experience, and may very well be in opposition to the experience you would have. Travel is a very personal thing, and no one can tell you what you will or will not enjoy. I’m sure many people find visiting those islands to be a fantastic time, and that’s great! It simply was not for us.

That being said, we heard from another traveler that the Amantani island was very enjoyable, so if you plan on going to Lake Titicaca, that would be a good one to visit! 

After spending most of our time in Puno being sick, we were really ready to get out of there. We hopped on a bus (luckily avoiding a bus strike that could have stranded us!) and made our way back to Cusco. We’re now about to journey to Machu Picchu! It should be quite the adventure! 

Hope you’re all enjoying following along so far! We’ve been really lucky to find internet very easily, and are hoping that’s the case for the rest of the trip so we can keep you all updated!

Until the next post, lots of love,

Lauren & Rob

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