The power of reed – The floating islands of Lake Titicaca

On the way back to mainland Puno, we stop off at the floating Islands of Lake Titicaca. These 2.5m deep reed floating Islands accommodate around 30 to 40 Uros descendants (a tribe that predates the Inca’s), is around 10m by 10m’s large in mass, each have their own president, and a ‘lawyer’ which is actually a rusty old hacksaw that the president uses to slice up the reed island whenever there’s an irreconcilable dispute between the islands inhabitants.

What happens when they don’t like their neighbours? They pull up their anchors and float upstream until they find neighbours that they can stand to live near.

This floating tribe uses reed for EVERYTHING – to build their island, their homes, their boats and watch towers, they even eat the reed.

T, as Chris picks up a piece of reed from the floating island’s ground – ‘Chris! why are you eating their floor?!’

Chris, casually chewing – ‘It’s ok, we can eat this’

Local guide, with the islands president – ‘No no no,’ takes away the bad reed from Chris and gives him a new cleaner looking edible piece.

T explains – ‘The reed they eat is fresh. The reed on the floor is a part of the ground that everyone, including the island’s live stock, walks all over and pisses on’

Chris, understanding – ‘Oh, I thought it was the same stuff they gave us earlier!’ then hungrily continues to chew on the new reed.

Why do the Uros people chose to live like this? Most of the villagers go to the mainland to work, then come back home to the island to stay. But if there is no work, this way they don’t have to pay rent or land taxes. They can fish in the lake, catch ducks, and hunt down eggs from the lakes wildlife, even keep chickens on their island.’

Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca is the highest lake in the world (12,500 ft above sea level) and is the largest in South America bordering both Peru and Bolivia. The group was having an excursion across Lake Titicaca to get to the Tiquile and Amantani islands, a 4 hour journey from mainland Puno (Peru) in what seemed like a little tug boat filled with 25 people.

The scenery over the lake was fantastic, with a variety of water birds, fisher men and clouds in blue skies to watch, and the first hour went along smoothly while sitting next to Cansu discussing the political issues that Australians face.

I don’t know if it was the
bad karma from talking politics on a holiday, or perhaps the crazy driving of our captain combined with strong winds and choppy waves, but the second half of the journey found many people sea-sick and nauseous, including Cansu and myself. No longer could I look out the window and appreciate the scenery without needing to have a spew. In fact, Cansu did have a little spew out the window. Technically speaking, being in that state and hanging your head out the window to have a spew is NOT the same, and is much more considerate, than vomiting inside the boat, which spoke wonders of Cansu’s character 🙂

I sat there eyes tightly closed, being violently rocked, smelling and hearing the sick of everyone, wishing for a fast and merciful death. This was the kind of stuff Hell was made out of.

Recommendation – Never accept a boat ride over an hour-long without the adequate anti-sea sickness drugs.