by Erin Elaine
Yes, I’m very very very behind!!
I was originally going to spend a day and a half each on the Uros and Taquile, but food poisoning kicked in right before, and I wanted more access to medicine, soup, and gatorade. Once my health improved, I did a one-day tour that included both.
PART I – UROS
Centuries ago, the Uros people took to the lake to avoid being conquered by the Incas. They built floating islands from reeds. Today there are about 80 of these islands. Their traditional way of life is to fish in the lake, and occasionally go ashore to trade fish for potatoes. Those were their 2 main staples.
This is a model of how the islands work. Huge chunks of rootballs are cut away from the lakebed. Once free, they naturally float. Then, the inhabitants start layering cut reeds on top to make the living surface. Also a model of houses, a boat, and stove.
The surface of the islands feels like walking on a mattress. Apparently the fresh reeds can also be peeled and eaten. The inhabitants get around via boat. The smaller islands have no bathroom, it requires a short boat ride! Light was via candle until a few years ago, when they all transitioned to solar power to cut down on fires.
While the visit was interesting, it all felt a little contrived. Check out this blog post.
Onwards, to the more interesting half of the tour…
PART II – TAQUILE
On the island of Taquile, there are no police, and the people live by three rules: don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t be lazy. They are most well-known for their intricate textiles. The island is run on community collectivism (everything is run communally, including tourism, farming, etc.). Property must be sold or passed down within the island inhabitants, there are no vacation homes or hotels here. Tourists who want to stay must contact the island tourism board who will place them with a family. I had a reservation for this until my food poisoning kicked in. I really wish I’d been able to stay.
The tour began with a short hike up to a restaurant (the lake surface is at 12,500 feet or 3,800 meters, so even though it was short it wasn’t super easy). We ate delicious soup, and trout with a side of rice and potatoes.
After, a few locals demonstrated weaving…
Making shampoo from plants in about 60 seconds…
Even though this was another ‘cultural display’ it had a much more authentic feel to it than what we saw on Uros. The people clearly were very comfortable with each other, and behaved as if they were a family unit or at least close friends. They were smiling and truly seemed proud to share their culture. The intricate styles of the textiles, and the purpose for each piece of the design, were explained to us. The fact that they weren’t hawking cheaply-made goods, but merely trying to enrich our experience, made it much more enjoyable, meaning I learned more from it. And the fact that the island is run on collectivism makes me feel the locals are compensated fairly for this.
After this, we had an hour or two to walk to another port on the far side of the small island. It was mostly flat, and we got to see beautiful views along the way.