Friday, October 26, 2012

Traveling in Peru [Part4]: Sillustani and the Floating Islands of Uros in Lake Titicaca

After our stay in Colca Canyon we headed south to the famed Lake Titicaca. LT, often called the highest navigable lake in the world (although I hear that moniker isn’t quite accurate), is divided between the countries of Peru and Bolivia. Both countries claim at least 60% of the lake. There is currently a bit of discussion as to who owns exactly which parts. 

Which are, essentially, an old graveyard for Inca and Aymara peoples. Only the important folk got the giant towers. 

According to our guide, upon death the VIP was naturally mummified and 20 of his closest servants and concubines were killed, in order to keep him company in the afterlife. The mummies were placed in the towers and offered gifts and sacrifices, with the understanding that the VIP would keep things calm on earth. I’m making light of this - mostly because I asked our guide how the concubines felt about sacrificing themselves upon the death of their benefactor and our guide swore up and down that the gals gladly followed him into the afterlife. 

I’m not buying it, Peeps.  Not drinking that cool aid. 

Incidentally, that is a wild guinea pig, which is called cuy, and is a local delicacy. We tried the fried version and it was pretty tasty. The bird is the andean version of our Northern Flicker and just like here in Seattle, they are often cursed at for pounding large holes in the abodes of the local residents

After our trip to Sillustani, it was on to Puno and Lake Titicaca. 

First up: Lake Titicaca is beautiful. Huge. Sapphire blue and very, very deep.

I wasn’t terribly impressed with Puno, the city beside the shores of LT. It was bustling, and brown, and there was garbage everywhere. I’m sure many folks will tout its many virtues and hidden gems - but we’ll just have to agree to disagree regarding the beauty of Puno. I was also sick here with GI Tract issues so perhaps that colored my perception a bit.

The Floating Island of Uros, however, are an entirely different story.


 According to our guide, the Uros people originally lived on the banks of LT but permanently took to the water to escape marauding bands of other lakeside inhabitants. 

The islands are composed entirely of cut grasses and have quite a bouncy consistancy. If you didn’t have a spring in your step upon arrival, you certainly do when traversing the settlement! It’s like a giant outdoor bouncy house.

Each extended family unit has their own island; the one we visited had three homes. 

Residents eat fish, waterfowl, and other lake-related products. Here are a few duck eggs:

You can see the style in which most of the married women wear their hair: two plaits connected at the bottom by yarn pom-poms. We observed this, along with the brightly colored skirts, all across Peru.

Here is one family group:

Most everything, including the homes and boats, are constructed of reeds. 

This lucky lady has gone modern, however: she is in possession of a wooden boat!

Today, many of the residents survive off of proceeds from tourism. 

 We took a ride in one of the boats. They are beautiful although definitely not built for speed. I think in the case of the Uros people, having a stable platform from which to fish is of paramount importance. 

There was quite a variety in the style of homes: some were round, others square with sloping roofs, others were corrugated metal.

Reed harvesting. If you don’t resupply your island every so often, they’ll become waterlogged and sink. Thus, home upkeep is of vital importance. 

I went a little nuts with the panorama shots. 

Ben stayed in the pack for most of this adventure. He becomes a little crazy around water and forgets that he can’t really swim yet.