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Old 02-03-2013, 10:07 PM   #50
huzar OP
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Joined: Aug 2009
Location: Bellevue, WA
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Friday, January 25th, 2013 Exploring Late Titicaca

I’ve been wanting to come here to the lake and see its islands for a while. The floating islands of the Uros especially held a strong interest for me. Last night we had made arrangements for a tour of the floating islands and the Isla Taquile through an outfit here in Puno. They picked us up from our hotel at 7am, and took us to the dock. There we boarded a tourist boat. The itinerary would be the floating islands of Uros first, then about a two and half hour run to Isla Taquile, lunch and walking around there, and then a three hour cruise back to Puno.

Our captain Amadeo and our guide, Guido:

Porwit-20130125-0618-Orig by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

Entering Uros:

Porwit-20130125-0620-Orig by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

The floating island of Uros is a bit of a disappointment. The place feels way too touristy – like the people don’t even live here, they just come here to do the demo for the tourists, sell them some trinkets, and move on. Also, the islands are really no longer Uros. Rather, they are Aymara, as the Uros have intermarried themselves into extinction as a tribe. Nevertheless, there are some interesting tidbits about how the floating islands themselves are made, and the many uses of the totora reed that grows abundantly in this part of the lake. Of a total of about 60 floating islands, about 40 choose to participate in tourism.

Most everything here is made from totoro reeds:

Porwit-20130125-0624-Orig by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

The welcoming committee on our island:

Porwit-20130125-0626-Orig by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

An explanation of how the island is built -- the thick, floating mats of roots are harvested by means of a saw, then totoro is laid down upon that, and finally huts and other structures are built on top of that:

Porwit-20130125-0635-Orig by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

Women in local garb:

Porwit-20130125-0641-Orig by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

Hewby goes native:

Porwit-20130125-0647-Orig by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

They have little gardens and chicken coops on these islands as well:

Porwit-20130125-0650-Orig by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

Kids amusing themselves by jumping from the tower of a reed boat onto the reed island below:

Porwit-20130125-0671-Orig by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

The trip to Isla Taquile is long, and we sleep most of the way there. Upon our arrival on the island, we’re given a bit of a history and culture lesson by our guide, and then marched up the hill. Man, walking uphill at fourteen thousand feet sucks – how did I ever get up Rainier? About two thousand Quechua speakers populate the island. It is a UNESCO site, and they appear to run themselves with a fair bit of autonomy. It used to be a prison for many years, but was handed back to the native people in the 70's. The men concern themselves with knitting – they make hats, satchels, belts, and skirts for their wives and daughters to wear, etc. The women make yarn and weave. We ate lunch, and walked up to the plaza and then across the island to another harbor, where the boat picked us up. The vibe on Isla Taquile was more to my liking – while tourism was clearly a part of the fabric, it didn’t feel like a performance put on for the benefit of tourists.

The path up from the entrance harbor:

Porwit-20130125-0677-Orig by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

Ever-present terraces:

Porwit-20130125-0687-Orig by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

Local women selling crafts:

Porwit-20130125-0686-Orig by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

The plaza, with an entrance arch:

Porwit-20130125-0690-Orig by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

The plaza is high up on the hill, with a great view of the surroundings:

Porwit-20130125-0694-Orig by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

Potatoes in bloom:

Porwit-20130125-0696-Orig by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

More terraces. Don't these people get tired of building them?

Porwit-20130125-0701-Orig by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

The exit arch:

Porwit-20130125-0705-Orig by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

We had another three-hour ride back to Puno. I hung out on the roof deck for most of the way, taking in the sights. On the way back, we went past the floating islands again, as we were dropping off two passengers who had chosed to spend the night on one of the islands. The horizon was black as we approached, and it looked like we would soon get a soaking.

It got a little chilly on the ride back:

Porwit-20130125-0715-Orig by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

The darkening horizon:

Porwit-20130125-0719-Orig by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

The tourist exhibits have been put away for the day and wrapped up to face the storm:

Porwit-20130125-0726-Orig by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

Local runabout:

Porwit-20130125-0751-Orig by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

Cool door on the cathedral in Puno:

Porwit-20130125-0759-Orig by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

Nice knocker:

Porwit-20130125-0761-Orig by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr

A heavily-armed police assault squad, with broken-down truck:

Porwit-20130125-0763-Orig by Marcin Porwit, on Flickr
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