Lake Titicaca floating islands

Caramor - sailing around the world
Franco Ferrero / Kath Mcnulty
Thu 14 Sep 2017 03:39
When Franco and I did our research on Peru, the one thing that really didn't appeal was the Uros floating islands on Lake Titicaca, it just seemed like a tourism scam. In fact we were going to miss out Lake Titicaca altogether until we decided to spend a month at Santiago and Anya's place in Chucuito.

Now that we were here, we felt we should give them a chance. The boat trip out was 10 Soles (£2.50) plus a five Soles landing fee which wouldn't break the bank.

An Uros lady polling her motor boat in the shallows

The Uros people are a minority group that consider themselves descendants of the ancient Urus, who are generally recognised as the first major ethnic group to have settled in the Andes, specifically the Lake Titicaca watershed. As a result of successive invasions by Aymara populations and the Incas, an increasing proportion of the Uros became confined to floating islands and small villages around the lake.

Their economy was originally based on aquatic resources, especially fishing, bird hunting and gathering of bird eggs. Today, a small group still live this way but the vast majority rely on tourism for their livelihoods, most returning to Puno for the night. 

Arriving at the floating islands

‘Our’ island was Taypi Kile

Lumps of ’totora’ reed (giant bullrush sedge family) roots are cut from the bottom of the lake and tied together, then covered in ‘totora’ reeds and anchored to the bottom of the lake

Our fellow tourists being entertained on the island

Each boat (there are many) visits a different island in turn to share the tourists between the 'inhabitants'. The guide gave a short and interesting presentation about how the islands are constructed. Then we were 'invited' in groups of four into the 'dwellings'. Our hostess submitted us to a gruelling hard sell of her handicraft. Her husband then came in and added:

"You are going to buy aren't you?"

The other two were a young couple from Belgium and like us, did not take kindly to the shock tactics and, surprise-surprise, we didn't buy anything.

To escape from the island, Franco and I paid an additional 10 Soles each to sail by reed boat to the 'capital' island where we waited for the motor launch to pick us up.

A reed (and plastic bottle) boat 

Kath pleased to be escaping from Taipi Kile

‘Capital’ island

Our first taste of Inka Cola, bright yellow and the colour of antifreeze (Coca-Cola failed to penetrate the Peruvian market despite a multi-million dollar advertising campaign so in the end they bought Inka Cola for a fraction of the price)

There is so much they could have explained; their history, their language, their customs, how they make the handicraft, instead of bludgeoning us. The Uros floating islands have to be our worst tourist experience ever!

Heading back to Puno at last