Puno, Lake Titicaca

Puno Travel Blog

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Lake Titicaca. Floating islands
When you last heard from us, we had just reached the small town of Puno, in Southern Peru. After finally managing to rid ourselves of a rather clingy taxi-driver, who also dived for our bags and became our uninvited porter (all for extra $$ of course), we settled in to the quirky Hotel Pukara for the night. Our guide book says that it "Strives to leave no corner undecorated", and it didn't.

We came to Puno as it is the departure point for trips out onto Lake Titicaca. At 3820m above sea level, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world and the largest in South America. It is around 170km long, and the border with Bolivia runs through it.
We took a trip out to the Isla Flotantes (floating islands) which are artificial islands made from layers of the reeds that grow in the lake, therefore floating.
More reeds placed at regular intervals on the surface of the lake replace those that rot out under water. They vary in size, and many people live on them. The larger ones have a school and post office. The people who live on the islands are of various ethnic descents and have been living there for centuries, mainly untouched by the modernities of the mainland.

The surface of the islands are soft and springy to walk on. You are warned not to step on any rotten parts. The Isla Flotantes are close to the mainland (there are others much further out) and therefore get a lot of daytripping tourists visiting. The islanders didn't take long to catch on to tourism, and as soon as the first gringo sets foot on the island of a day, the covers are whipped off the trinket tables. The people who live on the islands however are very poor. They really only just eke out a living, and the only two industries are fishing and tourism. There is nowhere to grow anything, and I can imagine that there wouldn't be a lot of heating for the cold, high altitude nights (due to lack of fuel and the fact that they live on a huge fire hazard).
The reeds that make up the islands are also used to make their simple huts and also their boats (which range from simple canoes to more elaborate twin hulled masterpieces). These can hold many people and last around 6 months until the bottom starts rotting out.

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Lake Titicaca. Floating islands
Lake Titicaca. Floating islands
photo by: lrecht