Monday, November 8, 2010

The Uros Islands of Lake Titicaca..

Travel Diaries: 8th Oct


The Reed Islands of Titicaca


There are plenty of tours on offer...and the thing to do in Puno is visit the reed islands of Titicaca.
We haggled a bit and got ourselves what we though was a good good deal for 15 soles each.
We were picked up from our hotel and found ourselves waiting in the port.  The port is incredible, crowded with boats,  and to the naked eye looks like they are encroaching on the land beyond into the Hilly city of Puno

The Port in Puno
Our boat was soon ready. And before we knew it we were off on the ride. The invigorating breeze  carried the smell of the water as the boat sped through the clear waters.  Our first glimpse of the Islands of Uros was when we saw cows eating grass on what looked like land....
 Our First glimpse of the Uros Islands
The Uros are an ancient  tribe. Legend had it that there were here on Earth even before the Sun , the sustainer of life warmed it. Every civilization seems to have a tale very like the Garden of Eden...
And in this culture it is believed that the Uros, once so mighty that they could not even be struck by lighting lost their super human powers on account of disobeying the law that they should not mix with humans. The condemned tribe became the Uro Aymara.

"History becomes legend and legend becomes myth" - JRR Tolkein in the Lord of the Rings


Whatever the legend has to say may seem impossible to believe, but this is known for certain that the Uros predated the Inca Civilization. The Reed islands are masterfully built and speak volumes of what the Uros were capable of. They once payed taxes to their Inca conquerors and were even taken as slaves.

The Reed islands of Titicaca
We got of from our boats to a traditional welcome from the Woman folk of the Uros and then sat around listening to our guide talk us through how the islands are built
Earthern Pots

Woman of the Island Cooking..

Handicrafts made on the island..
Cooking fires are always built on a layer of  stone or clay. This is done to protect the highly inflammable reeds from potential fire accidents.
The Reed Boats
The reed boats are one of the oldest known boats in the world. They take up to a month to build. These boats called Tatora are the principle means of communication between the islands.
Model demonstrating how the islands are made
The islands are made from what is called 'Tartora Reeds'. The reeds are native to the ecosystem here . The dense roots of the reeds form the base of the island. It is this base that supports the layers of reeds put out on top. The reeds rot and so have to be regularly replaced. The reeds are even eaten and are believed to keep teeth and gums strong. We were given samples. Lets just say its an acquired taste :).
You bring out the Peruvian in me :)
The people here turn to the sea for a living, in recent times supplementing their meagre incomes through tourism. We were welcomed warmly into their houses. It was fun trying on the local attire. :)
The Reed Boats of Titicaca
We took a small boat ride through the island. It was lovely. The short ride took us to an island on the opposite side , a much bigger and more touristy proposition.
The Island of Titicac
There are close to 40 islands in this area. Our guide pointed out to solar panels. There were schools on the islands. But the closest Universities are all in Puno.  There are close to 2000 people who live here.  Only a few actually live in the island. Through the years , through marriage there has been intermingling between the Uros and the people from mainland Puno. The original language Aymara is no longer spoken. Through the years it has been linguistically eroded and has consequently almost disappeared.

It is amazing that the people of the Uros have managed to maintain their culture in the midst of all huge challenged , the chief among them being loss of livelihood to commercial fisherman. Tourism has provided sustenance and thrown in some sort of a lifeline. No matter what hurdles they have left behind over  the present century will present bigger challenges. And here's hoping that this ancient people show the same resilience they have shown over the past 500 or more years.

2 comments:

  1. Looks like a different world altogether! Lovely pictures.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Mridula - Thanks. Yup it was very beautiful :)

    ReplyDelete

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