One of the wonders of the world is the mysterious Lake Titicaca. It is part of the border between Peru and Bolivia. It is not on the list of the 7 Wonders of the World, but it surely should. The Salar de Uyuni is one of the most beautiful natural mirrors in the world. But the waters of this lake contain numerous legends and mysteries such as the Lake Titicaca floating islands.
Where are the lake Titicaca floating islands and the lake itself?
Lake Titicaca is the second largest on the planet. It also is the navigable lake at the highest altitude in the world. It has an area of 8562 km2. The Bolivian part occupies something less than half of that surface. The rest belongs to Peru.
In the area of the Bay of Puno, in Peru, you will find the lake Titicaca floating islands. These are floating surfaces constructed by the human being from braided roots of totora. The tribe of the Uru Chulluni lives there. Its subsistence is based on the ancestral culture linked to the lake, that depends on the multiple uses given to the totora. Fishing is also a basic source of wealth and food.
How are the Lake Titicaca floating Islands built?
It is the men who collect the totora, because they are the ones who know which roots are good for building the island. If they have a lot of land on them, they sink. To maintain them, every 20 days a new layer of totora is added on the surface. The islands are anchored with ropes, stakes and stones that sink to a depth of about three meters.
Between five and seven families live on each island. They subsist thanks to hunting and fishing that then they sell or change in the market of Puno. They also make beautiful and colourful embroidery and totora crafts that they sell to tourists who visit them. If you want a unique jewellery item, absolutely vegan, you must visit the floating islands in Lake Titicaca.
Also, the houses and some of the boats that they use are made with totora, a plant that they also eat and use as medicine. The houses are small, one-room dwellings where the whole family sleeps.
Legends of the floating islands of Lake Titicaca
Located at an altitude of 3,800 meters, the lake in which the Uros live is surrounded by mysticism. Titicaca, which means puma stone, is according to legend the place from which emerged Viracocha, the Sun God, who in turn sent Manco Capac to found the prosperous Inca culture in Cuzco.
The uros, meanwhile, were one of the first cultural formations of the Altiplano and its origin dates back to the time before the Inca Empire. According to some theories they came from Bolivia but migrated to the coastal areas after major droughts occurred between 900 and 1,200 AD.
At first, they lived on the mainland but decided to build floating islands to avoid being conquered by the Tiahuanacos, Collas and Incas. In addition, they discovered that in the middle of the lake they had more means of survival thanks to hunting and fishing. Their original language, the pukina, was lost and they adopted Aymara, which is now their language, together with Spanish.
The way of life in the Lake Titicaca floating islands
Each island has a president and there is a maximum boss for all of them.
The way of life is still traditional. But, along with some of the houses you can see small solar panels. The panels provide families with three hours of electricity at night.
The government of Alberto Fujimori was the first to deliver these panels to them, in the 90s, and in mid-2015 the government of the moment sent them another 600 plates. To avoid fires they cook outdoors on wet totora, although they also have some gas stoves that they use inside the houses when it rains.
The smallest members of the families play between the skirts of their mothers while they weave or cater to tourists. They also go to school, which is half an hour away by boat.
Many times it is the older children who row and take the youngest children to class. Some other times it is the teacher herself who travels the islands to take them to school.
The new generations of uros are changing and many of them are going to study or work outside. So perhaps this way of life becomes extinct.
But for now, the men and women of the Lake Titicaca floating islands keep coming out smiling to receive the visitor with their traditional “kamisaraki” (what’s up?).
The floating islands of Lake Titicaca can be visited, so if you do not want to miss this marvel of nature and man, discover our trips to Peru.