Where are we?

Uros floating Islands, Puno

We arrived in Puno late in the afternoon, long drive from our last spot. Had one crazy city to get through, no bypass route around the city, just straight thru the busy centre!! Found a Claro store to buy some more data, should be the last 3GBs I need to buy and should last until we leave Peru in a couple of days.

We were driving in the Altiplano again - still at 11,000' a huge flat valley with low mountains all around. Saw lots of vicuñas and also some more flamingos in the distance.

Along our travels came across this HUGE guinea pig sculpture 😃
Now we are at the highest navigable lake in the world at 12,700' Lake Titikaka.  8400 sq km and over 12,000' above sea level. With the Peruvian and Bolivian border going thru the middle.

I contacted a local guy - Yordi, that I found on IOverlander,  to set up a boat trip to the floating reed islands. He and his family actually live on one of the floating islands and I've read he does an excellent tour for only S/15 each! We'll do that trip in the morning.

Once we got to the spot we are overnighting at, we have a great view of the lake, I was surprised how close the islands are to the shore! I expected them to be way out in the lake. Our guide Yordi told me when I asked how long the boat trip was (before getting here) he said 20 minutes. There are lots of reeds between the islands and the shore. Last night even saw some lights out on the water so I guess they must have solar. We will find out this morning.
Those are just a few islands away from the main community -reeds between them and the shore 
The main islands in the centre - reed patch between them and the shore



The reason for the floating islands is because back in the Inca days the Uros people built these reed islands to get away from the Incas who were always fighting. This was their safe place to live without being bothered by the Incas. The islands have continued on ever since.

In the morning it looked like it was going to rain so contacted Yordi and changed our time to 1pm, hoping the weather will be better. Instead we head into Puno to check it out and go use up the last of our Peruvian soles on groceries. If we have any left I'm going to see if I can exchange it for US$.  Also glad we changed our boat trip to later because I wasn't feeling all that great - the usual hangover feeling without drinking!! And this will continue until we get to Chile I guess because Bolivia is pretty well at the same altitude as Peru if not a little higher. 😥

Water Plaza 

Cathedral Basilica - originally built in 1757 but burnt down and rebuilt in 1930 - beautiful bell towers

Beautiful sculpture work in the centre section - the church was closed when we arrived so couldn't see the inside
People are gathered to see postings on the wall for jobs, places to rent and commercial places to rent

Another water feature in Puno

A lot of Bolivia influence here because saw lots of ladies wearing bowler hats

Street cart selling quail eggs
At 1pm we met up with Yordi and Dina his wife. Yordi is 23 and Dina 20. He's been giving tours since last spring. Both he and his wife are very kind people and Yordi is very informative. We park Vanna and walk over to his boat - a 14' boat with a 15hp motor. No benches so Dwayne and I sit on the closed in bow, Dina sits on the floor of the boat and works on one of her crochet projects and Yordi pushes us off with a long pole until we get deep enough for him to use the motor.  In the meanwhile Dina is connecting the gas tank to the engine. We motor thru the reeds passing other boats coming and going. The passageways go all different directions thru the high reeds- really need to watch at the intersections! LOL!!  Within 20 minutes we are in the centre of all the floating islands. Yordi says there are 100 islands and each island has anywhere from four to eight family members. Plus each island has a mayor, Yordi is mayor of his island, next year it will be one of his sisters.

Yordi bringing the boat in closer for us to get in

He pushes us out of the shallow area

The passageway we are heading to
We arrive at his island and get out of the boat. On the island there are 5 huts. His mother lives here and 3 of his sisters and their kids. Yordi and Dina have no kids yet. They have been together for 2 years but cannot get married until he is 25. They can live together and have kids but not get married until Yordi is 25. Yordi built this island 8 years ago with his dad and grandfather. His grandfather lives on the next island over. His father lives in a house on land.

Yordi's explanation of how these islands are made was really interesting. They go out and cut huge pieces from the reeds nearby and then take them to where they want to permanently keep the island. All the pieces are tied together with stakes and rope and eventually they all grow together to give a base which can take about 1-2 years before they can actually live on the island. In that time period they stack cut reeds in layers on top of the base. So weird walking on the island because it is spongy and a little wet in areas that need additional reeds.  Every 2 weeks they have to add more reeds and keep stacking. The huts are built on a thick base about 2' thick to keep the huts dry. These huts can be lifted when the reed base that gets replenished gets too high, then a new base is made for the hut to sit on. Quite an ongoing job to keep these islands liveable! Once an island gets close to 30 years old it is finished. Forgot to ask what happens to it then, but he did say the islands can be towed so maybe they tow it away from the village to make room for another island. Amazing to think that these islands are 3 meters deep and float. But now a days they anchor the islands by way of a tying it to a pole secured into the bottom of the lake. Plus all the islands are just about touching each other so that keeps them in place. Also these islands are built in a bay of Lake Titikaka so there are no big waves to move them around.

Scout :)

We eventually all sit on the floor of the boat to get out of the cold wind


First of the islands we see - each hut is a family


Reed boats that have been built to take tourists around the islands

They all have a puma head at the front




This is Yordi's reed boat
This is his island, where they have small gardens that they can grow potatoes


This is the type of hut his grandfather lived in
His island is called Suma Marka - beautiful island in his language.  Lake Titikaka means - in their language titi is for puma and kaka is beautiful blue 

Here he shows how pieces of cut dirt, roots of the reeds, are cut  and roped together to form the start of an island. The pieces they actually cut are way bigger then this

They use to hack the pieces of dirt with a wooden stake but now they can cut the pieces with this saw
This is his old gun that he used for shooting birds - very simple muzzle loader

Once the island is tied together the reeds are stacked crosswise until thick enough to walk on
He then adds his little displays he made of the new hut and the old huts

Added a little ceramic cooker on top of a stone and they use the dried reeds for burning

Then he adds Dina and himself :) and that's your island family 

A couple of years ago the government provided each island with a small floating building that has a toilet and shower. The owners have to take the toilet tank to the mainland to empty it once it is full. On the roof of the building is a  water container that holds the water for cold showers and the toilet. Then a company came in also a few years ago to provide solar power to each hut for S/30 per month. This is enough to provide light and run a  TV.

Here you can see the solar panel outside of their hut and on the right is the bathroom with water tank on the roof - water comes from the lake
Yordi net fishes and collects eggs from nests in the reeds to provide food. Plus they go to the mercado every Saturday to buy staples like flour, salt etc. They have a small cooking area made of ceramic sitting on a rock for doing their cooking - outside one of the huts. He also said that a small boat comes around every morning with bread for sale.

This is their 'outdoor kitchen' washed dishes are laid on the reeds
Before leaving the island Yordi and Dina show us their hut and then dress us up in traditional clothing for a picture inside and outside the hut. Dina also has a table set up outside with souvenirs and the wall hangings she crochets. I bought a bright blue one that shows different activities of the family, the island with the huts, cooking, babies are always kept in the wrap on the mom's back so he/she doesn't fall off the island, collecting eggs from a nest, fishing from the reed boat, the "love taxi" when couples meet they get on a boat and paddle away from the islands to be alone - there is a saying "two go out but three come back" :)  Then their gods the condor, puma, snake.

This is inside their hut with their bed
Area above their bed
On the wall are the costumes for pictures and behind Dina is the battery for the solar
The wall hanging I bought

Here they've dressed us in traditional clothes. Because I am married the fluffy balls in front are beige, single woman have bright multi-colored fluffy balls
Love Dwayne's bag!
Yordi then took us back in the boat and over to an another island where they can buy gas for the boat. The owner of the gas "station" pours gas into the boat's portable gas tank using a litre jug.  After that he toured us around and showed us where the school is that has grades 1-6 and after that the kids have to go to school in Puno. There is also a kindergarten on another island. We also saw where tourists can spend the night in either a hut or more modern wooden cabins on a few different islands. Then we stopped at the tourist island. This is where all the bigger tourist boats arrive from Puno. Here there is a restaurant, a little store with coffee, tea and snacks and we could have had our passports stamped Uros Islands if we had brought them. There are also a couple of souvenirs stalls and also a fish pond.  A hole has been dug thru the island and lined with a net and filled with fish. Guess this is where the restaurant gets it's fish for the fish dinners. We buy coffee and a snack for all four of us - I had coca tea trying to feel better - but it doesn't really work.

One island has 3 catholic churches on it


Coming up to the gas 'station' the metal litre jugs and funnels on the table

Only dogs and cats are allowed on the islands, no llamas or alpacas because they will eat the island LOL!!

This shows how thick the reed top is on the dirt part

The school rooms - one room per grade



On most islands there is a tower - this one with a sun face - that they would climb to call to each other before cell phones :) 


this island has a restaurant which is only open in the morning

This island is actually growing a eucalyptus tree 

Now on the tourist (community) island

The fishing hole which is dug right thru the island 

Condor made out of reeds and behind it you can see the larger tourist boat from Puno

Tourist rentals 

Another tower made like a type of duck that they collect the eggs from 



more tourist rentals





Then is was time for us to head back. As we are motoring along there is a boat filled with cut reeds stopped so Yordi asks why and finds out the guy ran out of gas, so Yordi goes over and takes the rope at the front of the guys boat, ties it around the motor and tows him over to his island. Once we drop him off we head to shore.

Guy with his load of reeds out of gas

Yordi ties the rope onto the engine and pulls him to his island

We drop him off where other boats are loaded down with reeds
one island has 3 pigs on it to be eaten at some point
When we arrived back on shore Yordi wanted to see the inside of Vanna and both were surprised to see that it has a bathroom with a shower. Yes to them we are really living in luxury! We had our picture taken by a little girl, and then gave hugs and said goodbye. Later in the afternoon Yordi sent me a message asking if I could share the pictures of the four of us, which I did and he was very very thankful and wished us safe travels. Also asked that we give him a good recommendation on IOverlander, which I had already done.  Hoping his business continues to work out for him and Dina.