What is so special about Lake Titicaca?

The biggest knitted objects in the world are the 62 self-fashioned Uros Islands in Peru’s Lake Titicaca (the world’s highest navigable lake at 12,500 feet above sea level).  The most remarkable thing about Lake Titicaca is its floating Islands and the people who live there. Each island is no more than 90 feet wide and is strong enough to hold several hundred people, buildings and boats (balsas). The Uru people collect totora reeds, which grow in the lake, and weave their dense roots together to form sturdy layers called ‘khili’ (about one to two metres thick). These are anchored with ropes attached to sticks driven into the bottom of the lake. The reeds at the bottom of the islands rot away fairly quickly, so new reeds are added to the top constantly, about every three months. If well maintained, an island can last for 30 years.

The houses and boats of the Uro people are built from the same reeds using a similar technique to that of the islands. They also make handcrafted items that they sell to visitors to the floating islands. About every six months they have to lift up and move their houses and buildings so that they can add another layer to the reeds of the floating island. When the Totora is pulled for construction, part of the root is eaten because it’s a rich source of iodine. It is also used for pain relief, tea and to cure a hangover. Fishing and hunting for birds is one of the main ways of getting food on the islands. The Uros also eat the guinea pigs and ducks that they keep on the islands. Waterbirds are also kept on the island but for helping them fish or for their eggs. On the islands, there is a traditional school and a Christian school that are the main sources of education on the islands. As the kids get older and start looking for university they will likely leave the lake and head to the mainland to study in Puno.

The Uro’s way of living is one to marvel at but is also extremely difficult and steadily disappearing. Many still live in the traditional way, hauling reeds into their boats, reconstructing the islands, heading off onto the lake to fish, but many of the young people are leaving and start a different life on the mainland. Daily life here depends mostly around the reeds that grow in the lake, they provide food, housing and transportation.  It is a life of hard work and long days in a harsh climate.

In recent years, tourism has become an important part of the Uro economy. People have opened their homes and welcomed visitors from all over the world. Their unique lifestyle and breathtaking Lake Titicaca make the floating islands a must when passing Puno.

Picture Credit : Google 

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