The final leg of the incredible 11 Day Affordable Peru with Nazca Lines was in the City of Puno in the south-eastern part of Peru. The highlight of this tour was the visit to the mystical floating islands of Uros located on Lake Titicaca, located between the borders of Peru and Bolivia and considered to be the largest lake in South America and often referred to as the highest navigable lake in the world with a surface elevation of over 120,000 feet.
Every city and town and small village in Peru is enchanting no doubt, but there is something about Puno that offers it an extraordinary mystical allure to it.
Puno does get its fair share of international tourists but that does not detract from the fact that it still has a local town feel with several artisan shops and local restaurants that cater to both the tourists and locals. Shopping for Alpaca wool is an excellent choice here. Shop around a bit at first though to get a baseline price of the item you are interested to buy. Unlike in Cusco, there aren’t that many English speaking vendors in Puno marketplace, but if you have basic conversational Spanish knowledge, you will get by without any problem. Plus the local vendors appreciate the fact that you can converse in the native tongue, even it is at a basic level.
The hotel that Gate 1 Travel put us up at was the Royal Inn Hotel located in the heart of downtown right beside the Cathedral square. The final night involved a gathering of the guests on our Gate 1 tour in one of the hotel rooms for a night of fun and laughter to wind down after a very hectic but magical experience traveling across Peru.
Lake Titicaca and the Uros Island Experience
A visit to Peru must include a trip to one of the most unique habitats in this world – the floating islands of Uros.
It is called the floating islands because they are man-made and actually float on water. The islands are formed predominantly of reed bundles that are tightly bound by rope to prevent them from getting afloat.
An island houses anywhere from 4 to 15 families (households). In case of “land disputes” with the neighbor, the residents have an unorthodox way of resolving such disputes and one which involves a saw! They simply cut through the reed bale and drift apart from the neighbor! Problem solved!
The original inhabitants of the islands were the Aymara tribes or Uru people who predate the historically prominent Inca Civilization. The legend goes that when the influence of the Inca kingdom was reaching the then boundaries of the Aymara settlement, the locals decided to remain independent and came up with the idea to construct the reed bale islands on Lake Titicaca. The intention was to prevent the Inca kingdom to tread on their territories by essentially not having any territory on land. The floating island concept worked well to get the groups to continuously move along the Lake in case of any advancing threat that arose. Check out the following slide show sequence of a demonstration by the local visitor experience team on how the islands are created.
The reeds get eroded and the island loses depth every few weeks and the residents have to continuously top up the islands to stay afloat.
When walking on these islands, it feels like one is bouncing off the ground given the buoyancy of the island on the water.
The locals navigate on similar reed made boats involving intricate designs.
Given the relative isolation of the island inhabitants from rest of civilization, the locals engage in intra-group trade and still follow the ancient bartering system of exchanging goods or services as medium of payment. Of course traditional customs and beliefs are waning with the advent of tourists, modern schooling, and satellite TV!! How they manage to run electric cables on these islands are beyond my comprehension. But where there is a will there is a way, I suppose.
As part of a gift exchange ceremony with one of the island visitor experience operators, I handed over my new Calgary Stampede 2013 T-shirt over in exchange for a miniature reed boat.
Journeys can take you somewhere mysterious and fun. There is an old saying “One cannot find magic, only magic can find you“. I can attest to this saying. Often times, when you seek adventure travel, you just have to let it go and let the adventure seek you.
Disclaimer: A portion of this tour was sponsored by Gate1 Travel. Check out their other incredible tours in Peru.
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