Uros Floating Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru
Lake Titicaca is the world's highest lake navigable to
lying at 12,500 feet (3,810 m) above sea level in the
Andes Mountains of South America,
astride the border between Peru to the west and Bolivia
to the east.
Titicaca is the second largest lake of South America
The remnants of an ancient people, the Uru, still live on
floating mats of dried totora (a reedlike papyrus that
grows in dense brakes in the marshy shallows) on
floatings islands of Uro which are about 17.
From the totora, the Uru and other lake dwellers make
their famed balsas—
boats fashioned of bundles of dried reeds lashed together
that resemble the crescent-shaped papyrus craft pictured
on ancient Egyptian monuments.
These floating islands are the home of the Uros
tribe, one which pre-dates the Incan civilization.
According to their legends, they existed before
the sun, when the earth was still dark and cold.
They were impervious to drowining or being
struck by lightning.
They lost their status as super beings when
they disobeyed universal order and mixed
with humans, making them susceptible to
contempt. They scattered, losing their
identity, language, and customs.
They became the Uro-Aymaras, and now speak
Aymara. Because of their simple and precarious
lifestyle, the Incas thought them worth little and
accordingly taxed them very little. Yet the
Uros, with their basic reed homes outlasted the
mighty Incas with their huge stone temples and
The floating islands are protected within the
Bay of Puno and are home to 2000 or so Uros,
who claim to have quot;black bloodquot; are
consequently immune to the cold. They call
themselves be kot-suña, or people of the lake,
and consider themselves the owners of the lake
6/11/2009 and its waters. 8
The totora is a cattail
type rush growing
native in the lake. Its
dense roots support
the top layer, which
rots and must be
replaced regularly by
stacking more reeds
on top of the layer
beneath. The islands
change in size, and
more are created as
6/11/2009 the need arises.9
The Uros residents of the islands create their homes
from the reeds. The roofs are waterproof but not
Cooking fires are built on a layer
of stones to protect the reeds.
Residents wear layers of clothing, mostly woolen, to
protect themselves from the cold, the wind, and the
sun which at this altitude can burn fiercely. Many
women still wear the distinctive derby type hat and
Occasionally, if the level of the lake decreases, they may
plant potatoes in soil created by the decaying reeds, but as a
norm, they are not agricultural. The reed boats quite often
have an animal face or shape on the prow and are a favourite
They continue living by fishing, weaving and
now, tourism. They catch fish for themselves
and to sell on the mainland. They also catch
shore birds and ducks for eggs and food.
The largest island is currently Tribuna. The
surface of the islands is uneven, thin, and some
liken walking on it to walking on a waterbed. The
unwary might not notice a thin spot and sink a leg
or more into the frigid waters of the lake.
A main source of income for the Uros in
the present, tourism
The islands are part of the Titicaca National Reserve,
created in 1978 to preserve 37 thousand hectares of
marsh reeds in the south and north sectors of Lake