A Travellerspoint blog

Bolivia

Lake Titicaca's Islands in the Sun

semi-overcast 16 °C

We are now in the Bolivian town of Copacabana having spent the past two days visiting some of Lake Titicaca's inhabited islands. The world's highest navigable lake is shared between Peru and Bolivia and we began on the Peruvian side by taking a boat to the Uros Islands from Puno...
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This group of 42 islands with houses, medical centre and even some junior schools, certainly looks concrete enough, although it is immediately obvious that all the buildings are made of reeds cut from the surrounding waters. Here's a first glimpse of the islands inhabited by the Aymara people...
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It is only when you step onto the islands that you appreciate there is nothing solid underfoot. As you feel the ground give way slightly with every step you realise that you are actually walking on water. This is not a religious experience. It is simply that all the islands are floating. Great masses of totora reeds grow on the lake's surface and support themselves on dense beds of floating roots. The Aymara build layer upon layer of reeds on these natural rafts until they are able to support the weight of houses and people....
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Although more than two thousand people once lived on these islands, today they are something of a tourist novelty. Most inhabitants actually live on land and only visit to maintain the islands and entertain visitors. Equally entertaining are the garishly painted traditional boats made from the reeds,,,
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In 1970 a replica boat built from Lake Titicaca reeds successfully crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Morocco to Bermuda and proved Thor Heyerdahl's theory of inter-continental migration by early civilizations possible.

From the Uros floating islands we travelled further out into the lake to visit the Quechua people of Taquile Island. Some two thousand people actually live on this steep-sided piece of rock and work on terraces in the thin atmosphere more than 13,000 feet above sea level. They grow native potatoes, corn and lima beans and we are reminded that this is where these three crops were all discovered by the Europeans in the 16th century...
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Here's Sheila dancing with the locals after enjoying some excellent lake trout in a restaurant some 1,000 feet above the lake surface on Taquile Island – and in case you are wondering, we climbed all the way up there.
We later learned the trout are not native but were introduced from Canada in 1940. Here's a view of the lake from the path that took us to the mountain top...
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Our next Titicaca island is the most revered of all. It is Isla del Sol, (Sun Island), in the Bolivian end of the lake. It is a mystical island where it is said the Inca Empire began.
Our ascent to the top of this mountainous island started with the 208 precipitous stone steps cut into the rocks by the Incas some 800 years ago...
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Climbing is very hard in the thin atmosphere above 13,000 feet but we persevered and continued to the top for fabulous views of the surrounding lake and the distant snow capped peaks of the High Andes...
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We also got a smile of welcome from a little girl with her pet alpaca named Albino..
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Next stop - the World's highest capital city.

Posted by Hawkson 06:24 Archived in Bolivia Comments (3)

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