Awake on the bus at an unearthly hour, today we were crossing over to Bolivia via the Uros Islands.
The islands, in Lake Titicaca, are formed with a two foot layer of peat and are regularly topped up with the local totora reed. Back in the Inca days the Uros fled to the lake and invented this ingenious way to escape their followers, thus ensuring their survival. Getting out there is no hassle, you can either book through one of the touts at the Puno Bus Terminal on arrival or walk down to the docks to do the same.
Before we’ve even left the dock we’re joined by a local with a guitar who strums out a tune with his empty hand thrust out upon completion. Cutting through the calm morning waters under the clear azure sky, the captain navigates up the reed channel to our first Island, Flotante. Taking our first steps on the floating island is akin to absolutely nothing encountered before. Each step is taken with trepidation, sinking up to three inches with the unnerving feeling that the next step could have you knee deep in Titicaca.
Sitting down to for a translated talk from one of the local elders, the local ladies come out and sing a song in four different languages finishing in English. It’s Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Following this we’re assigned a ‘resident’ and house for an insight into daily life with the opportunity to dress up in the local garb. There are rumours that these ‘locals’ actually live on the mainland, venturing out each day just for the tourists, and when you can’t seem to find a single bed in the house you visit it’s easy enough to believe.
Afterwards the community lay out all their wares for sale, almost pleading with our names which they’d all learnt earlier in that tone that either gets its hooks in or just plain pisses you off. With no purchase we’re then herded onto the ‘optional’ boat ride (at an extra cost) to the next island, Hananpacha, with more souvenir shops and a restaurant. A lookout tower is a nice vantage point over several of the islands with tin roofs showing that the modern machine even reaches out into the Lake.
Back on terra firma we’ve time for a bus terminal lunch before the trip into Bolivia and the lakeshore town of Copacabana.
TIPS UROS ISLANDS
- It’s easily achievable to visit the Uros Islands on a day trip. Once arriving on the overnight bus from Cusco, find a tout, cough up the coin and you can make it back in time to get the bus to Copacabana on the Bolivian side that afternoon.
- You will get politely forced to take to the tourist boat from one island to the next for 10 Soles. Just remember it’s a pittance of a cost and will help the locals. They will also attempt to guilt trip you into buying their wares.
- Their version of embroidery is locally made and here will have the best prices.