Peru - floating islands

These particular islands of Lake Titicaca can be reached easily from the port of Puno, many operators offer a daily excursion that includes two destinations, the floating islands and the island of Taquile. The floating islands are located in the nearby little bay of Juli and are immersed in an area where a robust rush is growing a fundamental element of the ancient population of the Uros. The reed came and is used to create floating islands where everything is based on this vegetable, not only the creation of the base of support of the individual islands, but also the "terrain" on which to walk, the huts in which to live, the beds and shelves, boats for sailing and fishing, some tools, etc. The inhabitants of these islands have abandoned the difficult life of their ancestors based above all on fishing, the simplest and most profitable tourism. The boats that take tourists (of the lances with about 20 passengers) head in the various reed islands avoiding overlaps. The group of tourists arrives on one of these islands and is welcomed by men, women and children in traditional clothes. The visit consists of an explanation of how the islands are built and maintained, in illustrating the daily life, visit some huts where the locals live and then propose handicrafts as souvenirs, all very touristy ....

The fact remains that these islands are really special, as is their construction and maintenance. The construction of an island starts from the raw material that will form the base of the island itself. In the area of the reeds, with special tools, "clods" of earth and reeds are taken, the earth is a parallelepiped having a base of about 50-70 cm and about 100 cm high. These parallelepipeds are transported to the point where they want to build the island and are connected to each other with cords (always made from the reed) so that they stand still with respect to each other, in this way the island grows on the surface up to the desired size. The roots of the reeds, present in the "clods", side by side, continue to grow and expand, thus entering the nearby clods, thus contributing to the consolidation of the island. To avoid the island deriving, along its perimeter, poles are planted and tied with ropes (again derived from the rush) to poles that have been stuck on the solid bottom of the lake.

Thus the island is born whose shape is often not regular and has a surface ranging from 500 to 1000 square meters. The next step is to create a walkable "ground" that is made up of reeds simply placed and arranged in bundles in a crossed way. The necessary layer is about 40-50 cm. that periodically must be renewed. Now we continue with the construction of the huts, from the smaller ones in the shape of an Indian hut (for example, for the pantry or for tools) to the larger ones (for example for the bedrooms) that have a supporting structure that is made of wood which is then covered with rushes as well as the roof. The latter are raised about 70 cm from the island level (they resemble stilt houses) to limit the danger of water entering in case of rough waters of the lake. Particular attention is taken in cooking food, the risk of fires is very high. The dry rush is used as a fuel inside special braziers in terra cotta on which the pots for cooking food are placed.

Another unique characteristic of these populations are the boats. They are also made of reed, layers of dry vegetable are tied together so as to assume the desired shape that, traditionally, sees the bow and the stern very similar with a strongly raised tip. On the bow are made of heads of animals with a lot of mouth, teeth, ears, etc. The largest boats for transporting more people (see tourists ...) are made up of two rattan boats joined by a central two-storey wooden body, thus assuming a shape similar to a catamaran.

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