I’m on a year long global adventure with my family. I expected to visit a lot of interesting places, but I could not have imagined I would stay on a floating island! Let me tell you about my unforgettable experience on the Uros Islands of Lake Titicaca, Peru.
Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable body of water on Earth, currently sitting at approximately 12,500ft above sea level, and it is the largest lake in South America. Millions of years ago, Lake Titicaca was formed by tectonic plate movements that pushed up a small piece of the ocean, along with the Andean mountain range. Today, you can still find traces of salt in the lake.
One group of indigenous people built floating boats and floating islands, all out of totora reeds. Although nobody knows for sure, a common theory is that these indigenous people, called the Uros, lived on these boats and islands to escape Incan slavery during the 1400's. The Uros people are still living on these self-made islands today, and my family and I were able to spend two nights with Uros families, completely off the beaten touristy path.
A day in the life of the Uros people starts in a pretty relaxed way. The head of the household awakes at sunrise (when we were there that was at about 6 am), to go and gather the fishing nets set the previous day. Usually, the catch will be about 20-40 small fish, depending on the
time of day and area of the net. After boating back and giving the fish to the women, the head of the household does small chores around the island until breakfast (which will be fish soup with potatoes or frybread).
After breakfast, all of the family members wash dishes and untangle nets, while the children get ready to be picked up (by community boat) for school at 8:30 am.
In the afternoon, the head of the household will lay some fishing nets for the next day and will cut totora reeds for island maintenance. The family will eat lunch around 1:30 pm, when the kids are back from school. They usually eat more fish, potatoes, and some grain, like quinoa. The family eats a very small soup dinner after the sun goes down, which is good because the island gets very cold at night. All of the families sleep at about 7:30 or 8pm and repeat the same activities the following day.
We slept in a totora reed house and spent time working with a family and playing with kids and pets. I tried to help where I could, but I felt like I didn’t know how to help or that I was slowing the family down. For example, I tried to help get the Karachi fish (catch of the day) out of the nets, but while I slowly untangled one fish from the net, I noticed the head of the family, Antonio, popped out ten fish easily! Aside from work and school, there isn’t much time or luxury (or space) to do useless activities that we call entertainment. I found myself desperately trying to find something to do that I would enjoy to occupy my time, like simple games, stargazing, and exploring the small island.
It was a great experience for a few nights. I got to learn about Uros culture and realize how dependent American culture is on entertainment, but I am not sure I could ever live there. Aside from the lack of activities, a few other drawbacks include the smell of the totora reeds, from being damp, and the bathroom system which involves boating out to the totora reeds. I think you pretty much have to be born there to
want or know how to live on the Uros Islands.
That being said, there is something really peaceful about living in harmony with nature. It made this experience all the more unforgettable! Insta: @franklin_street_globetrotters