I spent the day at Machu Picchu (awesome) and then headed back to Cusco the same day. I spent the night there and headed to Puno, on Lake Titicaca. I made it from Iquitos in the north of Peru, to Puno far south on the border of Bolivia in 4 days. Phew!!!
This is the Uros Island on Lake Titicaca. The Uros were once a very peaceful people who moved to self-made floating islands on the lake, escaping warfare between Incas and other groups. This pre-Inca people survived by trading or selling fish, but nowadays the resources aren’t enough for them to sell any. The over-harvested lake is now only able to supply enough fish for local consumption; therefore the Uros rely entirely on tourism to subsist.
It is a bit ironic to see how this culture has been mainly preserved due to tourism, yettheir way of life and environment has been greatly affected by it. Without tourists they would have a really hard time surviving and would have, most likely, had to move and adapt to life on land; but they’ve kept their traditional clothing and maintained the floating islands (which need to be up kept constantly) in order to make a profit, which has helped preserve these culture. They went from being a fishing community to one whose life now revolves around getting money from tourists. If you visit and don’t buy any of the overpriced handcrafts, you will no longer be as welcomed. Many of the visitors I met during the tour told me they felt very guilty and forced to buy things.
The Uros can’t be blamed though. They were once a people that lived peacefully on the lake with an uncomplicated way of life, and throughout the years they’ve had to adapt to a capitalists society and the tourism that flooded the lake. These were concepts unknown to them and now they do as they must in order to continue living on the lake – a sacred place for the Incas.
The Uros speak Quechua, Aymara and Spanish. The islands they live on are made of layers of totora reeds – a very prolific plant that grows there – laid over floating soil that they cut and tie together. Totora reeds are very important for the Uros. Besides using them for the islands, it is also eaten and used to make boats and houses.
An example of how this community has changed their way of life in order to cater to tourists and profit is their “Mercedes Benz” vessel designed exclusively to take tourists for a ride at a varying price. This vessel doesn’t even have a Quechua, Aymara or Spanish name; it is simply called the “Mercedes Benz.”Despite the uncomfortable reality of these people, it is for sure a place to visit. It is absolutely beautiful and relaxing, although a bit expensive and of course, although they depend on tourism, the many boats on lake Titicaca are not helping the declining ecosystem.