The Floating Islands of Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca, which is 3,812 m above sea level on the border of Bolivia and Peru, has floating islands made by the pre-Columbian tribe, the Uros. Yes, they build their own islets, float them on the lake and live on them too.
The idea initially came about during the Inca period when Uros wanted to escape from any threat or trouble on the mainland. This mobile way of living worked for them, so the inhabitants see no reason to move to solid ground now. What are these floating islands made from?
The Uros made 40 odd islands from the reeds that grows in abundance along the banks of the lake, the largest in South America. The bigger islands have around 10 families living on it, while the smaller ones, around 30 metres in diameter, have two to three families.
These reeds have dense roots which are interwoven to form a thick layer that supports the island. They are anchored with ropes attached to sticks drilled into the bottom of the lake, that will give the island some stability. Since the reed at the bottom of the island rots quickly, the tribe have to add new reeds constantly to the top. This is done at least four times a year and more during the rains. The reeds have great durability, even better than the concrete buildings, because they last for 30 years. To cook their food, mostly fish, Uros build fires on piles of stones so the island doesn’t catch fire. Like any ancient civilisation, this one too is under threat of losing its cultural identity due to large number of tourists traveling to the islands, so now only few islands are open to tourists. Some of these floating islands also have solar panels to run television sets and other electronic appliances. The main island has FM radio station to entertain the locals for few hours in a day. There is also an interesting tale about Uros and their rich past, legends say that Uros existed even before the sun, stars and moon. Only after they disobeyed the universal order and interacted with humans, they lost their superhuman aura. Uros believe they are the owners of the lake and water and that they have black blood because they did not feel the cold. Out of the 2000 odd descendants, hundreds stay in these islands, while few have moved back on the mainland. We really hope that such tribes can survive the tourist bug and preserve their cultural heritage.