Lake Titicaca [39/50]

The last stop of my two-month Peruvian sojourn was Lake Titicaca, a colossal and very deep lake high-up on a never-ending Andean plateau (the Altiplano). The lake is split between Peru and Bolivia and in case you were wondering, it is where the Sun was born. Lake Titicaca is the spiritual home and birthplace of many Andean cultures (including the Incas), some who still live around or even on the lake perpetuating the traditional lifestyles of their ancestors. And once you see the lake you can understand why (and Modernity is over-rated, especially in the other New World one-trick ponies of Australia and New Zealand, etc. that don’t know anything else).


Puno is a relatively large but relaxed city on the Peruvian lake shore. From Puno, I visited the pre-Incan Uros people who live on floating islands made of reeds a couple of kilometers offshore. They have lived this way for a thousand years originally as a defence mechanism against hostile Incas and others, but now perhaps because it is a kind of cool lifestyle. But they don’t reject Modernity entirely as I saw solar panels, TVs and radios and boats with outboard motors.


There are about two thousand Uros people who live on forty-two islands, each sitting on a living, floating reed island made of metres-thick roots with freshly laid reeds on top (and the islands are tied to the floor of the lake so that they don’t float away). And apparently when the lake gets choppy, the islands bob up and down just like a boat. The reeds on the top of the isles get replaced regularly, but the underlying roots rot away so the whole island needs to be rebuilt every thirty years.

This reminded me of the Japanese movie by Hiroshi Teshigahata, Woman of the Dunes (1964). A salary man tired of the monotony of Japanese industrialisation escapes to the beach and while running along it, falls into a big hole. At the bottom of the hole lives a lady who puts him to work filling a sand bucket that must be lifted out of the hole regularly by the local villagers or the hole will cave in on itself. Perhaps the Uros people are more Modern than they think.


From Puno, I crossed the hellish and inefficient border of Peru into Bolivia to the other side of Lake Titicaca. I stayed in a friendly but claustrophobic, family-run hotel in Copacabana, a raffish tourist town on the lake edge. From here I visited Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun), a quiet island about two hours by boat from Copacabana. The island was pretty damn special and reminded me a lot of the peninsulas in my very own Southern Tasmania. And having a moto I was able to visit easily many of the local villages on the mainland close to Copacabana although to call them quite is an understatement. Even the Llamas looked like they were in a coma.


I am now in La Paz, which I was trying to avoid as it is too damn large, but even on a moto you have to follow the pre-defined roads (and all roads lead to La Paz).




One response to “Lake Titicaca [39/50]”

  1. Karen Avatar

    Hey Craig
    Lake titicaca looks like quite a large lake on google earth. Sounds like you are having an amazing journey on your moto and meeting some fascinating people along the way!
    Karen x

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