We arrived in Puno a small city in the South of Peru situated on Lake Titicaca, this is the worlds highest navigable piece of water and stretches over both Peru and Bolivia. We chose to visit Lake Titicaca because one of the main things we wanted to see were the floating reed islands and the Uru people who are the indigenous people of Peru and Bolivia that have built their incredible homes on these reed islands.
Puno itself didn’t have a huge amount going on, there was one street full of bars and restaurants, and there was a beautiful basilica in the Plaza de Armas. On our first night we actually stumbled across a Mixology cocktail bar, Puno is one of the last places we would imagine this sort of bar but seeing as the prices were cheap we thought we would give it a go. Niamh’s cocktail was a coffee based one with whiskey, baileys, amaretto and coffee pearls at the bottom which burst when you bit into them. Stu had a gin based cocktail with grapefruit pearls. Both really great and cost under £4!
The next day we left the hostel with a few others to jump on a boat to the reed islands to see how the Uru people live and build these islands. In total there are around 120 floating islands and three main groups Uru-Chipaya, Uru-Murato, and Uru-Iruito. After 45 minutes on the boat we arrived at one island that had three families living there, around 20 people in total, with one president (male head of family) and one secretary (the presidents wife). The president welcomed us with the traditional Uru way of saying hello ‘Kamisaraki’. He then sat us down and explained how they make the reed islands and their typical way of life.
The islands are made of totora reeds with a root that forms a layer, this acts as the natural support to the islands. These thick pieces are cut by the men into blocks of around 1m by 1m using a huge saw, they are then attached together and tied to rope and sticks dug into the lakes floor. The reeds eventually rot but they are replaced with further reeds to the top every three months or more consistently in the rainy season. With the construction aspect explained to us we were then invited to look around the island and even into their homes. The homes were well equipped, something we weren’t expecting from the outside. All had electricity from solar panels, double beds and well-equipped kitchens. By the time we had finished walking around the women had started setting up their market stalls for us to buy things from them. They had weaved material pictures that showed their history and culture, jewellery and children’s ceiling mobiles. We ended up buying one of the weaved materials as you can see below.
The final part of the reed islands was an optional boat ride on their reed made boats. They were stunning boats unlike anything we have ever seen before. They called these boats their Mercedez-Benz boats as they were their best ones. For a mere 10 soles we both decided to jump on one for 15 minutes for the fun of it.
It was now time to get back on our tour boat to head to our next and final destination, Taquile island. The captain said it would take a good 2h30 to arrive so we decided to set up shop on the roof of the boat and enjoy the surrounding landscapes and the sun.
We arrived on Taquile for lunchtime. To get to the restaurant we had to walk up a relatively steep hill for 20 minutes to arrive at the terraced restaurant that overlooked Lake Titicaca. We had a vegetable soup and then grilled fish, rice and salad. After lunch we walked up to the main square were we had an even better view of the surrounding lake. We chilled here for a while before making our way over to the other side of the island where we began to walk down steps to the boats. We began the boat journey back to Puno, just as the sun was setting we got back to the reed islands so we could get a few photos before arriving back into Puno’s port.
And this brought us to an end in Peru. We had such an incredible month here and still feel like we barely scratched the surface of this wonderful country. From the North to the South of Peru and everything in between we had an amazing month. For when we come back we have jungles to explore, more of Cusco to explore and many small places off the trail to go to.