Friday, September 3, 2010

High Adventure Part II The Uros Floating Islands

One of the personal experiences which made our ten-day trip really meaningful was meeting a family who lives on the Islas Flotantes or Uros Floating Islands of Lake Titicaca. We had only arrived the night before and were still suffering from some altitude sickness, but most of us recovered enough to really enjoy and appreciate meeting an LDS family whose family for generations has lived on the islands. Two islands are home to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Felix, our guide from Puno to Cusco, knew the three-generation family and took us to meet them. The first picture shows the Islanders' mode of transportation, the reed boat, in the shape of a seahorse which has significance we didn't quite understand.

After leaving the port in Juliaca, we traveled through a narrow channel until we we reached the open lake. We passed islands of grazing cattle and llama. The uninhabited islands' reeds are harvested to strengthen or build up the inhabited islands which have to be re-reeded or replenished every three months. To replenish the island, the reeds are cut and then tied into bundles which are dried in the sun. Then they are laid across the old reed in a criss cross fashion. Every ten years the islanders have to abandon the island because it eventually sinks.

The Islanders hope a tour boat of people will visit them. If they want visitors, they line up along the edge and wave. With as may tour boats as there were on the lake, probably every island was visited sometime during the day. The Islanders rise with the sun and go to bed when the sun goes down.
Our experience was very educational. The young father is pointing out the layout of the Uros Islands.

The islands are actually anchored so they will not move far. In the upper middle of the picture, you can barely see the anchor line.

These fish are not for eating...exactly. I asked the young mother how she used the fish. She said they are boiled to make a broth to which vegetables are added.

The Islanders sell the crafts and textiles they make. While we were being taught about island life, this woman worked on her embroidery. She told us it takes her about eight hours to make a small rug or wrap.
These reeds are freshly cut and green. The are edible as a vegetable as well and usually eaten in a soup or stew.
Every island has a tower look out. The young man showed us how the reeds are laid to give strength and depth to the island.
This is a section of island cut in half to show how the island looks in the water. He explained to us that the islands can be joined together or divided, depending on the needs of the families.

Emma was really excited to meet the Young Women president of the local ward. Emma has just gone into Young Women. She turned 12 on July 6.
We were invited to go into the bedroom of the Young Women president and change into the clothing worn on the islands. We had great fun choosing hats and skirts. The grandfather came in to help us choose the hats and decorative pom poms. The hats are heavy and itchy. In fact, the clothing is heavy. There are no zippers or buttons, only ties.

Emma is dressed in the Young Women president's clothes. They are really quite colorful. They are worn year round for warmth and protection from the sun.
Well, here are the two old folks. Don't you love Dad's tassles? My hat is noteworthy as well.

This Young Woman, daughter of the YW president, wanted me so much to buy this colorful rug with the condor design. I wanted to as well, but we were at the beginning of our trip and I didn't know how I could pack it home. I bought only a small mobile which is hanging on the bulletin board near the computer. However, Spencer bought a beautiful tapestry, a rug of deep blues, browns, and blacks to hang on the wall of his new bedroom.

Felix explained that life on an island can be quite dangerous for little children. Unless they are with their parents or grandparents, they can play only in the center of the island. They are bidding us farewell as we take a turn around the island on their reed boat.

This is the kindergarten school building.

In this picture you can see the construction of the reed boat and the reeds along the edge of the back side of the island. Someone lives in this house. We saw laundry lying on top of the roof of the house. Most of the houses are made from the woven reeds as well. We can imagine it is really cold in the winter, especially at night.

Kate is watching the young father guide the boat. We were still suffering from nausea from the altitude sickness, but there was so much to see and do, the kids seemed to forget how sick they were. Dad, on the other hand, missed the reed boat ride. He went back to the tour boat to lie down.

This is the back of the elementary school house. We couldn't get a shot of the front. When the children reach high school age, they go off the island for school and return at night. Imagine! The school bus is a reed boat. Some Islanders do have motor boats. We didn't see evidence of this family having a motor boat, however.

This is a fun shot of a boat being paddled by a man or woman standing up. We are somewhere around the island.

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