It was without reluctance that we left Camp Titicaca for our 24 hour holiday. To begin with the storm of the day before had left us without tap water and had disabled the filtration system. Ironically these two crises would have amounted to more in isolation than in combination given that less drinking water meant less consumption and fewer bathroom visits. The lack of a functioning flush only became a problem when Brooke could hold out no more and perpetrated an act of toilet terrorism on our already malodorous bathroom. It was necessary to make a speedy getaway from the vicinity.
We embarked on our journey in a small barge which took us first to one of the Uros Islands. I had survived the journey in a somewhat queezy state; my sea legs not being what they ought to be for a yachtsman’s daughter and David Copperfield failing to help matters through his account of his first drunken experience. Fortunately, I regained my composure enough to appreciate what I was to behold. The Island (roughly 50m in circumference) is constructed entirely of reeds and their buoyant roots secured together with eucalyptus wood and rope covered in layered reeds. The houses and boats are also constructed out of this versatile material. The chief of the community was very proud to show us the “Mercedes-Benz”, a brightly painted reed boat (pictured) intended to carry newlyweds on their maiden voyage.
The community (no more than 2 or 3 families) subsist on the money they obtain from fishing (mainly trout) as well as the sale of crafts to the tourists that visit the island. Among the treasures for sale were necklaces (I bought 4), bracelets, figurines, embroidered cushion covers and blankets. The children go to school on a similar island 30 mins away by boat. Unlike some of the other communities I have visited, they do not seem to have a big problem with the young people moving to the cities. They are content to uphold tradition in this self-made seclusion. They are entirely self-sufficient and have a respect for the natural environment I have never before observed. Perhaps this is what keeps them divided from the developed world?
After resuming our journey for an hour more we arrived at the island of Taquile. Here we were presented with our first major athletic challenge of the trip as we climbed, laden with rucksacks, to a height of 4000m above sea levels. Cue much groaning and lung burning. When we at last reached the Plaza, we enjoyed a delicious lunch of quinoa soup followed by fried trout. When this was done we settled down to hear from our group leader, Percy, a little about the community that live here.
The villagers dress traditionally with with coloured hats (like victorian-style night caps) to distinguish the married from the unmarried. Apparently before a couple may marry, both the bride and the groom must complete a set of tasks. For the gentleman this is to prove that he will be able to provide for the family whilst for the lady it is the ultimate test of her suitability as a wife an mother. Also during the engagement, a belt of two halves is made for the groom. The woman embroiders one half of the belt with brightly coloured wool in patterns whilst the man must weave the other half our of human hair, platted together to form a strong mesh. As a symbol of the couple’s union in marriage, the two halves are sewn together on the wedding day.
We also discovered that the people here pride themselves on the fact that there is almost no crime on the island and have no dogs as a demonstration that they do not need extra security. The people are said to be very organised and coordinated in the circumstance of a crime being committed. Apparently a sheep was stolen 2 or 3 years ago and the offender was chased into Lake Titicaca by the villagers and drowned.
We amused ourselves in the afternoon by playing football with the local school boys and were completely thrashed. I am fairly battered and bruised, not being a very experienced football player and having hit the ball more often with the flabbier parts of my body than with my feet.