In another random stopover, I landed in the town of Puno, Peru, also on the shores of Lake Titicaca. I had heard about the floating islands, built by the Uros people hundreds of years ago as a way of getting away from the aggressive Inca tribes in the region. They ended up living their entire lives on these 42 self-made islands, which still exist today for curious visitors like me.
I should also mention that in booking my accommodation in Puno, I blindly booked the top-rated hotel that was affordable, which happened to be on one of the islands! But after two weeks in Bolivia, the only thing I really wanted was a stable internet connection, so I unfortunately had to cancel before I arrived.
Going in, I had virtually no idea of what to expect, so I just hopped on a boat with a guy that motioned me onto it.
He was the owner and only crew member on the boat, and every 10 minutes or so would abandon the wheel to go check on the engine, only to have the ship lose course and end up somewhere between 90 and 180 degrees off–essentially, headed back to shore. It was pretty entertaining to watch.
I got off and stepped onto the mushy reeds that made up the island. The ground was made of reeds, the houses were made of reeds–even some of the boats were made of reeds! It was pretty cool to see what this tribe managed to do with one of their only natural resources.
I was expecting a ferry service that drops you off and lets you explore, but immediately realized that was not the case. The whole group on the boat was seated in a semicircle around Santiago, the president of this island. I also realized then that I had randomly boarded the “local” tour, in Spanish, as he made a reference to the English-speaking tour on another island. I felt better knowing that I was not getting a pure tourist tour. I also felt bad for the poor Australian couple that also chose this group by accident but did not appear to understand a word of Spanish, and watched their miserable faces the next two hours.
They then showed us some of the handcrafted souvenirs to purchase.
And convinced us to go for a ride on the “Mercedes-Benz” of the boats: a reed boat used for ceremonial purposes.
The best part of the ride was the two kids singing songs in various languages.
They would say, “and now, in English/German/French/…”–except in every language they would sing a different song, which was entertaining. Still, it was impressive that they could recognizably sing Frère Jacques, O Tannenbaum, and La Marseillaise, among others (even though I think they tried to pass the latter off as Italian haha).
We then arrived at the capital island, where, among other things, they had a FLOATING POST OFFICE.
The capital also had an adorable black cat, that was having the best time playing in and chasing around the reed pieces that made up the ground.
From there we headed back, with the only entertainment along the way being a Texan-looking man that seemed to have rented out an entire boat to himself and his wife, and was proudly standing on top.
It was a fun and random two-hour tour, although unfortunately I didn’t get the sense that the locals on the island actually enjoyed what they were doing, although that’s their primary (if not only) industry these days. It’s just crazy to think that just a few hundred years ago, they did it out of necessity.