Thursday, July 07, 2005

::[lake titicaca]::

sam and i take in the iridescent blue of lake titicaca.

and now back to our regularly scheduled show. next on the itinerary was lago titicaca, the "highest navigable lake in the world". by navigable they must have meant enormous, because even after a couple hours of boating into the waters, the opposite shoreline was still nowhere to be seen, save for a few distant snowcapped mountains.

our first stop: the amazing man-made reed islands of the uros people. the uros began constructing these floating islands centuries ago, in order to distance themselves from more aggressive groups like the inca or the aymara. nowadays, even though intermarriage with the aymara has left few if any pureblooded uros on titicaca, many continue to lead their traditional waterborne lifestyle. although the tin-roofed medical center is rarely used (children are born on the uros islands without modern medical attention), there are public schools on the reed islands now, and some houses even put up solar panels to bring in a little electricity. have a peek:

the uros build their islands from scratch and have to continually reinforce them with fresh reeds as the old ones on the bottom rot away. the islands range in size, but all are big enough to allow for the raising of fowl and ibis. some even hold patches of dirt where potatoes can be grown. the uros are primarily known as fisherpeople, however.

a snapshot of an uro kid in front of his house. those reeds are edible by the way...they're kind of tasteless and crunchy. walking on the islands is also pretty fun. they are spongy and in constant, almost imperceptible motion...a bit like walking on a waterbed.

even the boats are made of reeds! these gentlemen gave us a lift and taught me all i know about the uros en route. so you can thank them for this little history lesson.

after the uros islands we headed for taquile, one of the largest natural islands in the lake. the people of taquile maintain a strong sense of cultural identity due to their isolation, and it's evident in their dress and customs. much of their traditions revolve around weaving and knitting. throughout the island, men and boys are always seen knitting away (as a requirement for marriage, they must knit their own marriage hat, among other things). women are constantly spinning--- an absentminded task to busy their hands as they attend to other things. you can easily identify whether a man or woman is single or married based on the hats they wear or how they arrange their shawls. on taquile, we also ran into the island's official celebration of peru's national flag day. all the schoolchildren were out en masse reciting poems and songs and waving flags. i must reiterate: peruvian children are damned cute. quite possibly the cutest kids to be found anywhere. i want one!

mimi and kristin catching their breath as we hike taquile island. lake titicaca is 12,500 feet (3800m) above sea level. that's about 2.4 miles up. and trust me, your lungs can feel it.

kids bashfully waving flags in taquile's main plaza during the celebration of national flag day. yes, i will refrain from raving about the cuteness...


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