High in the Andes, our little boat jolts unevenly as it battles with Lake Titicaca’s choppy waves. The sky is overcast but even without the heavy clouds we’d struggle to see the shore. South America’s largest lake lives at 3,800 metres, separates two countries and behaves like a mountainous ocean god.
However, it’s not the lake we’ve come to see, but its inhabitants, the Uros community who live and float here among the clouds.
The Uros community lives and floats on Lake Titicaca, among the clouds.
Years ago (in that voice used by grandparents when they gloss over troubles they’d rather everyone forgot), conflict arose on the Peruvian shore around Puno. Whether it was the might of the Incas, fire, pestilence or an unpaid tax bill, something drove the Uros people to build their own escape.
They used reeds to construct islands complete with houses, shops and watchtowers and launched themselves into a new way of life.
A rather harsh one, it seemed, when I visited. There’s little protection from the swirling winds and waters and the biodegradable nature of their housing requires relentless replenishment. Through fishing, and increasingly tourism, the Uros communities are self-sufficient, weaving patterned hats and shawls for trade and travelling to the mainland only for emergencies.
As the world continues to change, it will be interesting to see what choices these children will make. Will they continue the traditions of their grandparents? Or will they return to dry land?