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Monica Dispatch

Waterworld, or the
Floating People of the Lake
May 11, 1999

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Solar
panels on the hut roof! What's next...satellite dishes?
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People that appear to walk on water! Islands that float! A floor that isn't a floor, a house made of reeds, and ground that's always changing! Where on earth is this place?

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Sunset over Lake Titicaca
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I'm at Lago Titicaca, on the Peruvian side, panting for air at 3810 meters above sea level. Lake Titicaca is so big it looks like the ocean, but it's a huge, clear lake, nestled on a plain in the Andes. "Titicaca" in the Aymara language means "Puma's Rock," a sacred boulder found on the southern side of the lake. This is the largest body of water in the world to be found so high above sea level. It is 284 meters deep and covers an area of 8562 square kilometers. It's deep, deep blue except near the Puno dock, where it's a scummy, greenish color. Today Liz, who I met on the Inca Trail, and I took a boat from the docks to visit the Uros Floating Islands.

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How would
you like a ride in this Uro boat?
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On Amatani island, a local woman stands below the granite arch on Lacastiti
hill.
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There is no place else like this on earth. The Uros people have lived for centuries on the lake on reed islands they make themselves. The Uros use reeds for everything: shelter, food, and transport. They build houses out of reeds, raising a platform off the "ground" and putting in wood stakes to form the bottom of the house. Today, many of the Uros have added modern improvements to their traditional fishing and bird-hunting lifestyle, including putting solar panels on their reed houses!

The Uros have always lived freely on the lake. Many cultures have tried to invade the Uros, but they have kept their independence. Thanks to Lake Titicaca and its floating islands, the Uros have been able to flee invaders and live peacefully in their floating waterworld.

Monica

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A young resident of Isla Taquile.
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map

Can you chew gum and rub your stomach at the same time? I can't, but the inhabitants of Isla Taquile, south of Isla Amantani in Lake Titicaca, can spin yarn, knit it, and walk barefoot across rocky paths without even lookingat what they're doing. I was amazed to see this!

The Taquile are famous for their textile production, and everyone on the island wears traditional dress. All males wear either a Yurac umac chullo, which is a hat with a white top and red bottom with designs on it, or a Pintai chullo, a totally red hat thatdroops a bit like a Santa Claus hat. The women wear black or dark blue flared skirts if they're married, brightly colored ones like green or pink if they're not. They cut their hair short if they're single, but let it grow long and attach it into braids if they're married. They also wear long black shawls over their heads. Everyone wears the waist wrap, called the Tayca waca, which is woven with straw, as well as the bayeta (a sheep wool shirt).

The designs on all the clothing are supposed to relate to each of six sections of the islands, although it's difficult to understand. Woven into the cloth you can see llamas, stars, fish, circles, lightning, and other details. The people dye their cloth with natural plant dyes. The sale of these fabrics provides money for the communities, which they share or trade.

I felt very much at home on this island, perhaps being of island descent myself. There's really nowhere to go, so you have to make an effort to get along with everybody.

Abeja - What Next? A Roller Coaster to the Temple of the Moon?

 
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