Monday, April 18, 2011
Peru - Day 9 Part II - Los Uros Presentation
There are about 42 floating islands that make up Los Uros. The main industry is tourism along with the sale of Totora Reeds in Puno. Our tour guide gave us a great 20 minute introduction to the islands.
The island history predates the Incas. Our tour guide said that the islands were great places to hide from both the Incas and the Spanish so they have survived the woes of the land based peoples of Peru. They do have their problems though. It is hard to keep the kids on the islands as they mature so they are at risk of becoming an obsolete society for that reason alone. They have added solar cells/batteries to provide some electrical power for convenience and entertainment, but it is very limited in capacity. Walking on the islands feel like you are walking on a water bed. Your feet sink from 2 to 4 inches with each step. This creates foot and back problems for the residents over time.
The Totora Reed is of utmost importance to the Uros people. Without it they would literally sink. The reed and root system is what keeps the islands floating. Of course, the reed is a major food source as well. The white end contains lots of iodine so the people have great teeth and no goiters. They make tea from the reed and it is good for a hangover or to ease pain in the same way that the coca leaf does.
Reeds are then stacked on top of the blocks in opposing layers much like plywood construction. The reeds rot due to the moisture from the lake so new layers have to be added constantly to maintain the island. It is a high maintenance way to live made even harder by the need to deal with the tourists for income.
The homes sit on reed pads that rest of the surface of the island. The main goal here is to keep the moisture out of the living space as much as possible.
The islands are held in place by poles driven through the reeds and into the bottom of the lake and ropes with rock attached to act as anchors.