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Titicaca Lake, Uros and Taquile Islands

TITICACA LAKE

The lake is located at the northern end of the endorheic Altiplano basin high in the Andes on the border of Peru and Bolivia (Surface elevation3,812 m - 12,507 ft). The western part of the lake lies within the Puno Region of Peru, and the eastern side is located in the Bolivian La Paz Department.

Titicaca Lake, Puno, Peru

The lake is composed of two nearly separate sub-basins connected by the Strait of Tiquina, which is 800 m (2,620 ft) across at the narrowest point. The larger sub-basin, Lago Grande (also called Lago Chucuito), has a mean depth of 135 m (443 ft) and a maximum depth of 284 m (932 ft). The smaller sub-basin, Wiñaymarka (also called Lago Pequeño, "little lake"), has a mean depth of 9 m (30 ft) and a maximum depth of 40 m (131 ft). The overall average depth of the lake is 107 m (351 ft)

Five major river systems feed into Lake Titicaca. In order of their relative flow volumes these are Ramis, Coata, Ilave, Huancané, and Suchez. More than twenty other smaller streams empty into Titicaca, and the lake has 41 islands, some of which are densely populated.

Having only a single season of free circulation, the lake is monomictic, and water passes through Lago Huiñaimarca and flows out the single outlet at the Río Desaguadero, which then flows south through Bolivia to Lake Poopó. This only accounts for about 10% of the lake's water balance. Evapotranspiration, caused by strong winds and intense sunlight at high altitude, balances the remaining 90% of the water input. It is nearly a closed lake.

Since 2000 Lake Titicaca has experienced constantly receding water levels. Between April and November 2009 alone the water level dropped by 81 cm (32 in), reaching the lowest level since 1949. This drop is caused by shortened rainy seasons and the melting of glaciers feeding the tributaries of the lake. Water pollution is also an increasing concern because cities in the Titicaca watershed grow, sometimes outpacing solid waste and sewage treatment infrastructure.

The cold sources and winds over the lake give it an average surface temperature of 10 to 14 °C (50 to 57 °F). In the winter (June – September), mixing occurs with the deeper waters, which are always between 10 to 11 °C (50 to 52 °F)

 

THE UROS ISLANDS

The Uros are a pre-Incan people who live on forty-two self-fashioned floating islands in Lake Titicaca Puno, Peru.

The Uros descend from a millennial town that, according to legends, are "pukinas" who speak Uro or Pukina and that believe they are the owners of the lake and water. Uros used to say that they have black blood because they did not feel the cold. Also they call themselves "Lupihaques" (Sons of The Sun). Nowadays, Uros do not speak the Uro language, nor practice their old beliefs but keep some old customs.

Uros Islands, Titicaca Lake, Puno, Peru

The purpose of the island settlements was originally defensive, and if a threat arose they could be moved. The largest island retains a watchtower almost entirely constructed of reeds.

The Uros traded with the Aymara tribe on the mainland, intermarrying with them and eventually abandoning the Uro language for that of the Aymara. About 500 years ago they lost their original language. When conquered by the Inca empire, they had to pay taxes to them, and often were made slaves.

The Uros use bundles of dried totora reeds to make reed boats (balsas mats), and to make the islands themselves.

The larger islands house about ten families, while smaller ones, only about thirty meters wide, house only two or three.

The islets are made of totora reeds, which grow in the lake. The dense roots that the plants develop and interweave form a natural layer called Khili (about one to two meters thick) that support the islands. They are anchored with ropes attached to sticks driven into the bottom of the lake. The reeds at the bottoms of the islands rot away fairly quickly, so new reeds are added to the top constantly, about every three months; this is what makes it exciting for tourists when walking on the island.This is especially important in the rainy season when the reeds rot much faster. The islands last about thirty years.

Each step on an island sinks about 2-4" depending on the density of the ground underfoot. As the reeds dry, they break up more and more as they are walked upon. As the reed breaks up and moisture gets to it, it rots, and a new layer has to be added to it. It is a lot of work to maintain the islands. Because the people living there are so infiltrated with tourists now, they have less time to maintain everything, so they have to work even harder in order to keep up with the tourists and with the maintenance of their island. Tourism provides financial opportunities for the natives, while simultaneously challenging their traditional lifestyle.

The Uros islands at 3810 meters above sea level are just five kilometers west from Puno port.Around 2,000 descendants of the Uros were counted in the 1997 census, although only a few hundred still live on and maintain the islands; most have moved to the mainland. The Uros also bury their dead on the mainland in special cemeteries.

Food is cooked with fires placed on piles of stones. To relieve themselves, tiny 'outhouse' islands are near the main islands. The ground root absorbs the waste.

Much of the Uros' diet and medicine also revolve around the same totora reeds used to construct the islands. When a reed is pulled, the white bottom is often eaten for iodine. This prevents goitres. This white part of the reed is called the chullo. Like the Andean people of Peru rely on the Coca Leaf for relief from a harsh climate and hunger, the Uros rely on the Totora reeds in the same way. When in pain, the reed is wrapped around the place in pain to absorb it. Also if it is hot outside, they roll the white part of the reed in their hands and split it open, placing the reed on their forehead. In this stage, it is very cool to the touch. The white part of the reed is also used to help ease alcohol-related hangovers. It is a primary source of food. They also make a reed flower tea.

Local residents fish ispi, carachi and catfish. They also run crafts stalls aimed at the numerous tourists who land on ten of the islands each year. They barter totora reeds on the mainland in Puno to get products they need, such as quinoa and other foods.

 

TAQUILE ISLAND

Taquile is an island on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca 45 km offshore from the city of Puno. About 2,200 people live on the island, which is 5.5 by 1.6 km in size (maximum measurements), with an area of 5.72 km2. The highest point of the island is 4050 meters above sea level and the main village is at 3950 m. The inhabitants, known as Taquileños, are southern Quechua speakers.

In 2005, "Taquile and Its Textile Art" were honored by being proclaimed "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" by UNESCO.

Taquile Island, Puno, Peru

Taquileños are known for their fine handwoven textiles and clothing, which are regarded as among the highest-quality handicrafts in Peru. Knitting is exclusively performed by males, starting at age eight. The women exclusively make yarn and weave.

Taquileans are also known for having created an innovative, community-controlled tourism model, offering home stays, transportation, lodging for groups, cultural activities, local guides and restaurants. Ever since tourism started coming to Taquile in the seventies.

Taquileños run their society based on community collectivism and on the Inca moral code: ama sua, ama llulla, ama qhilla, (Quechua for "do not steal, do not lie, do not be lazy"). The island is divided into six sectors or suyus for crop rotation purposes. The economy is based on fishing, terraced farming horticulture based on potato cultivation, and tourist-generated income from the approximately 40,000 tourists who visit each year.

The wildlife on Taquile includes rams, sheep, cows, guinea pigs, chickens.

The majority of the inhabitants on Taquile are Catholic. They adapted this religion, harmonizing their ancient culture with the syncretic Christian culture. The mother earth (Patchamama), the principal Andean deity, directly controls harvesting, fertility. People offer the deity a number of payments each year, and three coca leaves prior to each activity or trip. God is present throughout the year in the festivities.

Flowers and trees on the Island include Kolle, the tree used to roof the houses and for firewood, the Cantuta flower (the national flower of Peru), the Chukjo (used as detergent), and Muña (for stomach disease). A variety of flowers on the island are used as natural medicines. The coca is brought from Puno and mainly comes from Cusco.

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