I took a trip to Puno, Peru to see Lake Titicaca, the world’s largest high-altitude lake (a superlative which, in itself, has the distinction of being the world’s most arbitrary superlative). I did a day tour and the first stop was the Uros. They’re these little man-made floating islands constructed of reeds. The houses are made of dried reeds. All the furniture is made of reeds. For food, they eat fish… and reeds.
They claimed that the Uros people lived there full time, but I’ve heard that it’s kind of a gimmick and while they at one point lived there full time because they couldn’t afford to live on land, now the whole “we really live here” is mostly a show for tourists. This is my skeptical face:
The “residents” split us into groups and took us into their houses, which curiously contained no signs of living and instead only handcrafts they were selling. One elderly woman chose me and a Japanese guy to show her house to and as we walked over she asked us our names, which seemed a friendly enough gesture. But then when she started trying to sell us stuff, she went into full on begging mode, getting on the floor, holding out her crafts and saying, “Please…. 10 soles. Please… Michael.” I’m used to Peruvian begging, but when they add in your name it’s really creepy. Doubly so when you’re trapped with them on a tiny island.
Before leaving the Uros, our tour guide sternly explained to us that the pronunciation “tittie ka-ka” was wrong and I feared that she was going to offer another pronunciation that wasn’t hilarious. She went on to explain that the name was Incan and that “ka-ock-ah” means “puma” in Quechua because from an aerial view, the lake resembles a cat (Incas had an aerial view of this 3,200 sq. mi lake? repeat skeptical face). The actual pronunciation is “tittie ka-ock-ah” but this sounds exactly the same so she ended up going on for like a minute repeating, “Not tittie ka-ka; tittie ka-ka. Tittie ka-ka is incorrect. Tittie ka-ka is correct.”
The other island we visited was Taquile. On the boat ride there, they gave us the following facts about the island:
- all the work is done collectively and the revenues shared
- work animals such as mules, horses, and dogs (yeah, dogs) are forbidden
- all the men wear little elf hats to indicate marital status
Naturally, I envisioned this:
But it was a little more like this:
The hats were the best part. It’s an island where all the men who are married have solid red hats and all the men who are single have red and white hats. It sounds like the setup to a really good riddle.
It was a pretty cool island. They had these weird animals they claimed were cows, but I wasn’t buying it.
In the afternoon, the clouds cleared and we got really good views of the lake
It might look like I accidentally got a picture of this guy, but this was actually very deliberate because I thought he was John Waters (still not convinced it wasn’t him!).