June 27, 2014

1122 PERU (Puno) - Lake Titicaca (UNESCO WHS - Tentative List) and its floating islands

Located in the Andes, on the border of Peru and Bolivia, Titicaca (Titiqaqa in Quechua) covers 8,300 square km and is the largest lake in South America, and also the highest navigable lake in the world, with a surface elevation of 3,812m. Its waters are limpid and only slightly brackish, and the surface temperatures average is 14°C. The lake averages between 140 and 180m in depth, reaching its greatest recorded depth of 280 m off Isla Soto in the lake's northeast corner. It holds large populations of water birds and was designated as a Ramsar Site on August 26, 1998. Several threatened species are largely or entirely restricted to the lake. In addition, approximately 90% of the fish species in the basin are endemic.

Acroos the lake are scattered floating islands (made and re-made from the totora reeds), which provide home, sustenance and transportation for their residents, the Uros tribe (about 2000 people). According to their legends, they existed before the sun, when the earth was still dark and cold. They were impervious to drowining or being struck by lightning, but lost their status as super beings when they disobeyed universal order and mixed with humans. They scattered, losing their identity, language, and customs, becoming the Uro-Aymaras (now speak Aymara). Because of their simple and precarious lifestyle, the Incas thought them worth little and accordingly taxed them very little. Yet the Uros, with their basic reed homes outlasted the mighty Incas with their huge stone temples and mountain-top enclaves. 

These islands change in size, and more are created as the need arises, the largest being currently Tribuna. The Uros, who call themselves kot-suña (people of the lake), consider themselves the owners of the lake and its waters. They continue living by fishing, weaving and now, tourism. They also catch shore birds, and occasionaly, if the level of the lake decreases, plant potatoes in soil created by the decaying reeds. The reed boats (balsa) quite often have an animal face or shape on the prow and are a favorite photographic subject. They create their homes from the reeds. The roofs are waterproof but not humidity resistant. Cooking fires are built on a layer of stones to protect the reeds. Residents wear layers of clothing, mostly woolen, to protect themselves from the cold, the wind, and the sun which at this altitude can burn fiercely. Many women still wear the distinctive derby type hat and full skirts.

About the stamp
The stamp is part of the series Caminos del Inca (Inca Roads),about which I wrote here.

Lake Titicaca - Wikipedia
Lake Titicaca - UNESCO official website
The Floating Islands of Lake Titicaca - About.com
Reed boats of Lake Titicaca - Wikipedia

Sender: Yuri
sent from Callao (Callao / Peru), on 18.04.2014 
photo: Hennry Abanto

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