I was pretty hesitant to check out the Uros floating islands, but they sounded cool and it was highly recommended to us by a friend (who probably would like that I emphasize she specifically recommended the 2 day 1 night stay in Taquile, not Uros). So we decided to make a 2 day stop in Puno- just to check them out.
After our horrific arrival in Puno (discussed in the update in Arequipa), we were really hoping the islands would be worth all the pain we endured. We originally were going to do a day tour, but with our food poisoning, we weren’t sure we would survive a long boat ride, so a half day it was!
Despite it being extremely touristy (which I was well forewarned from reading a bunch of reviews), it was interesting to see and learn about their lifestyle (whatever it used to be or what it is currently). They showed us how they built their island (see pictures), what they hunted, what they made, and how they lived. At one point the tour guide asked the island person to demonstrate how they eat the reeds (awkward…). Then they tried to sell us stuff – which turned to begging (awkward…).
What made the islands more realistic is the fact that they weren’t pretending that they didn’t have modern technology in their lives (i.e. solar panels for their TVs donated by the government). They also said they went to the Puno market (on land) every weekend to trade goods. Made more sense I guess. Not sure why they sustain this lifestyle though. Our tour guide says they’re “always happy and smiling” (yeah, that was a little weird too) so must be true!
We then went for a ride on their reed boat. It was incredibly slow. We had two ppl rowing and at some point, a motor boat started to push us. It was pretty lame. Then they asked for 10 soles per person and when we gave the lady 50 soles, she said she had to get change. Kept telling us to hold on and then never gave us our change! We thought they were going to show us the next island, walk us around, but no, they rowed away on the reed boat and our real boat came to pick us up. This was after they explained to us that the Uros people lived by one important rule: work hard and don’t lie, cheat, steal. Ironic.
Well, some of the other tourists weren’t so pleasant either. One German lady started whistling at one of the Uros child to come over, like a pet! The other tourists were really cool. We met people from Taiwan – one of them also lived in New York. Small world!
Actually now that I have described the experience, it seemed rather strange and awkward. At the time though, I thought it was interesting! And I’m glad I saw it. I just wouldn’t put it on a list of must-sees in the world.
(The tour company gave us a discount which made up for the difference the Uros lady owed us. The tour company and the islands aren’t one and the same. The companies have to pay the island people.)