The Uros Indians of Peru live their lives on a man-made island that floats in Lake Titicaca. The lake is 14,000 feet in altitude, the highest navigable inland lake in the world. It's cold for much of the year. Yet, this tribe chooses to live there. Maintaining the island is a year round job. Every day parts of the island succumb to rot and every day new parts are added by the inhabitants. The island is constructed of a native reed that grows along the shore. During our visit we were given a piece of the reed and instructed to peel and eat it. It was quite refreshing, full of fresh water.
The island was an odd and fun place to explore because...due to the reed structure...one's feet sunk about 6 inches deep with each step. It really was like walking on a water bed.
Unfortunately, the Uros did not move to the island by choice. In the early 1500's, the conquistadores invaded. At that time the Uros tribe lived in the mountains surrounding Lake Titicaca. Shortly after the invasion, the Uros were conscripted to work in silver mines for the Spaniards who were intent on returning to Spain with great riches. Within 10 years over 90% of the Uros population was wiped out due to conditions in the mines. The remaining 10% decided to escape. They built a floating island and paddled out to the middle of Lake Titicaca. The Spaniards did not follow them and so they survived.
Their life today is very different than in the past. They rely on the tourist income, but also fishing. They dry fish and use it to barter for other items they need. There is a one room schoolhouse that educates the children to the high school level. At that point the only way to continue education is for their parents to rent an apartment in Puno, the nearest city. The trip to the island takes too long to commute on a daily basis.
Fishing boat and island: