26 October 2012
Floating islands (Los Uros) of Lake Titicaca
These are literally man-made floating islands built out of multiple criss-crossed layers of reeds (called "totora") that grow in lake Titicaca (which is at an altitude of 3,800 metres, the highest navigable lake in the world apparently). They were created as the corresponding civilisation was pushed out of its lands on the shores of the lake by competing tribes (Collas and Incas namely), sometime between the twelfth and fifteenth century.
Reeds end up by rotting of course so the inhabitants of those islands constantly have to replenish their "ground" with fresh layers (roughly every 3 months): it's actually a bit awkward to walk on this soft and springy mattress of dried reeds, never too sure if there won't be a hidden hole somewhere. The islands are nonetheless stable, being anchored with ropes attached to sticks stuck to the bottom of the lake. Reeds are really part of everyday life for the Uros people: they are used to build houses and boats, and are also partially edible.