Islas Flotilas – Lake Titicaca (Peru)

Arriving in Puno, Peru, we signed up for a half day tour to the floating islands. Having already visited Isla del Sol we decided against a full day which also includes a trip to Isla Tranquil. The cost was a very reasonable 20 sol per person plus 8 sol each for entry to the islands. This included transfer to and from our hostel.

The islands are home to over 500 people and are made of compacted reeds which literally float on lake Titicaka. We reached them by way of a slow but enjoyable boat ride of approximately 30 minutes, during which we received a very informative briefing by our Spanish speaking guide on the history of the naming of the lake (it means grey puma in Quechwin) and a brief introduction to the islanders themselves. We were accompanied on the boat by a Peruvian family on holiday from Lima.

Everything was going smoothly and we stopped at the first island to be welcomed by some Uros islanders in traditional dress and the chief, who gave us a demonstration on the weaving of the reeds and answered any questions we had, such as ‘how do you go to the toillet?’ and ‘are you allowed to smoke?’, we were then invited into their huts. Once inside, it became fairly obvious that we were expected to purchase some of their craftware, which we had half expected. Vanessa had been thinking about buying a sunhat for some time, so decided to buy a somewhat overpriced handwoven one.

When handing over a 100 sol (Aus $40) note to the owner we were a little puzzled when she handed it back and showed us that it was a counterfeit. We took the note back and explained that we had only just taken it from an ATM. We gave her another note and continued on our tour, after taking a photo with her.

Next we boarded a gondola type vessel (cost 10 sol), which was referred to by the chief as a Mercedes-Benz, and were taken to the main island ‘the capital’ where we had a chance to grab a bite of lunch, before heading back to the mainland.

A Mercedes Benz (according to the chief)
All in all, we found the experience a little of a money-making exercise but worth the trip to see just how these people have survived for so long.

On returning to Puno, we visited the bank manager of the ATM as we still had the receipt for the withdrawal and the fake note. He was insistent that the machine could not have a fake note and instead suggested that our legal ATM note had been switched. We had not previously considered this possibility but on reflection it appeared more likely. Luckily we had a very good photo of the lady in question and gave this to bank manager, who advised that he would be contacting her to discuss matters. Needless to say, we have both learned a thing or two about spotting fake Peruvian currency.

Vanessa and money launderer