Lake Titicaca

  Sandwiched between warlike clans, how do weak clans survive? The Urus people chose to leave the land and go to the giant lake.
  They weave a complete island out of cattails with their own hands. Since then, their lives have become a miracle on the lake: Floating Island Survival.

The Titicaca Lake is located above the Andes Mountains, the longest mountain range on earth. The two small pictures on this page are the clear lake water and the lush cattails growing in the lake respectively; the big picture on the left is an aerial view of Lake Titicaca. The small island floating on the lake is where the Urus people live.

  On the Earth’s longest mountain range, the Koyao Plateau in the Andes of South America, there is a “Pearl” – Lake Titicaca, which straddles Bolivia and Peru. This huge lake is neither salty nor frozen, with beautiful scenery and rich natural resources. It is one of the birthplaces of Indian civilization in South America, and is called “holy lake” by the Indians.
  One day a few hundred years ago, a group of people walked into Lake Titicaca. They used local materials and with a pair of skillful hands, they built an incredible small world. They built everything out of the lush herbs growing around the lake – cattails: islands, houses, boats, beds… Their world of cattails floats on the lake, and their lives have been floating on this holy lake.
Beautiful legend and cruel reality The Urus people who escaped from the war

  Lake Titicaca is a lake of wonders.
  It is the highest and largest freshwater lake in South America, and it is also considered to be the highest large freshwater lake on earth. It is 3,812 meters above sea level and covers an area of ​​more than 8,330 square kilometers. It is located in the Andes, the longest mountain range on earth. It looks like a huge sapphire held up high by the Keyao Plateau, so it is also called the “Pearl of the Plateau”. The greatest food on earth, potatoes, set off from the shores of Lake Titicaca, and “conquered” the world.
  The Titicaca Lake area is considered to be one of the main civilizations of the Indians in South America – the birthplace of the Inca civilization, and it is the holy lake in the eyes of the Incas. Its extremely unique name comes from an ancient myth. Like the source myths of other highland lakes on Earth, the themes of these stories are always inseparable from love and death.
  Some say the lake’s name commemorates a love between man and God. Lake Titicaca is only 200 kilometers away from the Pacific Ocean. Just as the Chinese imagine that there is a dragon girl living in the Dragon Palace, the locals believe that the daughter of the water god Ikaka lives in the underwater palace deep in the Pacific Ocean. According to legend, Ikaka rescued the handsome young Tito in a storm “heroine saves the handsome man”. The two fell in love at first sight and lived together. However, the water god did not allow his daughter to live with a mortal, so with the help of the wind god, he violently threw the young couple into the air. Tito and Ikaka fell from the Pacific Ocean, flying over the Andes Mountains. Tito was a mortal who lost his life when he fell from the sky, and Ikaka was safe because he was a god. But the loss of the one she loved made Ikaka miserable, and in the end she turned Tito into a hill, and herself into a vast lake on its side. In order to commemorate Tito and Icaca, people merged their names and named the lake where the goddess was transformed “Titikaka”.
  Another story is also very classic, about the death of the Son of God. The main god of the Inca civilization was the sun god. Legend has it that the son of the sun god was killed when he was attacked by a jaguar while visiting the Titicaca Lake area. In order to express their sympathy to the gods they believe in, the locals hunted leopards, built a sun temple by the lake, and placed a stone that looked like a leopard in the temple as a sacrifice. And “Stone Leopard” in the local language is pronounced like “the ticker”, hence the name of the lake.
  Today, when people come to this big lake, they do not see the traces of the legendary goddess or the son of God, but they see the living legend—the floating archipelago established by the Urus people.
  The Urus people came to the lake to escape the war.
  The Titicaca Lake area was ruled by the Inca Empire for a long time, and other tribes of Indians also lived around the lake, including the warlike Kaoya. They clashed with the Incas several times. At that time, there was a weak Urus tribe between the two. This tribe was sandwiched between the warring parties and was very passive. In order to avoid the war and the plunder of two powerful forces, around 1200 AD, the Urus people left their hometowns and hid in the vast Lake Titicaca.
  Lake Titicaca has an excellent natural environment and beautiful scenery. Although the terrain is extremely high, it is neither salty nor frozen, which is very suitable for human survival. If the land by the lake can’t hold small peace-loving tribes, what about the lake? The genius Urus people came up with the idea of ​​building a drifting island. If you don’t have the ability to reclaim the land, then give full play to your weaving skills! The ground woven by cattails, boats, roofs, walls, watchtowers… Everything was born inch by inch from the hands of the Urus people, and a small floating world was born from it.
  In a sense, the Urus are their own creators.
The cattails that are full of treasures can not only build islands and houses, but also eat them as fruits

  Cattail is a reed-like perennial herb with slender leaves, hollow inside and hard shell. The cattails that grow on the banks of Lake Titicaca can reach a height of three or four meters, and they are connected together, which is spectacular. The Urus people tightly bundled the cattails, and then layered them on top of each other, creating a “land” that could float.
  On such a “land”, the Urus people have to build houses if they want to live for a long time. They build their houses out of cattails, just as they build the “land” under their feet. There are generally 3 to 10 houses on an island. The walls and roofs of such houses are connected by mats made of cattails. The house is one-piece, with no windows and only one door for entry and exit. There is no kitchen or toilet in the house, generally only a bed and some clothes for sleeping. The Urus people also built the stove with stones, but before cooking, they need to wet the rushes around to avoid fires. If you want to go to the toilet, you need to spend 20 to 30 minutes in a fixed and away from the living place.

In order to avoid the war, the Urus people lived in the vast Titicaca Lake and lived a floating life on the lake. The picture on the left page shows the house they built with cattails; the big picture on the upper right is the totola boat, the tool used by the Urus people to travel, which is also made of cattails, and the small picture on the lower right is the observation deck on the floating island. , the woman in the second picture is cooking on the stone stove outside the house.

  In order to make the floating island more stable, the Urus people thought of many ways. They weave cattails into ropes that tie the islands together with objects fixed at the bottom of the lake. The plants on the bottom of the water start to grow around the rope, and are constantly intertwined between the floating island and the bottom of the lake, forming a natural base one or two meters thick to support the entire island. However, the construction of the floating island is not done once and for all. Its bottom will gradually rot and sink under the long-term immersion of the lake water, so the residents of the floating island often walk around the island barefoot. The skin on the soles of the feet can feel the dryness and wetness of the cattails under the feet at any time. If it is a little wet, the cattails need to be re-covered to ensure that the “ground” is clean and clean. Usually every few weeks, the Urus people need to lay new “ground” on the island, constantly strengthening their homes. There are also special personnel in the tribe who are responsible for reinforcement and management to ensure the safety of the homeland.
  The area of ​​the floating island built by the Urus people is generally 60 to 100 square meters. It usually takes a year to build a new floating island, and the lifespan of such a floating island is usually only ten years, and the longest is no more than thirty years. Once the bottom of the island completely touches the bottom of the lake, the entire island will be abandoned, so they need to constantly build new islands to ensure the survival of the clan.
  The cattail is the basis for the survival of the Urus people, and everything in their lives is inseparable from the cattail. Locally, cattails are also used to weave the boats used for travel – Tortola. This yellow boat is raised high at both ends, slightly flat in the middle, and looks like a banana. On one side of the pointed head, the ingenious locals usually also create the image of animals such as jaguars, which is very unique. The Urus people, who live by fishing, eat the buds of cattails to supplement vitamins; the white roots of cattails are rich in the iodine element needed by the human body, which is the “fruit” of the Ulu people; when someone has a fever and falls ill, the family members The cattail leaves are split from the middle and spread into thin slices, and placed on the patient’s forehead to cool down; the children’s toys on the island are dolls and boats woven from cattails; the roots of the cattails are dried and ground into powder, and they are also used by Urus. It is used as a snack by people and even used to make wine.
  For the Urus people who first traveled from the land to the lake, building a floating island was actually a desperate choice. When an intruder came, they could use the artificial island to quickly evacuate. So in the beginning these “islands” were indeed floating around. Later, with the development of society and the progress of the times, the conflicts between the tribes gradually subsided, the residents’ lives became stable, and the floating islands were anchored and stayed in a certain place, turning into small pieces of land.
An ancient and modern way of life on a floating island

  In Tao Yuanming’s Xanadu, “men and women dress like outsiders” and “I don’t know what world this is.” Do the Urus people who also escaped from the world because of the war also live a life of isolation?
  Today’s floating island is more like a large community of Urus people, and everyone is working hard for this community. The progressive rhythm of the floating island community is in sync with the world beyond the lake. Today, a school for children to study has been established on a relatively large floating island. Children of the Urus people can study here until they are in their teens before they need to go outside the island to continue their studies. There are shops for islanders to buy daily necessities, as well as small hospitals that can handle simple ailments and accidents. Because many Urus people believe in Catholicism, there are also churches on the island for people to worship. To this day, solar energy equipment has appeared on the floating island, so the islanders use mobile phones and TV sets.
  The Urus people fish for business, while collecting wild duck eggs or catching some common birds like seagulls. The ground of the cattails, which has a lot of contact with the lake, will slowly decay, and the humus formed is used by the islanders to grow potatoes. During the weekly land gathering, many islanders will bring fish, duck eggs, etc. to the market to trade with the land residents in exchange for other necessities of life.

As the floating island became known, some residents of the island began to engage in tourism. The small picture on the upper left is their hand-knitted products, the two small pictures on the lower left are the little girl in Urus and the black kitten raised by the islanders; Interior view of the cattail hut and handmade fleece with delicate patterns.

  It is very interesting that the number of floating islands where the Urus people live is constantly changing. As for how it changes, it depends on their mood! If the residents of two floating islands have a good relationship, they can connect the two islands to become one island; and if the people on one island are quarreling, they can split the island into two halves. After the children in the family get married, their parents will cut off part of the floating island at home and give them to the new small family to let them live independently.
  To this day, there are still more than 40 floating islands on Lake Titicaca, and there are still islanders working hard on them. As the bizarre way of life on the floating island became more and more known, many Spanish-speaking islanders began to engage in tourism and earn income through out-of-the-way travel agencies. Today, there are Urus guides on the floating island, who enthusiastically communicate with tourists, explain the method of building floating island homes, and sell homemade handicrafts. In the evening, in the auditorium with only a few lights, a band of residents would give small concerts. They invite visitors to wear traditional Urus clothing: embroidered tops, puff skirts, and beautiful belts. After getting dressed, the guests dance with the host to the music. This dance is not necessarily beautiful, but it is the most unique memory of tourists.
  Today’s society is more and more developed, and some floating island residents choose to live on the shore, but more Urus people are still “inseparable from their homeland”. The island is fluttering, but life is peaceful and quiet. The world is very big, you can choose boldly, as long as you are ingenious, you can weave a small island of your own and be your own island owner.

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