Reed Boat on Lake Titicaca, Peru ©Solange Hando
Imagine building your own islands on a high Andean lake, cutting reeds in the shallows to assemble and anchor in deeper waters. Why should you take so much trouble?
Safety, thought the Uros Indians who set up home close enough to the shore for trading but ready to move at a moment's notice, pulling their islands along if danger arose. There are around 40 Uros islands on lake Titicaca, many easily accessed from the market town and tourist centre of Puno.
Here, in the world of the Uros Indians, everything is afloat, school, clinic, shrines and homes, glowing coppery gold as reed canoes and dragon-headed boats glide to and fro.
The islands must be constantly renewed to stop the reeds from taking root and everyone has work to do. Men fish and cut reeds, women in vivid skirts and bowler hats cook outdoors, embroider and knit while children chop up vegetables or do their homework at the water's edge under a crisp blue sky.
At over 3800 metres, Titicaca is said to be the world's highest navigable lake, 80 km across at its widest point and 190 km long, stretching across the border into Bolivia. Close to Puno, the hills rise in shades of purple and pink, Andean gulls shriek now and then and coots and moorhens leave meandering trails across the water.
As in all high places, visitors who had little time to acclimatise should take care to avoid the dangers of altitude sickness.
Meanwhile for the Uros, visitors bring the promise of a little trade from boat trips around the islands to hard-to-resist souvenirs. You may even be invited into a hut , tiny, but complete with cell phone, black and white TV and the brightest rugs you've ever seen.
Family Life on Uros Island in High Andes ©Solange Hando
Lots of smiles, no hassle and just a few visitors to brighten up the day...Ready to sail? Or would you like a rug to keep you warm or hang on your wall?