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Life on a Floating Trampoline

My Travel Writing Scholarship 2011 entry - Journey in an Unknown Culture

WORLDWIDE | Monday, 28 March 2011 | Views [978] | Comments [2] | Scholarship Entry

‘Hiss’ as one leg is placed over the boat and gently onto the mat surface. ‘Groan’ as I transfer my weight onto my right foot while swinging the other leg around. I attempt to stand up but find myself swaying a little. I could be on a trampoline except I’m floating on layers of reed, in the highest lake in the world.

I am on Toranipata Island, one of 35 islands made by the Uros people, indigenous inhabitants of Lake Titicaca which .is between Peru and Bolivia. Its vastness is magnified by the mirrored sky with clouds contrasting against the soft green moss that carpet the depths below.

The Uros islands stand as a testament to man’s ingenuity and quest for independence. To escape from Incan rule, the Uros built their own islands from totoro reeds that grow around the lake. The quest for survival is etched in the leather-skinned faces of the inhabitants as the foundation of life is nothing more than reeds, eucalyptus roots and ropes that link each island to another.

We are greeted by women dressed in colours of the rainbow. They welcome us with hand gestures, inviting us to share their lives on this island which house ten families and is no larger than an average surburban block.

I see toddlers with ruddy cheeks and bare feet cling onto their mothers. Older girls with their pom-pom-tassled pigtails sit by the hut sewing colourful pieces of their life in vibrant sunsets, laughter and destiny.

A little girl, no more than six dressed in a matching outfit of bright blue plays happily with a blue balloon, a gift from a tourist. She squeals in laughter as she attempts to blow the balloon on the reed floor.

I take a few steps to the right and a cherubic resident looks up at me with the smooth mocha smile that matches the colour of her askew felt hat. She is adorned in a bright red jacket with red, blue and yellow zigzag trimming. She motions to her handiwork and although I couldn’t understand her words - the story of an angry god and a fierce warrior saving a reed boat full of people, jumps out at me.

Aside from the curious tourists, life seemed to carry on as normal. Men were busily carrying bundles of reed off the decorative boats. The reeds rot quickly and are required to be topped up constantly.

Lines of washing hang precariously between the reed huts. The neat match-stick huts have only one entrance as a door inside the walls are decorated with colourful hangings.

The Uros could teach us something about sustainable living. As the industrialised world greedily consumes resources beyond its means, it is a humbling and insightful experience to see how our suburban block could be more like the Uros.

Tags: #2011Writing, Travel Writing Scholarship 2011



What a fascinating place! Your description has compelled me to seek out the Uros islands when I visit South America in a few years. Well done.

  aro-tron Mar 28, 2011 9:10 PM


I like your perspective and descriptions. What you've described sounds like it may have inspired the strange island the main character from Life of Pi comes across during his journey in the Pacific... It is hard to imagine islands of piles of squishy reeds... how curious!

  Leen Mar 30, 2011 9:58 PM

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