Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, has a surface level at 3,812m (12,500ft) above sea level. It is home of the floating islands of Uros and the traditional lifestyle of the inhabitants of Taquile Island.
For 25 soles per person we caught a ferry owned by the Taquileños community that visited both in a day. It is possible to homestay overnight on Taquile if you have more time. Our 'barebones' ferry turned out to have a spanish-speaking guide that helped us to understand what we were looking at and some of the history and traditions of the islands. Our spanish is still sadly lacking however he spoke clearly enough that we caught most of what was being explained. The name 'Titicaca' comes from traditional Quechua and Aymara meaning 'Rock Puma', our guide showed us satellite photos of the lake to demonstrate while sounding unconvinced himself.
The floating island of Uros are artificially constructed from reeds placed in layers on top of squares of marshy earth that have been dug up and pulled together with rope to serve as the base. New reeds can be grown on the island as well as harvested from the surrounding area to renew the reeds as they age. Everything is built of this material, island, houses, boats and lookout towers. One lady even broke one off the wall and used it to scratch the price of a pillow case onto the back of her hand.
On the island you can feel the gentle bob on the water and if you stand still for too long there is a sinking feeling as your feet push into the reed floor. It was good fun on flat water, I wonder how exciting things get in a proper storm.
The next island we visited, Taquile, is home to a thriving textile trade. I picked up a hat from the men's weaving club in the main square (35 soles) and we had a hearty lunch (20 soles) before exploring the rest of the island.
On the return to Puno angry clouds were rolling across the Lake. It took me a while to realise what was wrong with the scene. At this altitude the clouds are too low. At least from my sea level, Perth based perspective. The small rise of the islands and peninsulas are enough to force the clouds to be pushed higher. As the rain started falling heavier our tour guide came to the back of the ferry and rustled around for a squeegee then he's back up front being the windscreen wiper for the captain. We are pulled over by the coastguard just before re-entering the harbour at Puno where our boat was fined 160 soles for reasons we couldn't quite work out. Something to do with transporting people to the island he shouldn't have we were told by other travellers. Some of the travellers we'd picked up on Taquile were looking nervous before they decided the coastguard wasn't going to be inspecting our luggage.