Lake Titicaca’s 150-year Old Steamship That Runs on Dung

BAP Puno

The BAP Puno. Photo credit: Peruvian Navy.

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Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America, is situated high up in the Andes on the borders of Peru and Bolivia. The water body occupies a deep valley in the mountains some 190 kilometers long and 80 kilometers across at its widest point. Located at an elevation of over 3,800 meters, Lake Titicaca carries the distinction of being the highest navigable lake in the world because of all the commercial vessels that ply between the Peruvian and Bolivian sides carrying passengers and cargo.

Since prehistoric times, the indigenous people living around Lake Titicaca have navigated the lake using boats made of totora—a reed that grows in abundance on the lake. Totora reeds are also fashioned into small floating islands where the Uru people of the lake have lived for thousands of years. During European colonization, the Spanish introduced wooden sailing boats and in the 19th century came iron steamship. One of these boats, the Yapura, now called BAP Puno, is still used by the Peruvian Navy.


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