Lake Titicaca

Published: June 20th 2013
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La Paz to Lake Titicaca

Sore and tired after cycling down the WMDR (yes we are feeling our age), we sensibly had an early Saturday night in preparation for a 7.45am bus ride to Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca. We thought La Paz was chilly, but Copacabana takes the mickey, at just over 3800m the air is thin and cold, and when in the shade with a breeze blowing, positively freezing.

Copacabana is only 100km or so from La Paz, but it takes almost 4hrs to get there. Firstly, it is just over an hour to get out of El Alto, the ever increasing suburb in the outskirts of La Paz. It is the fastest growing area of Bolivia as all of the people from the Altiplano move in from the country in search of a 'better' life in the city. El Alto sores up above 4150m, some 500+ metres above La Paz central. At the time of morning that we were passing through, any shallow pools of water were frozen solid, and it took us well over an hour to navigate through the crazy market-laden streets.

Leaving El Alto, we were presented with a most glorious view over the Cordillera mountain range, the same range that our plane from Rurre had threaded its way through a few days prior. There are no clouds in the deep blue sky, and it is a magnificent site for over an hour on the dead straight road. But the sun is beaming in sideways through the window and we find ourselves nodding off in the glowing warmth. We are jolted awake as the bus starts turning through hairpins as it weaves down to lake Titicaca.

At 3800 metres Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world, and we were greeted with all sorts of water craft, from rowboats, to boats crafted from weeds, to motorised ferries, and to the barge that our bus had to get on to cross the straight of Tiquina to the peninsula that Copacabana lies on. No passengers were allowed on the bus as it's loaded onto the barge, so we had to pile onto a small ferry that was loaded to twice its capacity and driven by a boy who did not look old enough to shave. The fumes spewing out of the misfiring outboards reduced the oxygen and therefore our mental capacity, and finally the ability to fully appreciate the safety issues presented to us. Our ferry made it to the other side from where we watched the bargemen maneuver the bus-laden barge into place with long pieces of wood. And then when it was in the correct place for disembarking one of the bargemen held the barge in place by standing on the chain! The next hour was spent weaving up, down and around mountains, some of which still had snow from a few days ago, until we descended into Copacabana.

The town was full of gringo's and every Bolivian spoke English, which was a first for us. Although touristy as hell, the place has its charms, from the beautiful views over the lake, to the 10's of stalls on the lakeside selling the same dish, whole trout and boiled potatoes for $3. As it was our last two nights in Bolivia, we had booked into a hotel (yes a hotel, not a hostel!). And this one came with the added bonus of a heater and cable t.v. While T.V does not sound like much, after 3 months a bit of square eyes in a warm room was a winner. I got to watch the last round of the US open golf, as well as the NBA finals match 5, a good sport hit. And mojo some crappy movies and tv shows.

The next day we went for a day trip to Isla de Sol (island of the sun), an important place for the Inca's. These days there is around 800 families, and 800 hostels/restaurants on the island. There are no roads, and the only means of transport is by foot and donkey. The ferry took around 2 hours to get from Copa to the nth end of the island, from where we walked to some important Inca ruins from around 15 A.D, and then a lung busting 9km's to the southern village of Yumani, following the mountain ridge that pierces the island. Most of the walk was above 4000m, traversing up and down the hills on the islands, and at times it was hard work. But it was good practise for Machu Picchu which we are doing in a few days. The walk was mainly over barren terrain, sometimes interspersed with Eucalyptus trees, but mainly with glorious views over to Peru on one side, and to the Cordillera on the other. The water in the lake is clear and Mediterranean in appearance, and looks inviting, despite the 2 or 3 degree air temp. It must get warm here during summer as there are signs asking people not to sunbathe nude!

On our last day we had 8 hours to kill, but ran into Johnno and Sarah from Rurre and managed to kill some time catching up with them, as well as indulging in my last Bolivian beers. That night we got the overnight bus to Cuzco, sadly leaving behind Bolivia. What an amazing country, from mind bogglingly scenery ranging from ice capped volcanoes, to salt flats, to Amazonian jungle to crazy La Paz. And the people are fantastic and friendly as well, despite having a penchant for protesting and blowing up bits of road! Despite spending 6 weeks here, there is so much more to see and explore. I leave with a heavy heart, but with a stomach and digestive track that is looking forward to other things.


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24th June 2013

sunrise crew in sth america
hi guys, you might run into Edwina Bartholomew and a sunrise crew. They are showing the glories of Sth America on brkfst TV here at the moment. Have fun stay safe, Nadal out of wimbledon

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