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Published: October 6th 2008
Nope, we haven´t leapfrogged into Brazil, this is the less famous Copa beach on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca. And we´re on holiday...the sun is out, the water is twinkling and we´re putting our feet up for a well earned rest!!! It´s a pretty little town dominated by a beautiful white Moorish style cathedral that glistens against the bright blue sky. Beach stalls selling bbq trout line the shore, and a few bars with a hippy vibe. We make ourselves at home with a sundowner, followed by a few more and some tasty dinner, and a nightcap listening to some live tango guitar in a small bar.
The next day we´re up and at ´em starting with a walk down the pebble beach. It´s pretty dirty with lots of broken glass and plastic bags and I nearly puke when I spot a dead dog. It such a shame as with a proper clean up this would be a real beauty spot. We walk a good couple of kms to outrun the scum and it does get cleaner.
We pass a family who´ve set up camp complete with sizzling bbq. The patriarch hails us with a cheery ¨Gringos!¨and waves
us over. He is old school cowboy with a smiley weathered face and seems beside himself at our arrival. He fills a plate for us to share and all looks promising until we realise it´s more offal! But not wanting to offend we get stuck in and shoot the breeze...I think (my Spanish is getting better, but...!) we talk god, race, religion, politics and how the bastards Chileans stole their only coastline in the late 1800´s. The landlocked Bolivians aren´t going to forget that one in a hurry.
It´s a lovely moment and he and his wife make us feel so welcome...she instantly refills our plate as soon as we manage to clear it...bollocks (oh god I hope not)! He keeps rocking with laughter and proclaiming ¨Gringos!¨happily and I don´t want to ruin it by telling him there´s a few hundred more down at the ´bana. Bellies full and hearts fuller, we´re farewelled with handshakes and kisses.
That evening we climb for an hour up the Cerro Calvario, one of the two hills that Copa sits between. It´s breathless going at this altitude and we need frequent breaks. It´s an atmospheric climb as you pass catholic shrines and
14 Stations of the Cross, although the bright yellow Simpsonesque statue of JC kinda ruins the effect. But the view over the lake towards Isla del Sol, our next destination, is stunning and the sunset our most beautiful yet.
The cathedral in Copa has become an important place on the pilgramage calendar. The sculpture of the Virgin Mary is believed to be the catalyst for many miracles and people believe that if it is ever moved the lake will flood and devastate the area. One pilgrimage that we saw was for the Benedicion de Movilidades, the blessing of the motor vehicles. When I first saw cars all decked out with flowers, ribbons and religious icons I thought there was a wedding in town. Turns out people come from far and wide to ask for the protection of the Virgin, have the priest bless the driver with holy water, whilst the car is doused with alcohol (important not to mix these bits up). Apparently this is all it takes to be a bonifide holy roller.
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