A bit less of a showgirl...

Trip Start May 20, 2013
Trip End Mar 11, 2014

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Friday, July 12, 2013

After several days of bed rest, just getting on to the bus to Copacabana was a bit of a struggle for Hannah, but as soon as we neared Lake Titicaca, we knew it had been worth the panting and dizziness. The lake is so blue and sparkles in the sunshine, and the little town brims with the cheer and vitality that we had found a little rare in the high plains of Bolivia.

A lot of travellers use Copacabana as a base for a trip to the Isla del Sol, the nearby island which the Incas believed was the centre for the creation of the world. Although the Inca ruins and treks would have been interesting, we felt that trekking all day at 4000m would be too strenuous for our shaky health at the moment, and instead decided to enjoy what the town had to offer. So many travellers go to the island that we noticed a real change during the day, as all the foreigners disappeared and were replaced by bus-loads of holidaymakers from La Paz. All of a sudden, the town became a Bolivian Scarborough, with families picnicking on the beach and taking duck-boats out on the lake.

I'd propped Hannah up in bed and was about to go exploring, as was our new routine, when I got a pleasant surprise - she lives! I would be joined by my lovely girlfriend, fresh from a shower for the first time in a week, for lunch at the lakeside!

Our hostel was around the corner from the cathedral which dominates the town. The colonial influence is becoming more pronounced as we get further North; the cathedral was made of whitewashed stone and decorated with tiles, and would seem perfectly at home in Southern Spain. Religion here, though, is a strange mix of Catholicism, superstition and the more ancient religions: the locals pray to the Inca goddess Pachamama to grant them a new house or a new car, then they get the new house or car blessed by a Catholic priest. As we walked by the cathedral there was a huge line of cars snaking their way toward the priest to be blessed.

A short walk led us to the beach front, where dozens of stalls were selling the local specialties of grilled trout and kingfish. We set ourselves up at one and were not disappointed; after weeks of plain meats, grains and potatoes, I was ecstatic to be served a juicy fish, grilled to perfection with a mildly spicy sauce. As the sun beat down on us and the lake ebbed gently by our side, we felt like a corner had been turned.

I decided to climb a nearby hill to see the sun setting over the lake, leaving Hannah to gather her strength for another venture outside later. The hill looms over the town, but it wasn't until I started climbing that I realised just what I'd gotten myself into. It's in fact something of a pilgrimage site, as the 14 stations of the Cross are marked at regular intervals along the way and there are shrines to the saints at the top. And good golly is it steep. La Paz felt like a stroll in the park as my aching muscles screamed at me all the way, until I finally reached the shrines (and was promptly put to shame, as usual, by a local goat-boy sauntering up with a smile on his face). I held back the tears and found a good spot to watch the sunset.

As the sun went down on the beautiful lake, it occurred to me that this was one of the most romantic moments of our trip so far - and all I had for company was my IPod. Still, Hannah was getting better and probably wouldn't have appreciated the ridiculously steep journey to get there at the moment. The romance between a boy and his headphones was then slightly ruined; just after the sun had gone, the vendors at the top took the opportunity to close up shop and empty the bins - down the side of the mountain. I watched wide-eyed as litter flew down and collected with months' worth of bottles, wrappers and tissues, blighting what is otherwise a spectacular and quite spiritual place. I hesitate to say that it's endemic in the country, but we've noticed several such examples of a short-sighted attitude to life; the thought often seems to be that they'd rather sweep things under the rug (or down the other side of the mountain) than take care to preserve the amazing places they have.

We spent another day relaxing by the lake and eating more trout, and we happened to bump into a couple we had met in Mendoza a few weeks before, Matt and Ruth. They've been travelling the world for nearly a year, and were able to give us tips for the future about India and Southeast Asia - including, as they seemed as excited about food as we are, some tips for places to get the best meals in the continent. Dinner with some familiar faces was another welcome surprise, and we were leaving Copacabana the next day feeling more positive than we had done for a while.

The next morning, however, as we were picking up our bags to go for the bus to Peru, the floor seemed to be yanked from under me. Weird. It seems that as well as altitude sickness, Hannah had also had a bug, and this was the start of a few rough days for me too.

The excitement of going to Peru, though, helped me through that day. It's safe to say we'd think twice about going back to Bolivia (I'm sure we were just repeatedly unlucky, but I can't pretend it was my favourite place), and crossing the border rekindled some anticipation of the places to come. Next stop: Puno, Peru!
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Jess on

Where's Larry?????

hannah-ollie on

Larry is there, but it's maybe quite a tricky one...

Jess on

Found it!! On the e!!

Beth on

Glad you guys are feeling more positive, and hope this bug hasn't knocked you for six! Awesome blog so far, can't wait to hear about Peru!!


PS Some of us are glued to our iPhones y'know, and Larry isn't visible in the photo on my tiny Apple screen :-( Ell just had to use the phrase (I kid not), "I think he's only visible in HD."

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