Lake Titicaca: The Bolivia Version

Trip Start Jan 03, 2012
Trip End May 02, 2013

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The border crossing from Peru to Bolivia went smoothly. We were prepared for the worst but in the end the only complications were a few lineups and small balls of hail falling very briefly as we entered another new country.  The Bolivian side was certainly more lively, with bands playing and people celebrating another holiday unknown to us.

Time seems to stand still in certain parts of the world, and many of the people seem quite content with keeping it that way.  It boggles the mind that infrastructure can remain so poor with tap water that is unsafe to drink and buildings made of mud or crumbling bricks lying half constructed while everyone has a cell phone and flat screen television.  We fly through like blurry blips on a background that moves forward ever so slowly.

We had been eating a lot of trout from Lake Titicaca while visiting the area.  They fried it up perfectly and served it with rice and french fries, usually preceded by a piping hot soup that warms the bones from the inside out; exactly what we needed for our colds.

We arrived at La Cupula, listed in Lonely Planet as a splurge but it was only $20 per night.  We were shown to a lovely room overlooking the beach, lake and town below with low hills in the distance.

Our afternoon walk led us into town for a little sightseeing and shopping.  We strolled along the beach and watched stray dogs scavenge for food.   People pedal boated around the bay and women in colourful dress peddled snacks and drinks.

Uptown we visited the impressive cathedral with its gold altar and large dark hued paintings depicting religious scenes, but most captivating was the candle chapel on the side.  The long dark hallway illuminated only by candlelight was a macabre place for followers to express their wishes on the walls using candle wax. In fact, Copacabana is well known for its ceremonial blessings of cars and other items.  We saw vehicles of all sorts colourfully decorated and christened with a bit of bubbly.

We couldn't miss a visit to the local market so that's where we went next.  Grandstand-like displays of vegetables presided over by a few women lined one side, fruits were in the middle and raw meat was on the other side.  Extending out from the front was the bread street and a few shops sold a mix of items like eggs, cheese and sausages.  Another laneway housed huge mounds of sweet popcorn of a different variety.  We picked up a few things for meals on the go and to cook in the kitchen at La Cupula.

Back in our fine room the air was chilly so we turned both heaters on and enjoyed the view.  Speed complications with uploading pictures to the blog prevented us from sending out any updates so we fell even further behind.  We cooked a simple meal and chatted with a German-Austrian couple (Dani and Sven) planning a move to Canada.

The following morning we breakfasted in the hostel's   restaurant with beautiful views out the creatively paned and stained glass windows.  Then we made our way down to the waterfront.
We boarded a boat bound for Isla Del Sol, birthplace of the sun and the Inca creation site, according to legend.  It was impossible to imagine a motorboat moving any slower.  The warm morning sun glistened atop the calm blue water.

At the south end of the island a few people got off and others got on the boat.  Two older local men ate popsicles and bread at the front of the boat.  We continued northward and disembarked at Challapampa.

For a small fee a Spanish guide led a large group of us to a small museum of pre-Incan Tiwanaku artifacts.  Then he took us up a moderate slope overlooking an attractive beach where several people were camping in tents.

He went on to explain a little about the island's importance and stopped at a few sights.  The first rock formation combined the refuges of the sun above and moon below.  Beside that was puma rock ('titi' means puma and 'caca' means rock).  Across the path was the table of sacrifices where llamas and alpacas were gifted to the gods.  Further down the trail was the Temple of the Sun.  We wandered around for a while and then commenced the long walk back to the south end of the island.

The scenery was spectacular.  The sparkling blue lake looked fine against the snow white and black rock mountains.  Lower hills formed finger-like peninsulas jutting out into the calm water.

When we reached the acme we were asked to purchase another ticket.  We were not informed about this checkpoint and protested to no avail.  The third ticket station near the end of the trail was expected but it wasn't the finish we were looking forward to.  The dollar amounts were borderline trivial but the principle seemed petty.  Each part of the island wanted their little piece from everyone who walked by.  They also brought animals out to pose for photos with fees attached.

Overall the island was a worthwhile visit.  We enjoyed a picnic lunch near some ruins with a stone archway, something we hadn't seen in the area before.  We descended a steep slope with a few minutes to spare before boarding the boat back to Copacabana.

We arrived at the hostel and were pleased to hear that we got to keep the same room as the night before, our favourite room so far.  That evening we really splurged and had dinner in the hostel's recommended restaurant.  We both ordered pumpkin soup with garlic bread to start.  Sylvia's main was meat lasagna while Jason had goulash with gnocchi.  The dishes were very good but they were so huge that we decided to finish the lasagna and reheat the goulash and gnocchi the next day.

The following morning we made ourselves tomato and shallot scrambled eggs with crusty buns for breakfast.  We hung around the hostel all morning and spent more time talking with Dani and Sven.  The goulash and gnocchi tasted even better when reheated for lunch.  Then we moseyed on downtown to catch our bus to La Paz.
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