highest navigable lake in the world!!
Nov 21, 2002 8:29 pm
what all the books say about Lake Titicaca, not that Alison and I know exactly
what defines navigable. At any rate, it is pretty freaking huge, and, at
around 3900m, pretty freaking high. (Come to think of it, Bolivia is the
land of lots of highests- highest capital, highest city, highest lake...)
A fairly painless bus ride from La Paz landed us in Copacabana, right on
the beautiful, blue shores of the lake. The funny thing about that ride
is that Copabana cannot be reached by driving through Bolivia because it
is on a penninula which stems from Peru, so to get a bus there requires
a stop in which all the people in the bus have to disembark and get on a
tiny boat while the bus is loaded on a barge- type thing and ferried across.
I was wondering why we had to get off the bus at all until I saw the sorry
shape of the barge and the way it listed heavily to the side and threatened
to tip at every wave. Much safer where we were.
Walking down from the main plaza of Copacabana, we found a nice hostel with
an actual hot shower and duvets! The original plan was to leave the next
morning and walk down the penninsula to get a boat to the Isla del Sol,
then spend two nights there, but early morning sleet scared us and we spent
the day in town instead. Not a bad place, with a lovely cathedral which
is the home of the famous Virgin de Copacabana. She heals all your woes
and makes everything better, so the Spanish priests learned to overlook
her slighly native appearance. We popped in for a visit, but all my jungle
bits and blisters remain. Maybe I should have light a candle...
The next morning, we sailed for two hours to the Isla del Sol. On the ride,
we befriended an American couple, Ben and Nicole, from Salt Lake City (not
Mormons) who were biking all over the Bolivian Andes. Not exactly my ideal
vacation, but they had bulging muscles, smart- looking gear and appeared
totally up to the task. The lake has a lot of chop, but the ride went ok
and we made it to the north end of the island without problems.
The north end is the home of a large, pre-Incan ruin, and the rock for which
the island is named. We walked up to the ridge of hills and looked around
the ruins, then at the rock. Umm... it is meant to look like a puma, and
be very sacred- the actual birthplace of the Sun God, the father of the
Incan civilization. Now, I personally think you would have to chew an awful
damn lot of coca to see any sort of puma shape in that rock, but maybe my
imagination just isnt as vivid as an Aymara one. (The Aymaras are the original
inhabitants, and the language is still the prodominant one on the island).
From there, we walked for a few hours to the other southern end of the island.
Along the way, we could see the lake on both sides, as well as a few little
adobe houses and the occational sheep, one of which tried to steal Alison´s
lunch. The south end, where there is an impossibly confusing little town,
was our resting place for the night. With a little difficulty, we found
a hostel, rested, then went off to look for dinner. We ended up in some
guy´s house, who made us an incredible pizza, and then proceeded to
talk our ears off about his extensive chef-training and the new restaurant
he will be opening. Turns out that he had access to a boat, which was great
news to us because we needed a lift early the next morning to Yampupata,
the first town across fromt the island; we intended to walk back to Copacabana
rather than take the boat directly so we made plans to return for breakfast,
and then to head to the boat.
We were supposed to ride across with Ben and Nicole and their bikes, but
couldnt find them in the morning so we left and began our trek home. The
¨highway¨ back to town seems to be frequented more old bicycles,
pigs, and sheep then actual cars, and offered us a real insight into lakeside
life. It took about four hours to walk back. An hour or so in, the cyclists
past us and we made plans to meet up for dinner in their hotel.
Dinner was fantastic. Alison and I both had filet mignon to celebrate our
last evening in Bolivia. After dinner, we heard loads of bangs and pops
coming from the plaza, so we went to investigate. The plaza was full, and
everyone seemed to be having a grand time even though no one could really
tell us what the festivities were all about. We later learned that, because
the virgin is so wonderfully power and popular, every town in Bolivia is
given a date when they can come and bask in her healing powers. That weekend
belonged to Cochabamba, and the faithful had turned out in mass to celebrate
with fireworks and dancing. We watched for awhile, tried some strange, slighly
mealy alcoholic drink offered to us by a local man, then off to bed.
The next morning, we returned to the plaza to see the cars be blessed. People
drive up in front of the cathedral and buy different paper and floral products
from the vendors in order to decorate their vehicle, then a priest blesses
it. Only a photo can fully explain the lenghts that some people went to
to decorate. Then, we watched a procession of the virgin, which, disappointingly,
was not the famous virgin but a teeny, tiny little one. Big let down.
In the early afternoon, we left Bolivia at last and headed on to Puno on
the most fabulously clean-smelling bus we have encountered in ages.
(Continued in Puno . . .)