Friday, 27 May 2011

Copa, Copacabana, in Lake Titicaca!

On our next leg of the journey, we got a bus from La Paz to Copacabana. The famous Copacabana (from the song) is in Brazil, but the one we were off to was on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Lake Titicaca is on the border of Bolivia and Peru, and sits at 3,811m, making it one of the highest altitude lakes in the world. Copacabana is a pretty town in a valley on a peninsula that reaches out into the lake, and it is just on the Bolivian side of the border. To get there, we had to cross a small stretch of water, so at one point our bus stopped and we all got off to take a short ferry across the other side. Meanwhile, our bus took it's own ferry ride to meet us on the other side:

We had originally planned to stay in Copacabana for just a couple of nights, but when we arrived at our hotel, La Cupula, it was so nice that we booked a couple of nights more. We stayed on the hillside overlooking the bay, with lovely gardens and hammocks to sit and read in - bliss!

Down in the bay, there was a huge fleet of swan-shaped pedal boats, so we made the most of this glorious opportunity to pedal in style across the lake! There were also more traditional-looking boats moored there, made out of reeds with dragon heads at the helm:

A couple of hours boat ride away from Copacabana is the Isla del Sol ('Island of the Sun'), which is an Inca creation site and the largest island on Lake Titicaca. There are over 80 ruins on the island, most dating back to the Inca period in the 15th century, although archeologists have discovered evidence that people have lived on the island as far back as the third millennium BC! People still live on the island today in small villages, but it is mainly farmland with no paved roads or motor vehicles at all - really peaceful. It's very hilly, with great walking trails that take you up to amazing views across the lake.

On the boat to the Isla del Sol, with the Bolivian flag behind us:

Views from the Isla del Sol:

The boat dropped us off at the north end of the island, and we trekked up to the Chicana ruins. These are a maze of rocky passageways and interlinking rooms on a steep hillside overlooking a bay:

After visiting the ruins, we decided to take the trail south down the backbone of the island to meet the boat at the southern port of Yumani. The walk was really hilly (which is tiring in the thin, high altitude air), and took us about 3 hours - we just made it in time for the boat home. We took a ridiculous number of photos on the walk because it was so beautiful - rocky ruins, traditional houses and steep terraced farmland with the blue of Lake Titicaca behind it and snow-capped mountains beyond in the distance. Here are just a couple more pictures of the views:

When we reached Yumani, we walked down a zig-zag flight of 200 Inca steps reach our boat, and then headed home to Copacabana.

In Copacabana's main plaza is a huge white 16th-century Basilica which dominates the town. People bring their cars and trucks to the front of it to be blessed and decorated with flowers (the car in the bottom right corner of the picture below is decorated if you look closely).

The Cerro Calvario (a steep hill) rose up behind our hotel, and we took a walk up there one evening to watch the sunset. At the top of the hill are monuments representing the 14 stations of the cross, and pilgrims climb up to visit the stations and pray:

From the top the views of the sun setting across the lake were breathtaking. Here is the view of Copacabana from the top of the hill:

During our stay at Copacabana we had had our ear to the ground regarding news on crossing the border into Peru. Our plan was to cross the border and go to Puno, on the other side of the lake, but there were protests going on over there and the normal border crossing wasn't looking so simple. As a result, stayed one further night in Copacabana in the hope that things would blow over. They didn't. But I'll leave that story for the next post...

One final mention must go to the cat that lived at our hotel in Copacabana. She was only a little cat, but she was pregnant and always very hungry. So she sort of adopted us, asking to share our meals (i.e. miaowing loudly until we gave her some), and watching movies with us in the evenings while we stroked her belly. We called her Rolo because of her dark brown and caramel coloured fur. Probably the friendliest cat I've ever met in my life, and we miss her! Here she is, having a stretch and a tummy rub:

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