Copacabana and Lake Titicaca

My last stop in Bolivia is Copacabana on Lake Titicaca, this would put me firmly on the Gringo trail which I’ve hopped on and off before but until now I’ve not hit the busiest parts. Lake Titicaca is the highest altitude lake int he world and has some spectacular views, especially on the Isla del Sol which will be the next post and here is Wikipedia to explain everything better than I can.

After realising that I’d left my card in a cash machine across town when I went to buy a bottle of water, I hadn’t drunk any for over 12 hours and I partly attribute this to why I left the card in the machine, I sat in the bus station waiting for my bus to leave, cancelled my card, and this time I wasn’t as shocked as the first time. Maybe I’m getting accustomed to losing things or maybe it’s just that I have three months left and the last time I threw away a card it was on my first intercity trip and I didn’t know for how long I’d be travelling.

I jumped on the bus pretty tired and ate my crisps and crackers for breakfast. I’ve seen the scenery several times so I buried myself in my iPad and watch Dirk Gently, a really good series if you’ve not seen it, as we drove through El Alto and up towards Copacabana. Due to me having zoned out I was slightly shocked when we were told to get off the bus and on a boat to cross a small section of the lake. The bus went on a separate craft that didn’t look all that stable and I later overheard people saying a bus had toppled in a few weeks before. I could easily believe this but at the same time who knows.

Once back on the bus the rest of the journey was pretty fast and soon I was in Copacabana. Whilst a lot of people were milling about after te bus stopped i headed to my hostel, which was amazing to let me check in before 12pm, we actually had arrived early, so I had a shower and sorted myself out and then headed down to the beach for some trout. Lake Titicaca is famous for trout and although not indigenous they are now plentiful in the lake. There are a load of stalls selling food on the sea front. I walked along them until I saw one that was busy and the local police were having lunch so I joined them, in the restaurant not at the table and ordered trout.

Whilst eating I made a quick plan of what to do that afternoon and decided to head up to CerrΓ³ Calvario. There are two routes up so I took the harder route up and came down the steps which would allow me to walk out of town to the north and see some Inca ruins. To get there I needed to walk along the beach.

The trail was easy to find and follow and the hill is not too high, I say hill although it’s over 4000 metres high but is doesn’t rise too high above the lake. Here was my view on the way up.

I arrived at the top after having taken a few wrong turns and was greeted by fireworks and what looked like some kind of ceremony. I have no idea what was going on. There was lots of confetti around, a mix of locals and tourists, a tonne of stores selling tat and a stream of people heading to the top up the easier stairs with various bottles of local soda. Slightly bemused I took my photos and moved on.

The hill does have religious significance, hence the fiesta, and as a result there were a lot of crosses so I also photoed them.

There is also a secondary peak called Santa BΓ‘rbara, and for some reason I thought there was a church up here but there wasn’t. There seemed to be a fire on the way up and I’ve seen several fires randomly burning now. It wasn’t out of control and I was told about a bush on the Maragua Crater Hike about a bush that dies set fire to itself. Actually on my walk the next day I saw a lot of evidence of small fires. Anyways I did the logical thing that one should do when they see a fire on the only path back down and headed straight towards it and took photos and then continued knowing I’d have to pass it on the way back down. This summit was not so crowded and here were a few stalls and locals hanging about. I didn’t stay long as I still had 6 km more to hike.

I followed the steps all the way back to town and as I was leaving I saw a man in his 20s crying his eyes out and he seemed to be defending himself as three women were arguing with him, there were a couple of men watching and keeping quiet who seemed to be on the side of the women. I’ve not seen many people crying here, although there was one time in La Paz where a women was in a huge distress which has just popped into my mind, I can’t remember who she was shouting at now but I think someone had cheated on her, but yet again I’ve digressed. So I started walking slowly as I wanted to see that he was alright but with my command of Spanish I couldn’t find out and I had no idea if he was being bullied or had slept with the vicars daughter. I realised it wasn’t my business and all I could probably do is make things worse so I carried on.

Soon the houses gave way to country and I started to see a lot of farm animals and open space. It’s dusty and dry here also so each time a car passed by me on the road I was covered in dust. I had seen a pier in the distance and thought I would take a look but there were only some dogs and some people making repairs.

I headed back towards my destination and just before I arrived a dog came bounding up from nowhere. I thought he was aggressive so I backed away slowly and picked up a large stone. He seemed to get the message and ran away a little. I dropped the stone and began to relax but he came bounding back but his approach was much more friendly this time. I scratched his head and he decided to follow me. He actually followed me all the way back to town and I can’t remember where I lost him but I saw him around a few times over the next couple of days. Annoyingly the attraction I came to see was closed so I headed back to town.

You can see the Church in some of the photos above and it really is a huge structure that dominates the town and plaza, especially for a tow of this size. I didn’t stay long as I was tired and wanted to rest.

I headed out to dinner at a restaurant mentioned in the guide books and treated myself to a two course meal. Soup to start followed by fajitas. It was too much food and I realised I’ve been eating a lot recently. When I was at Upclose I wasn’t having dinner most nights and I need to stop. I think the hiking is balancing it out at least!

There were several things I wanted to do the next day and I decided to try all of them. I realised that I could do a loop which would result in around a 20km hike. Leaving at 10am I was confident that I would be back by 4pm and I was actually back in 5 hours.

I followed the road uphill which was really taxing but was soon rewarded with some beautiful views of the lake and town.

I saw another path and decided to walk along a little way hoping it would lead up to a small summit. It didn’t but I got some good views of the valley. I turned around and followed the road up the larger Cerro San SebastiΓ‘n. I checked the map and again I was on the wrong path. I cursed myself as I had given myself further to walk, and up a steep hill. I checked and it was only another 750 metres to the top and I started to walk but then thought why am I giving myself another 1.5km to what already was a long hike so I went back down and followed the right path.

I was walking really fast along what might have been an Inca Trail. It certainly seems to be constructed the same way and was largely made of sones. I suddenly found myself falling forward as I put all my weight on a rock that tilted forward and went running before I fell flat on my face saving myself with my hands. I banged my knee a little and ended up with a tiny bruise. I took a minute to think about how lucky I was as my hands weren’t even grazed and the rest of me was fine. It was a long way to help if I had needed it and I remember how easily I cut up my hands when I fell chasing the dog in the car park on the Isle of Wight. Somehow I had needed up in the softest place in the trail for a landing. Again I felt that something was watching over me.

After a few more wrong turns I made it to the Inca ruins at the top of the hill. To be fair I’m not sure if what is in the photos below is ruins or walls built by farmers. There was no one else up here and no information about the site. It was now nearly 12pm and I had only walked about 6km. Well 6 km of my route. I had walked further due to the wrong directions I had taken. So I sat and ate my lunch and enjoyed the views.

The next stage involved walking 7km out to a peninsula. This was all along roads and a section was on tarmac road. I had also planned this as if I were feeling tired I could get a bus back to town.

The oddest thing I saw on this journey was a huge airstrip that looked completely deserted. I’m sure I read in the guide book that it was disused, however, it looked brand new. I’ve always wondered how long runways are and as the road took me around the airport I found out. The answer is long.

On the way to the peninsula I started passing houses, fields of animals and small villages. At one point I passed a whole group of people who were leaving what appeared to be a town meeting. It was made awkward for me as I’d just picked up a big stone to throw at an aggressive dog, I hate the dogs here sometimes, if he came too close. I couldn’t discreetly drop it and I think all the villagers saw me with the stone.

The walk to the peninsula was beautiful but there was nothing there when I arrived. I stopped to eat some more food and take a break before walking the final 6km back to Copacabana. This is the section that was suggested in the guidebook and it is a really beautiful journey as you walk back towards the town alongside the lake.

At one point I walked through another town meeting and passed a lot of school kids who had a long walk home from school.

The road eventually leads down to the beach and I went to the shore to explore. Soon after I arrived back in town and returned to my room where I collapsed exhausted having managed to walk 24km that day.

Whist resting I ate a whole pack of cookies so tried to have a smaller meal. I couldn’t find the place I wanted to go so in my tired state I ended up with a burger, but no chips! I then went to bed early as I need to catch a boat at 8:30 then next day to the Isla del Sol.

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