That is what I have to say about the four fabulous days I spent in Lake Titicaca. It was so much more beautiful than I had anticipated, a massive sapphire sparkling in the sunlight, snow-capped mountains bordering one side and beige hills rolling out on the other.
The origin of the lake´s name is unknown, but many believe is it a combination of the local Quechua and Aymara languages and can be translated to mean Rock Puma … or Crag of Lead. Both are obviously less funny than TITICACA.
Whatever you decide to call it, there is no question that this place has some of the world´s most breathtaking scenery.
Just a three-hour bus ride from La Paz, Lake Titicaca is world´s away from the bustling city. As an aside, the bus ride was interesting because after about two hours, we stopped and everyone started getting off. After a mix of English and Spanish explanations I realized we had to take a small boat across a narrow part of the lake — while our bus took a separate raft across! It would have been nice if someone had told me (or anyone on this bus) to expect this little event when I bought my ticket, but so goes it in South America!
I spent two days Copacabana, the major tourist town situated on the banks of the lake. Other than a quick peek at the massive church, I spent most of the day relaxing at my hotel, La Cupula. It sits on a hill above the town and the comfy chairs and hammocks scattered across the grass beg to be used. However, it is a bit hard to concentrate on a book when you are faced with such stunning views.
Other than the view, the people (and animals) I met made this a great place to relax. One puppy and two cats live at La Cupula and they spent a large part of the sunny day sleeping at my feet, on my lap or under my chair. Unless the rooster came out, in which case the puppy would bark at it… but only from afar, as he didn’t have the courage to get too close.
In the afternoon, a local woman would come through with her sheep, 6 or 7 extra wooly beasts calmly munching on the grass as they passed.
I spent some time chatting with an older couple from Atlanta; they quit their jobs to travel the world for a year and had already spent five months in Asia. There was also a young Australian couple traveling for a year, they had worked their way down from Central America and entered Bolivia via Peru.
The next day I took a very slow two-hour ferry ride across the lake to Isla del Sol — Sun Island. I still laugh about the condition of this boat – I would never have boarded this craft in the U.S., but here it seemed ok. (And I didn’t really have another choice to get there!)
Isla del Sol is among the most populated island in Lake Titicaca, but it has no paved roads and no cars. It is also very mountainous, which is a killer when the altitude is over 12,500 feet. The hike from lake level to the top — where my hotel was located — almost killed me. Seriously. I was barely able to take 10 steps without stopping to catch my breath.
I started by climbing the Inca Steps, which are said to be the original staircase laid down by the Incas. After that, it was an almost vertical, hot, dusty climb past donkey trains (used to carry heavy loads up the mountain), small villages, giggling school children and the occasional llama or alpaca.
In the end, it was worth the effort.
I didn’t mind shelling out a bit more for Palla Khasa Ecological Hotel, as the setting was unparalleled and the hotel itself had unique tiki-hut architecture that I hadn’t seen yet in Bolivia. Plus, the bed and room were really comfortable!
This is the kind of place where you can just sit in a chair and stare for hours without getting bored. And that it was I did for most of the morning… the air so still and quiet I could hear the bugs buzzing as the mirror surface of the lake lulled me into a semi-sleep state.
It was also here that I met two older British couples in their 50s: Jane and John, Sharon and Tim. They were simply lovely. They have been friends since they met 30 years ago in a small town south of London, where they still live today.. Their travel log is impressive and John and Tim added to it by hiking the four-day trail to Machu Pichu. They invited me to have dinner with them and were full of interesting tales about where they´ve been, where they are going and their kids (one of whom is an actor.)
The sights I see when I travel are memorable but often the people I meet are unforgettable. I am sorry I don´t have a picture of them, but I will leave you with some visions of the impressive Lake Titicaca and it´s surroundings: