Lake Titicaca is referred to as to as the birthplace of the Inca civilization. This is considered to be the first area to domesticate llamas and alpacas in Pre-Inca times and the Incas believed that Isla del Sol was the birthplace of their culture. The bus from La Paz was scheduled to pick us up early at our hotel, so we had arranged to have breakfast around 6am. I had met a charming English family (the Clydes) the day before. They are travelling the world as a family and they had loved Vietnam so we quickly found a lot in common. By coincidence, they were also taking the same Bolivia Hop bus to Copacabana, the town on Lake Titicaca that lent its name to a lesser known beach in Brazil. Following a tour of La Paz hotels and hostels, we were soon climbing out of the valley towards La Paz´s ugly sister, El Alto. We stopped there for a quick bathroom break and it was indeed dusty and grim. Lonely Planet had spoken of a beautiful trip, but that beauty was certainly not to be found in El Alto.
The journey continued and the scenery became more spectacular as we finally reached the lake. We stopped in one particular spot where the lake was surrounded by snow-capped peaks. Boarding again the bus assistant warned us to have our passports ready as we would be stopping in a village that was home to the Bolivian navy. Judging by the few small boats tied up at the pier, it is perhaps safe to say that Bolivia is not one of South America´s most feared naval powers. Stranger happenings were yet to unfold, not only would we be packed into small boats to cross, but our bus would also cross this section of the lake by raft. It felt somewhat unreal to look out from amid the diesel fumes and see our bus bobbing along on a raft behind us! Travel in South America can certainly be a tale of the unexpected at times.
Our first view of Copacabana was far from promising. Worse still, when the bus stopped to let us off, there seemed to be a big hole in the middle of the road. I made my way to my hostel, La Cupola, which is perched on the hill behind the town. Alpacas roamed freely amongst the hammocks in the garden. Slowly, this place was beginning to grow on me. In the evening, I had dinner at the restaurant in the hostel. The cheese fondue was sumptious and the pancake with ice cream was even more delicious.
The following day, I met up with the Clydes as we had all had the idea to walk to the top of Calvary Hill to get sunset views over Lake Titicaca. According to the Lonely Planet, the traveller´s bible, this walk can be done in thirty minutes. I assume that is the case if you have been at altitude for weeks and have arrived fresh from the Inca Trail in Peru. Some of us made heavy work of this climb indeed! I needed to stop to catch my breath at practically every one of the fourteen crosses on the way up and I am sure that I have earned my place in paradise. However, the view from the top was heavenly. From the top there were magical views across the lake in the changing light of the late afternoon. At one point I spotted a condor gliding on a warm air current above the lake. How I wished I had one of those professional cameras! The trek down the hill was thankfully easier than the climb.
My original route would have taken me to Potosi and Uyuni. However, I am glad that I came to Lake Titicaca. Meeting the Clydes opened me up to a whole range of travel destinations should I be lucky to be able to make a return trip to South America next year. I look forward to following their travels on their website.
The lake has a magic all of its own and the town is a charming and relaxing place to unwind with good cheap food. If only it had functional Wifi connections, it would be truly be a piece of paradise on earth. Now onto the Amazon should everything go to plan (never guaranteed in Bolivia).