Thursday March 26, 2015 (Bolivia, South America)
Lake Titicaca: the highest navigable lake in the world! What does “navigable” mean, you ask? Great question. It appears to be related to whether or not it’s possible to have reasonably large commercial craft operating on the lake. There are some big boats on Lake Titicaca, so presto chango: it’s navigable, and at a very high altitude of over 3800m!
We started our journey with an entertaining bus ride from La Paz to Copacabana. The bus ride itself wasn’t necessarily a blast, but the part where we temporarily hopped off and were shipped across a channel by a rickety wooden boat whilst our bus was ferried across by an equally rickety-looking barge was great!
Upon arrival at Copacabana, we were almost immediately redirecting to Isla del Sol, a large island within Lake Titicaca.
Once at the island, confusion reigned supreme. We were immediately asked to pay money to be on the southern stretch of Isla del Sol. This is a common theme in Bolivia: land of the nickel and dime. After paying to be in the spot which we already found ourselves, we were told that our hotel was about a 45 minute walk away. At this altitude and with a reasonably heavy bag, the walk directly up a huge hill was unappealing. Thus it was time to hire some donkeys to take our bags to the hotel! A couple of bucks later and we could limit our weight worries to just our bodies. That was more than enough for me.
Our hotel had a resident cute puppy. Sandra falls more in love with dogs every day, whether the genuinely owned or the street urchin variety.
In the evening, we made our way to a restaurant that had been recommended to us: Las Velas (the candles). The restaurant has no electricity, so the tables are candlelit and cooking is done by fire. Options were pizza, trout, or lasagna. We had met a Swiss couple named Thomas and Nadine on the walk up to our hostel, as well as an Austrian girl name Julia. The group of us descended on Las Velas with our headlamps at the ready. The meal certainly took enough time to cook, but our group kept occupied with a game called Geneva taught to us by the Swiss (which they’d learned in Chile from a British couple!). The dinner was fabulous, and incredibly cozy. I had recently learned yet another German word that English people use from time to time, and it certainly applied here: gemutlich.
A storm raged in the distance, and kindly landed directly overhead as it was time to leave the restaurant. Cue the walk back to the hotel in the dark — good thing we had those headlamps handy! It was funny: both evenings on Isla del Sol we heard explosions in the evening which we were told were due to some kind of silver (nitrate?) being released into the clouds to trigger rain. Not sure why that was necessary, but we believed the story. The rain was sure coming, anyway!
Our second day on the island we attempted to walk up to the north side and back. It’s about 3 hours in one direction, and we didn’t get started until about 2pm due to rain all morning, so we didn’t have a lot of hope about completing the journey. Regardless, we had some beautiful views of the island as sunset approached.
We ran into a little local by the name of Monica. We told her we definitely didn’t need help finding our way back to the hotel, but she wandered along with us anyway. As we were about to part ways, she made a request: “Caramelitas?” (Candies?). Sandra actually had some small coca candies on her, and passed one to Monica. Immediately, Monica commanded: “Dos!” (Two!). I’ve never been so charmed while being extorted.
Dinner the second night? Surprise: back to Las Velas! With Tom and Nadine again, but this time we taught them Love Letter instead of playing Geneva. Another wonderful meal, and another departure by headlamp in the rain.
The next morning we headed back to Copacabana for our stay at the beautiful La Cupula. Sandra had a lunch downtown and was excited to get nachos. The local interpretation was Doritos covered in ketchup. Didn’t quite hit the mark.
We wandered up the Cerro Calvario for a view over the town of Copa. Another reminder of how exhausting it is to climb at high altitude. We were both panting heavily for the entire walk!
Back to La Paz tomorrow, and off on a jungle journey shortly thereafter!