Our return to La Paz for the night ensured much needed hot showers, good food (we had found a very homely cafe close to our hostel) and a decent sleep. The next day we all jumped on a local bus to Copacabana (Copa). Our first local bus experience was interesting; as many people as possible were crammed onto the less than adequate bus along with rucksacks and children, crackly local music blasted from the speakers, there was no air flow and fumes from the exhaust polluted the entire space. The three hour journey was slightly painful but redeemed itself by the awesome views we had along the way.
The city limit of La Paz seemed to extend for miles. It appears that homes here are built literally brick by brick when one can afford to do so. Almost 95 % of the homes in this area were incomplete and many without windows but appeared to be lived in. Hard to imagine in this harsh cold climate. As the city peeled away we came to the barren farming area where the work is done by hand, there was no machinery let alone animals for work. Women and very young children were working the fields by hoe, while animals were tied together by rope and watched over by their owners. It made us reflect on what we have at home and how we are worlds apart in terms of resources and technology.
Our journey took us around the shores of Lake Titicaca to Copacabana where we would be staying. Lake Titicaca, located on the boarder of Bolivia and Peru and sitting at 3811 m is the highest (navigable) lake in the world, and the largest in South America. Copa is a cute village with a relaxed ‘seaside’ feel.
The sun was shining, the air was clean and we could walk down the street without the risk of being run over. We all breathed a sigh of relief as we sat down to our alfresco lunch, Copa could not be more of a contrast with La Paz. We had a relaxing afternoon catching up on sleep and admin.
The next day we took a boat to Isla de Sol, or Island of the Sun, located in the middle of the Lake. The boat ride was similar to that of the previous days’ bus ride. Overcrowded, no life jackets, no ventilation with fumes pouring through the inside and with one motor working the 2 hour trip took 3. Nevertheless we made it safely to the northern end of the island where we began a 12km hike to the southern end of the island. Approximately 800 families live on the island and are reliant on farming, fishing and tourism to generate income. The island has many ruins dating to the Inca period (circa 15th C) but as we were under time pressure we did not have a chance to inspect these. We did however enjoy the breathtaking (literally- dam altitude) views across the island and lake. As we approached the southern end we saw the terraced farmland; the steep terrain has somehow been converted to productive agriculture, quite amazing.
The boat journey back was far more pleasant as we fought the locals for a spot on the deck and therefore avoided the crowding and fumes. That evening we had the best meal we have had in South America yet. We stumbled across the restaurant looking for easy simple foods as our tummies were still dodgy. A meal of local stuffed trout washed down with Bolivian chardonnay was just superb as we all reflected on our enjoyable day.
The following day our crew of travellers was split back to couples as we went our own ways. Spending two and a half weeks together is a long time in the world of travellers. We had become very close and will really miss them all as we continue on journey. Thanks guys, you really made Bolivia special for us, we hope that our paths will cross again sometime back in the mother land.
Next stop Pisco, a small town on the southern coast of Peru.