Leaving “the Death Road”, our challenging driving had just begun. We entered La Paz at peak hour! Using our maps we were able to circumvent the main part of the city, however once we hit the suburb of El Alto the frenzy began.
It was like swimming with a crazed school of salmon, except the fish were swimming in both directions.
As I have stated before, there are no traffic rules in Sth America. Traffic lanes are non-existent, as are indicators. The mini buses are the worst as they weave in and out of traffic, stopping suddenly to drop off or pick up passengers. Add to that the fact that we were driving into the sun, and the main road suddenly ended due to road works, and yes, you could say it was a stressful drive.
It took us a lot longer to get through the city than we anticipated. It was now dark, but we wanted to clear the city outskirts so we could find a safe place to camp. Once again we relied on ioverlander. It lead us straight to a campsite by Lake Titicaca. We knew when we stopped that we were on a small peninsula of land and that we were surrounded by water. In the morning we were pleasantly surprised with the amazing scene surrounding us. Local fisherman and families using boats to ferry their supplies from the market to their homes on the surrounding islands greeted us. They were surprised to see us camping but were very friendly.
Somewhat refreshed we continued on to Copacabana which involved crossing a small strait of water on a barge. Mike and I have memories, from our last trip, of watching the bus carrying our backpacks travel across this body of water. A man on the barge was bailing buckets of water out as it went. This time, 17 years later we again saw the same thing, but thankfully it was not aboard our vessel. The crossing was non-eventful, but again we were informed after the fact that we had been charged gringo prices, it wasn’t much of a difference, but added to our sour taste of Bolivia.
We gave a local man a ride from the ferry to Copacabana. He was a little hard of hearing, that coupled with our limited Spanish made it a quiet trip.
Mike and I have fond memories of Copacabana. The town was quite small back then. We stayed at a recently opened hostel called La Cupula. Mike helped the owner cut down trees. There were only about 10 of us staying there. Now La Cupula is one of the best hostels in town, with many new buildings and a new price tag.
We decided to splurge and stay at La Cupula for nostalgia sake. We really enjoyed our time there. We relaxed in hammocks, explored the markets and towns, and socialized with the other guests.
We took a drive north of Copacabana the day before the festival. One of our destinations was the local museum at the Inca Baths. When we arrived a ceremony was taking place. We were welcomed in by the locals to share in the ceremony, which involved offerings and drinking from the water from the well. We opted not to drink (for fear of Giardia) but Keira and I did splash water over our heads, deciding to take every blessing we were offered.
The day of the festival, we awoke at 5am and made our way through the streets in the cold and dark. We climbed a hill to a special Inca site, where locals had gathered to welcome in the New Year and to offer food and special gifts to Mother Earth.
Keira was so excited about this concept. We bought a small offering package and received our blessing, making a wish as we placed the offering on the site. The important members of the community said prayers, music was played and everyone raised their hands to the sun to receive the first rays. It was a very moving experience. Once the sun had risen the offerings were burned.
An elderly patient of mine once said, that if he was the President, the first thing he would do is make it mandatory for all 18 year olds to live in a third world country for a year so they could develop an understanding of and an acceptance of other cultures. Maybe he is right!!
HIGHLIGHTS/CHALLENGES OF THIS AREA:
MOST VALUED POSSESION: ioverlander and forever maps apps
BEST EXPERIENCE: Mike- staying in La Cupula, remembering past experiences ; Keira- feeding mother earth ; Riss- relaxing in a hammock with Mike and Keira at La Cupula/attending the Inca new year ceremony
MOST CHALLENGING EXPERIENCE: Mike-nothing, totally relaxing; Keira- getting out of bed so early for the festival; Riss- trying not to let the rudeness of some of the Bolivians taint our opinion of Bolivia
BEST FOOD DISCOVERY: Mike-beef stroganoff at La Cupula restaurant, Keira-nada; Riss- nada (nothing)
BEST CAMPING SPOT: by Lake Titicaca
Just a place to keep our mates informed on where we are at, and what we are up to.