Culture, cities, mountains and way up there!
07.10.2009 - 19.10.2009 12 °C
The Bolivian border was one of the easiest, yahoo. And we headed to the small
town of Copacabana not to be mistaken for Barry Manilow's mythical party palace.
Copa is a small town on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world.
We noticed the women of this region wear their traditional ropas (clothes) and unique little boller
hats tilted at an angle. (How do they keep them from falling off?).
These folks are weather worn and the older people look really aged from back breaking farm work,
literally, as they are often quite stooped. The young ones look much older than their years I
suspect. They are short and round at an early age. Their skin is much darker than natural due to
constant sun exposure.
Copa was touristy but cute and splurge on a hotel room for $14 with 3 comfortable clean beds .
We booked passage on a boat to the Island of the Sun where the Inca believe the sun was born from the rocks. As well, they believe the two first Inca rose from Lake Titicaca. The kids and I hike the entire island stopping for Inca ruins and to gaze at the stillness of the lake. The few tourist boats are slow and quiet, this lake is not covered with power boats. We spend the night at a hostel and a 3 bed clean room costs $10. This island is probably much the same as it was a century ago. The work is manual and the heavy hauling is done by humans and donkeys. There are no motorized vehicles here at all. Everything is made of stones, the trails, fences, and houses. The small towns are stunning and the people are very traditional. I wake early the next day to walk to the very top of the island to view the stillness of the morning around Lake Titicaca. How beautiful! I hope the pictures do it justice. South across the lake are the massive Cordillera Real and Yunga mountains covered with glaciers. We may think about doing a trek in these parts as it is inexpensive to hire a guide, all the equipment, mules, and food. The only thing you have to do is carry a knapsack with water and extra clothes, they do the rest.
We return to Copacabana to catch a bus to La Paz a city which instills fear due its reputation for
high crime and poverty. Everyone has a story about La Paz and the lesson is to be extra diligent. Never leave your hotel with more than what you need and don’t bring passports or credit cards. Carry your knapsack in front and only use certain cab companies. Lock the doors of the cabs and write down the drivers number. Yikes, I can’t let fear consume me or we won’t enjoy it there.
The weather has been sunny in Bolivia and we are treated to blue skies as we travel near these gorgeous mountains and beside human labored farms. Watching the Bolivians is so interesting again with their traditional clothes and quiet mannerisms. As we drive into La Paz we are treated to an awe inspiring site when the bus starts heading downhill into the valley and center of the city. High mountains loom overhead yet still quite far away, jagged small peaks line the area of one side and mud brick buildings and homes line the steep walls of the city. At 5pm, the sunlight hits these elements perfectly and everyone on the bus is snapping pictures and leaning to the left, good thing we aren’t in a boat. The streets are crowded with traditional Bolivian woman selling their crops and wears. Our bus stops in Witches Market, the hostel infested area and luckily steps away from where we need to be. This is an appropriate named place as Halloween is two days away and there are many stalls of costumes and decorations. The hostel we have chosen is very clean, colorful and comfortable and more expensive for Bolivia at $30 but includes a nice breakfast. We find a nice place to eat and after today we should switch back to big cheap lunches and small dinners. We are going to spend several days here getting caught up on school, resting and recovering from whirlwind Peru, and planning our trajectory through Bolivia. Naturally the kids want costumes and trick or treating info right away so we head to stalls and choose some great costumes and locals inform us on where and what to do for Halloween night.
We visited the museum of contemporary art and saw incredible pieces by Bolivian artists. I hope I get a chance to buy a piece as they were not expensive and yet very dynamic and colorful. Among the artists
were Gustavo Ayala, Mamani, Erick Tito, Freddy Escobar. We will continue to search galleries while in Bolivia in hopes of finding more treasure. The following website features some of the artists but unfortunately not my favourite Gustavo and Luis Hinojosa. http://www.3sarte.com/otros.htm.
On Halloween we are invited by the hostel owner to a birthday party before we hit the streets of South La Paz where revelers are dressed up and trick or treating or as they say here “trabasura o trouka. The party was incredibly elaborate with a cast of entertainers, a waiter in tux serving snacks and treats to kids and parents, party favors like I have never seen at a kids birthday. And the kid was only a year old!
With arms half loaded with candy and lout items we head to the south side to experience the crowded streets of a very wealthy Bolivian neighborhood. The kids and I had a fun time going from store to store collecting treats and watching the huge crowd of merry makers for Halloween.
The days following are spent on a trek from Condolaria to Huyana Potosi Mountain. This gruelling trek includes many passes all of which are between 4400-5000 meters. Good thing we are acclimatized for it.
Our guide and cook are very kind and take care of everything. This is a harder trek then Salkantay and colder as well. I am glad we stocked up on winter clothing. Once again the kids are tough as nails and no whining at all even though our ground mats are useless, it’s cold, high and the days are long. Everywhere we hike there are llamas and el paca grazing and gazing at us. They are so cute and interesting to watch. I am glad we struggled through the last few days, it was rewarding and unforgettable. I highly recommend trekking in Bolivia somewhat non-touristy, very beautiful, inexpensive and the Bolivians mountaineers are kind and interesting.
We return to La Paz and are treated to the amazing downhill ride into town. From La Paz we take an overnight bus to Sucre which is the official capital of Bolivian as opposed to the governmental capital of La Paz.
Sucre has been recommended to us by everyone who has traveled through. Facebook is a useful tool for travelers as road friends ahead of you will tell you to steer clear or stay awhile in certain spots. We are also hoping to volunteer with an organization called Nanta for orphaned and street kids. In Bolivia the travel distances are enormous and the buses are not as comfortable as other countries. This makes a 12 hour overnight bus ride gruelling and sleep is scarce.