La Paz is the capitol of Bolivia, and is nestled into the Andes. The city sprawls down a mountainside from the upper suburbs at 4,100 meters (13,450 ft) to the lower, at 3,650 (11,975 ft). We’ve been acclimating slowly over the last month, and felt extremely strong and capable walking up and down the steep streets, chugging past other gasping tourists who’d just arrived in Bolivia. We’ve been looking forward to the Bolivian Andes as one of the biggest reasons for our doing this trip. But alas, the sickness we’ve been anticipating (and avoiding) all month finally caught hold.
There we were in La Paz, having purchased 3 days of food and an extra stove fuel. We went to bed early, expecting to take a 7 am bus to our trailhead to begin a spectacular 40 km route on the Incan trail at the foot of 6,000m snow covered peaks (the trail itself would take us above 5,000m, no small feat) culminating in the Bolivian cloud forest.
And then, J puked for about 24 hrs. It looked like this:
As excerpted from J’s journal.
As it turns out, we spent a couple of extra days in La Paz, but this was about the extent of our explorations of the city:
Laundry, and the view from our hostel.
Ultimately deciding that J was in no shape to be taking on the highest elevation of her life, we decided to move on to our next destination, Sorata. Sorata is a small town nestled into a mountain valley, with this view:
We had previously planned another 2-3 day backpacking trip here to Laguna Glacier, but figured that even if we didn’t, there were lots of smaller day hikes or at the very least, convalescing with a mountain view would be better than convalescing in a city. As it turns out, in Sorata C got sick.
We spent a few days in Sorata, and each managed a short hike without the other, but never did any of our magnificent plans. This viewpoint above the valley was C’s pinnacle.
So many un-hiked places.
Since we’re on a bit of a time crunch to meet J’s mom Martha in Peru, we didn’t have time to stick around and wait out the plague. We’ve already posited a future trip, just to the Bolivian Andes and the Cordillera Real. On to Lake Titicaca!
Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America and, at 3,800m, is considered the highest navigable lake in the world (i.e. large/deep enough to be navigated by commercial crafts). It spans the border between Bolivia and Peru. Since we’re on a schedule, we spent just three nights here – one in Copacabana, on the Bolivian side, and two in Puno, our first stop in Peru. Above, Lake Titicaca and Isla del Sol.
This is the ferry that took us to Copacabana. It was large enough for the car we were hitching a ride with and a small bus, and the bus swayed so much the entire trip that the wood of the ferry creaked and torqued alarmingly.
The view over Copacabana from Cerro Calvario.
The city is also home to La Basílica Virgen de Copacabana – a beautiful church built in a mosque style with Turkish tiles. People make pilgrimages from the entire Titicaca region to be blessed by La Virgen for new purchases or big life steps. We witnessed several new cars out in front of the church decorated in flowers, ribbons, and party hats, with a man spraying cerveza over the tires. In Copacabana we also find the cheapest housing of the trip so far, a balconied hostal for 15 Bo each (about $2 USD). Admittedly it’s a bit of a dump, but did have hot water and wifi, so, win.
On to Puno! A rather charmless city, but made more exciting by the border crossing, the new currency to get used to and new local customs and foods to marvel at. We also spend a day visiting the Uros Islands – floating islands in Lake Titicaca.
The islands are extremely touristy, in kind of a sad way, but also incredibly unique and strange to visit. The islands and everything on them are made entirely of tortora reeds. The islanders used to be fishing communities, but a new kind of trout was introduced to the lake which ate all the smaller fish, and the introduction of fish farms led to less money for traditional fishing. Now the communities survive solely on tourism.
Each island houses 5-10 families. The reeds at the bottom rot, so new reeds are harvested and added to the top every week.
The surface of the islands are springy, but solid. In the breeze, there is a faint sense of motion.
J, being touristy.
Nestled into the stern of a reed boat, travelling between two islands. Traditionally, the boats were rowed. Now, a small motorboat drives it’s nose in between the two pontoons and pushes.
Next up: Bolivian Impressions, and into Peru to meet Martha!
Lots of love,
C and J