Aliens, cemeteries and Inca Gods

After a comedown from the sheer epicness of our activities in and around Cusco, it was time to move on to pastures new. Our first stop was the small town of Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca and a short hop into Bolivia. We relaxed here and ate a ‘goodbye’ Peru pizza (if you haven’t noticed, pizza is quite commonly our meal for any occasion) before heading to Bolivia the following day. Compared to our Ecuador-Peru border crossing this one went without a hitch and we passed through to Copacabana without any troubles at all.

Copacabana

Copacabana and Lake Titicaca
Copacabana and Lake Titicaca

Copacabana is a small beachside town located on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Titicaca is the highest navigate-able lake in the world and also mightily fun to say. From here we planned on heading out to Isla Del Sol, a small island in the lake that is believed to be the birthplace of the Incan Sun God. Not wanting to miss out on the activities Copacabana had to offer we tortured ourselves through a rock climb hike up to a viewpoint over the bay. The exertion was well worth it for the pretty astonishing view, we also learned there was a second route up that was considerably better paved and ‘step-y’.

Isla Del Sol

The temple of the sun, Isla Del Sol
The temple of the sun, Isla Del Sol

We soon headed off out to the lake on what is possibly the world’s slowest boat! I spent the first part of the journey thinking it would speed up once it had left the harbor speed limit, turns out it was just a really slow boat. Eventually, we made it and thankfully had left our large rucksacks on the mainland. The hike up from the harbor to the main town is difficult and steep! Be warned, leave your big rucksacks/suitcases in Copacabana. Isla del Sol is famed for its sunrises and sunsets, but before that, we wandered off down to the sun temple. Whilst the temple itself is not particularly exciting compared to some of the Peruvian ruins the hike and views were pretty impressive. One of the most common things to do on the island is to hike a complete loop, however, due to some inter-community tensions between the North and Central (one community built something on another’s religious site so they blew the building up with dynamite). I cannot understand why that caused a problem? See an issue, dynamite. Problem solved! Anyway, due to this, we could only walk up to a viewpoint in Yumani for a spot of lunch. Not going to lie, one of the best views I have ever watched whilst eating lunch.

The sunset that evening kind of failed us a little, due to an incoming rain storm. However, some of the colors just poking through the clouds were amazing! We were pretty gutted that it wasn’t a little clearer. A photo never really does a sunset justice, but here is one of the better ones.

Sunset on Isla del sol
The sunset from Isla Del Sol

La Paz

Another 6-month long boat journey back and we returned to Copacabana, jumping straight on a bus to the highest capital city in the world; La Paz. La Paz is huge, maybe it’s due to the clear skies and high viewpoints but it seems to roll on forever and ever. We weren’t actually overly fond of the city itself, the main church is impressive but no more so than Cusco or Arequipa and some of the streets were positively dirty. However, we did find a couple of really interesting things to do.

Church of San Francisco, Laz Paz
Church of San Francisco, Laz Paz

First up, ride the cable car! It’s basically a rite of passage in the city. If you want a handy route, take it out to the city cemetery. Whilst this may sound like a terrible way to spend a day, it is actually a place of pure celebration and something completely unknown to us Brits. All the ‘graves’ are best described as holes in a concrete wall, fronted with a centerpiece dedicated to the person’s life. These ranged from more traditional flowers and photos all the way up to bottles of beer and plastic toys. A really interesting way to spend an afternoon, as morbid as it might be. Following this, you can take a walk down to San Pedro prison.

La Paz cemetary
The graves of La Paz cemetary

If you haven’t heard of San Pedro it was the subject of a book called Marching Powder. In summary, the book is written by a British drug smuggler who is caught in Bolivia and spends a number of years incarcerated. The prison is unique in that inmates have to pay for their own accommodation, can run business’, have jobs and the public can visit whenever they want during the day. Michael, the chap who wrote the book, started a tour business showing tourists around. You could even spend the night there. Although I believe the tours have now completely stopped after a young girl was raped in the prison grounds.

La Paz hadn’t thrilled us so far, as interesting as it was. So we headed out to Valle de la luna (valley of the moon). The story goes that Neil Armstrong visited the site and said it is the closest thing he has seen on Earth to the surface of the moon. Who knows if there is any truth in that, but I did half expect a little green man to jump out and say hello whilst we were wandering around. Erosion can do some pretty crazy things to rocks this has certainly proved that! Whilst not the most time-consuming activity, we were done in half a day, it was one of the more interesting typical tourist things we did in the city.

The valley of the moon, La Paz
Valley of the moon

The highest capital city in the world certainly hadn’t won over our hearts, but it was certainly an interesting experience. Now, on to Bolivia’s biggest tourist attraction… The salt flats at Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world.

The La Paz witches market, filled with baby Llama Fetus, supposedly a good luck charm,
The La Paz witches market, filled with baby Llama Feotus’ supposedly a good luck charm,

Tags

backpacking, bolivia, copacabana, inca

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