We decided a few weeks back when we had spent days on a bus and were grumpy that we would use lake Titicaca as quality time out. Perhaps a bizarre concept when on a years adventure, but packing and re packing, loading and off loading various and numerous carriages, planning, organising, finding and orientating can be tiring business. The seal on the deal was my visible strop at having to find a place to buy water.
We chose a decent if not quirky guesthouse that was a little stretch on our usual budget where we could be romantic, quiet and reflective. We arrived at Copacobana with Simon now having a serious case of Bolivian Bum Wee. With romance now dead and my peace certainly disturbed it was a comfort to have arrived with the incorrigible Nixon's who had coincidentally booked the same hostel. Our rooms were individual buildings designed by a German artist who made each of the 7 places beautiful, wonky and unique. You could live inside a giant shell with a wide staircase curling up to a pointed bedroom, you could swing in hammocks next to log burners, nap on one of the round beds, watch the stars through the roof. Each terracotta and white washed creation offered a space to make a home. And so we did and revelled in the novelty of cooking our own breakfast, having a 'place' for the books, where things could be found 'on the side' and we knew what it meant!
Copacobana is a small 'tourism boom' town in which the original skeleton is now padded out with too many shops selling the same things, restaurant after cafe after pizza joint and grumpy locals who have clearly become resentful of the invasion. In short, the town was a place to largely avoid. With our beautiful nest perched on a hill high above the lake we had a haven in which we decamped and stocked with food and wine. The focus of each fruitless day was sunset; either at the Nixon's, or ours, in the hot tub or hammock we would watch a large pink sun slowly sink behind the vast expanse of lake Titicaca.
Angela and I would cook whilst Simon burnt his tummy (he says it is because when lying down it's the closest part to the sun. Despite the bum wee inches seem to stick) and Scott would mix a sunset tune.
Occasionally Angela and I would get cabin fever. On one such occasion we dragged our heavy limbs up the steepest hill to get the best vista in town. With the lake being so high up in the clouds breaths are hard to fill and so a pleasant stroll ends up feeling like a route march. Fortunately even the locals were scattered like sweaty panting flies up the trail. At the top we found crucifixes and offerings from those who had made the pilgrimage. Stalls sold the teeny tiny; be it miniature shops, hotels, cars, piles of money or suitcase these miniature and bizarrely pedantic models (even the butchers shop had pig heads and cleavers!) were bought, adorned with flowers and offered to God in the hope they became real. The return to our sanctuary, a sunset and a hammock; it appeared to us we have all we want already. Well apart from enough toilet roll....
The days rolled on and we forewent the day walk on Isla del Sol (plenty of time for inca ruins later) and chose to mooch in town to watch the 1000's of cars from all over Bolivia lining up for days in order to get blessed by the fume poisoned priest of Copacobana. Why him, we don't know but he got the rough end of the stick. Day after day he would go from car to car with eager families having caked their vehicle with flowers, gifts, wine and firecrackers wanting God's reassurance that they would make it home. That is if you managed to walk away with limbs after the violent firecracker displays. This poor Godly soul hardly had time to spend in his magnificent white and blue mosaic cathedral, neglected his countless virgin Mary's as he hit the streets once again.
Angela and I left the boys again to walk along the shore of Copacobana, look at the hippy communes and feel relived that we had double showers to go back to and watch Boliviano families play table football on the beach, have a photo with a lama or roll around in a giant lake born hamster ball. Like an Inca Blackpool!
We left Copacabana feeling rejuvenated although somewhat guilty at neglecting the lake itself. We decided to stay in Puno on the Peruvian side of the lake to gawk at the floating islands.
The crossing into our fourth country was smooth. The arrival into Puno made easier with the booking of buses and a trip to the floating islands all booked within minutes of stepping of the bus. The Nixon's and us had time to drop off bags, get a decent coffee and sample the local ceviche before being escorted to the rather bizarre and also rather questionable floating communities. I would love to believe that this ancient culture of building floating lumps of land from reed beds is authentic. Difficult to fully appreciate when boat after boat after boat of day trippers are shovelled along with unenthusiastic guides to people who are peddling souvenirs. In years gone by this would have been a fascination insight into a life we can't imagine. Now it feels like a performance. With TV satellites, the twinkling lights of the city just 10 minutes away and with the international community forming and orderly queue it is perhaps more of a culture perpetuated by euros and dollars rather than tradition. All the same, to be bobbing on reeds in lake Titicaca with good friends and yet another dramatic sunset the experience was not futile.
With another excuse for a goodbye meal the Nixon's and us found a particularly good restaurant and followed it with a particularly lethal round of Ring of Fire. Simon's lack of talent in this pisco sour round meant I had to find the hotel and he had to make sure he knew where the paracetamol was. Tomorrow was an early start for a long bumpy bus to Lima.
In summary. Lake Titicaca was underwhelming and were it not for fabulous company, a great view and an incredible place to hang our hat we would have probably skipped the blog entry.