My Last Destination – Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

I woke up early for the Lake Titicaca Bolivia trip. The bus was late. (I have mentioned the bus being late a couple of times in my blog for this trip. I guess this is a common thing there. After all, I wasn’t travelling in Deutschland. :D)

There were only three of us in the tour which was good. A couple and me.

On the way to Copacabana

We took the ferry to Copacabana and then the tour guide started to tell us something about the Incas. They were in Bolivia too but their ruins could only be found in Copacabana and Isla del Sol (Sun Island), not in La Paz. The tour guide was willing to talk so I asked her a lot of questions.

The Incas were actually from a place not far away from La Paz and then they moved. They had different tribes. One of them went to Cuzco and found that it was a nice place there so they stayed and then they started to build an empire with a king. So, the Incas were from Bolivia. That’s very interesting. I guess the world back then didn’t have that many countries so for them, Peru or Bolivia was probably the same region or place.

The Bolivians now needed to learn Spanish, the local language (Aymara?) and one more language at school. They had a constitution and their government was neither right or left wing. Their unemployment rate was 65% but for those who worked, they had two jobs. They hadn’t had pension before but back in 2013 when I was there, the government gave them 200Bs each month after they retire at the age of 65 which was the mandatory retirement age. Domestic travel hadn’t been common but it was gaining its popularity in 2013. The guide also told me the salt from the salt lake was for local use and exports. La Paz had a lot of municipalidad and some government buildings but it was not the capital city. The recent government moved the capital city to Sucre and they kept those buildings in La Paz because in terms of location, La Paz was still close to other neighbouring countries like Peru and Chile.

I also asked her about the train cemetery, the missing piece in my Salar de Uyuni trip. She said it was Bolivian. Bolivia used to rely on trains but then the train operation was sold to Chile and then the Chilean somehow stopped the operation and so now it was the cemetery. I was happy. My curiosity was satisfied (if you have read my blogs long enough, you will notice that I like to find answers and do researches). She told us she had been a tour guide for many years. I was impressed that she knew so much about her own country and the good thing was she was willing to share that with us. She said they had a national hero who started a revolution against the Spanish in 19XX. He closed the city so that the Spanish couldn’t get in or get out. Another national hero was called Eduardo. He fought in the war against Chile. He was a commander. The war was over salt.

She said now the written form of the indigenous language uses Latin. And there are only three vowels, a, i, u. It’s so interesting. Her name is Lydia. I’m going to recommend her to other travellers. 🙂

I learnt so many things from her.

We went to The Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana (click here for more details about the church). It was the first church built in Bolivia, according to the tour guide. The site was originally a site for the indigenous religion but the Spanish came and built this church. It was a very important church.

The Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana
The door of The Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana. The carving shows the church and Inca culture
The Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana
A market
Inca Kola! It was a famous drink there. It imitated Coca Cola but it was a lot sweeter! OMG!
We had lunch here. Trout. That was what it was famous for. Puno was famous for trout too. That was what the tour guide in Puno said. After all, it was the same Lake Titicaca.
The view from our rooftop restaurant. It overlooked The Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana.
We went to Sun Island (Isla del Sol).
A black sheep? at the hill grazing on Sun Island (Isla del Sol).
Terracing farming. I saw it in Machu Picchu too @Sun Island (Isla del Sol).
Such a nice view! That little island had one tree only. I wonder if it was because of the tide which covered the land between the main island and the little island, like H island in Ushuaia.
We visited the temples. They looked like those in Machu Picchu.

The island was a sacred place. Only people who worked here or who paid tax (in the form of a goat) could stay on this island because it was very sacred. The tour guide said it was even more sacred than Machu Picchu. I didn’t know if it was true but apparently the island and the temple there were very important. The door of the temple faced the Moon Island, Isla de la Luna. That was the east. The moon island, the temple and the mountain behind the moon island is linear. That’s why the temple was built in that location on Sun Island but not up on a hill.

Sunset on Isla del Sol

We also saw the roof of the temple. It was made of stones and the shape of the whole building was like a pyramid. But some of the roofs were destroyed during the colonial period.

On the way back to the hotel, I bought an alpaca dress (85Bs) and a scarf (40Bs). What a good bargain! Lydia helped me negotiate which was good. I had to pay her tips. She was such a good guide. She also recommended a restaurant which was also very reasonable (25Bs).

Inside our hotel. This painting reminded me of Persepolis in Iran.

We went to the ruins yesterday so we basically didn’t do anything today. (We were supposed to visit the ruins today).  We woke up and had breakfast and then walked to the pier to take a private boat. It was raining for the whole night yesterday. I didn’t hear the thunder but the couple did. Because of the rain, the paths to the pier were very muddy and similar to other tracks I had been to over the past few months, the paths were full of mules’ poops too.

A mule
The rocks were green. According to the tour guide, they were copper. The paths were full of copper and iron. This Sun Island was formed because of earthquake. That’s why it was full of minerals like that. She also picked a stone with quartz.

Just as we got on the boat, it started to rain, very heavily.

We went back to Copacabana. I bought some more alpaca clothes!! I was so happy! They were so cheap!!! I couldn’t get this kind of clothes at home!! We then had lunch and took the bus back to La Paz.

At Copacabana, I saw some things like this. The tour guide told me they were for the dead people. The Bolivians burnt them. They believed the dead would receive them. That sounded very Asian. The more I travel, the more I see similarities in different parts of the world. I believe our predecessors spread different cultures by travelling too. It’s getting more obvious now with the widespread of internet.

La Paz wasn’t that appealing to me. I spent my last day doing some backpacker’s administrative work, visiting San Francisco church and tiendas, i.e. shopping, with my new Spanish roommate.

San Francisco Church. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take any photos inside the church.
Outside the museum inside the church. The museum showed some photos of a protest 10 years ago. It was about the tax in Bolivia. The people protested as the tax was too high. Those people who were caught were not found guilty. I later found an English <-> Spanish dictionary in a bookshop and checked the words that I saw in the museum – they meant guilty and tax in English. That was why I understood something about the protest.

I saw some liquidación shops beside the museum. The Spanish girl was laughing at me when I said liquidación excitedly. We then went to the market to check out some books (it was recommended by my tour guide at Copacabana). The Lansazo market was very local.

The bookshops were little bookshops and they didn’t have anything in English. My roommate told me there was a famous author in South America. His name was Mario Vargas Llosa. He was a Peruvian from Arequipa. How come no one told me when I was learning Spanish in Arequipa? 

We then walked around towards the Witches Market direction. There were many tiendas.  We shopped around. Gee!  Things were so cheap in this market. This was the one that the Israeli guys told me about. We found some alpaca woollen hats. She needed it so she bought it and I liked one of them so I bought one too (but I don’t remember where I put them at home). 20Bs for such hat. Good price. I saw a top (poncho) that I liked. It only cost 75Bs. So cheap. But I had no money left. If I bought it, I would have no money for dinner.

My Spanish roommate told me she had a headache before she left the hostel but shopping healed it. 😀 She was so happy to see all these shops. She thanked me for being her companion on her first day and I thanked her for the same on my last day here. 🙂

She got some money exchanged. I said she could now buy some more and then the guy at the money exchange smiled. But she said, ‘no more’. She loved purses and bags. I loved them too but that would add too much weight to my backpack. No mas. 🙂

When I went back to the hostel with her and saw how the other backpackers interacted with each other, I was thinking, ‘that was me in the past few months.’ I was like an onlooker now because it was time for me to leave, to leave this dream.

I needed to catch the flight tomorrow morning. I needed to wake up at 4am so I went to bed early but the restaurant on the first floor was very noisy. The noise went up to my floor which was the second floor. They had a karaoke night. My room mates came in and out of the room. The noise came in and out as well. I somehow managed to sleep in the end.

The morning in La Paz was very quiet. I somehow still didn’t like this city.

I packed all my stuff and left my room.

I turned back and quietly opened the door of my room again to check if I had got everything with me.

My bed was the closest to the door.

It was the lower bunk bed.

The bed sheet was burgundy.

It was empty now.

I looked at it one last time.

That was the end of my journey.

That was the end of the dream.

I gently closed the door while I imprinted the image of my bed in my head.

A drunk backpacker saw me leaving my room. He approached me and asked, ‘what are you doing?’ I found his face quite familiar. He could be a guy that I had met in this hostel.

I gave him a quick and short answer, ‘I am leaving’. He repeated what I said and then slowly walked back to his room.

We all move on.

We jump in and out between reality and dream.

What is reality?

What is a dream?

Do we create a dream in reality?

Or do we create a reality in our dreams?

I suffered from what I call ‘post long term backpacking depression’ (PLTBD) after this trip.

I had to go on another trip again after my grandmother’s funeral.

26 – 28 February 2013

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