The hottest joint north of Havana

Trip Start Feb 06, 2011
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Trip End Jul 24, 2011


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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Thursday, March 24, 2011

I'm afraid that Copacabana, Bolivia is not the one referred to in the song. In fact when James and I rocked up at the sleepy fishing village on the shores of Lake Titicaca we were about as far away from 'hot’ and ‘happening’ as it is possible to be. Not that it was a problem: we were looking forward to a relaxing few days after the hubbub of La Paz.

Copacabana would be a fairly non-descript town were it not for two (not insignificant!) features. Firstly Lake Titicaca: the highest and one of the largest lakes in the world, its bright blue sparkling waters make for a great sundown Paceña or two. And secondly its cathedral which dominates the small town with its vast Moorish style white towers. It seems Copacabana is a hot spot on the pilgrimage trail (makes a change from the gringo one!) due to a revered statue of a black virgin. We got an insight into Bolivian religious fervour soon into our visit. A trip to the cathedral revealed a line of cars and trucks adorned with fresh flowers waiting to get blessed by the priest. However it seems holy water will not suffice for Bolivian deities – the priest instead blesses the cars with booze! Which creates a rather odd selection of stalls outside the cathedral gates selling candles, religious artefacts and… cider. Bizarre!

Copacabana is also the main launch pad on the Bolivian side for the islands of Lake Titicaca which held huge significance for the Inca culture. We took a day trip to the Isla del Sol where the Incan Sun God is supposed to have originated. There was a rather ironic turn of events when we started the day with sheeting rain though true to its name, Isla del Sol came good with bright, clear skies once we arrived. We visited our first set of Inca ruins with the Chicana complex on the north of the island as well as the sacred rock where the aforementioned deity is supposed to have appeared. It was a magical experience: as well as the ruins, Isla del Sol is a beautiful island with few villages and magnificent 360 degree views of Lake Titicaca.

Copacabana itself also offers its share of Inca ruins, though these required a little more puff to get to – climbing up a hill at high altitude is no mean feat particularly when local children and adults put you to shame by bounding up the path without a second thought! Unfortunately the Copa ruins were not so impressive though a young enterprising resident (he was just 10) gave us a tour of the Inca ‘seats’. After contorting our eyes to try and make out the toad, Andean cross, llama head and serpent he insisted were formed in the rocks, we handed him the princely sum of 10 bolivianos. Apparently he wants to buy some tools to start earning money; I wish him luck though hope he doesn’t base any carvings on the Inca ones. Not sure how well they’d sell!

We were sad to bid farewell to Copa which after four days had become quite the home to us with our current nomadic existence. So we said goodbye in style with a trip on the pedalo swans (think Chessington World of Adventures with poor maintenance staff), a delicious meal of freshly caught rainbow trout and – of course – a bottle of our favourite Paceña beer. Next it’s Arequipa, ready to meet up with my housemate Amanda and explore the delights of Perú.
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