Anthony on the Gringo Trail 2005 travel blog


View from Copocabana hill

Part of CopocabaƱa Cathedral

Detail of cathedral, Gaudiesque...

Isle of the Moon Lake Titicaca (4000 ms) with even bigger mountains...

Actually iCopocabana is south of Havana, and Barry Manilow doesn't seem to be here. I think it may be a different Copocobana, as this one is very quiet. Also, you may not be familiar with the lyrics of the original, but I have just looked them up on the net, and it is rather depressing. The last verse goes (and this is after her boyfriend has been shot):

Her name is Lola, she was a showgirl

But that was 30 years ago, when they used to have a show

Now it's a disco, but not for Lola

Still in the dress she used to wear, faded feathers in her hair

She sits there so refined, and drinks herself half-blind

She lost her youth and she lost her Tony

Now she's lost her mind


Anyway, I slept well for a change, and off to get my bus. This involved much of the Arequipan approach to crossroads. There is no right of way on them, and everyone just goes for it, and then makes last minute split second decisions about who is going to slam the brakes on. I think there is an interesting research project in the factors involved in these decisions, all of which must be weighed up in a fraction of a second. It was also a bit of a free for all in the bus station, with several companies going to the same places at the same time and robustly competing for passengers, even to the extent of tugs of war with prospective passengers being pulled about, though all with good humour. Luckily I had already bought my ticket in the town. So off we eventually went, mostly across miles of very high barren plains, with mountains in the distance and huge herds of llamoids scattered around.

There was a bit of a time pressure to get across the Bolivian frontier before it shut, so as soon as we got to Puno and I found out there were no proper buses till the next day, I jumped in a pedicab and beetled off to the local minibus station to get a local bus to the border. This was absolutely jammed with smelly Peruvian highlanders, yet another way they remind me a lot of Tibetans, along with wearing several layers of colourful clothing. In my hurry I had also omitted to have a piss since I left the hotel that morning. An uncomfortable few hours brought me to near the border, where some poor bloke rode me in another pedicab 2 kms uphill to the Bolivian frontier, and then after the usual tutting at the disrespect with which I treat my passport, another minibus to Copocobana on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca. Great views from the minibus as we went round Titicaca of huge snowy mountains overlooking the deep blue lake, though I couldn't get my arms free to get my camera out. It does feel kind of weird being in Puno and on the Altiplano and around the Lake, all places I have been with Erica a few weeks ago. Copocabana, as far as I can tell, seems very nice, very small, very hilly, and generally feels exactly like Peru as well as the Greek Islands. I have booked on a boat to the Isla del Sol tomorrow, a big island near here where the Incas believe creation began.

18th Oct: Unfortunately it turns out that one crucial differnce between Bolivia and Peru is that they are in different time zones. As a result I missed my boat this morning which was a shame. Now I either stay a whole extra day or do a smaller boat trip, I think it will have to be the latter. Didn't sleep well at all last night, partly the altitude (nearly 4000 metres), which also makes my nose bleed.

Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world, which I think means it is the highest lake of any size, and it is extremely big, at least by British standards, some 70 miles by 30. So having a free morning, I climbed up this nearby hill, following the stations of the cross. On the way little stalls sell model things, e.g. houses or cars, or even a woman having a cesarian(!). The idea is that one takes these to the shrine at the top to be blessed, and you receive the appropriate benefit. A piece of pagan sympathetic magic if I ever saw one. And just to be sure, there are several models that cover all bases in one go, having a house with a car outside, happy children all in university training to be doctors, piles of possessions and cash, etc. What there also was was great views, and again I was reminded how the Lake is like a serene version of the Med, except 4 kms higher and a lot colder in the shade.

On the way down I visted the local cathedral, extremely colourfully tiled on the roof, remeniscent of some of Gaudi's roofs in Barcelona. I booked myself an early bus for La Paz tomorrow, and kindly, the boat people let me go on the afternoon trip instead, for free as such. So off we motor across the lake for two hours, me on the roof, where it was well cold but has good views and less potential for nausea. Not such a good trip this though, as less than an hour on the island, and none of the serene walking I had signed up for yesterday. And then motor back in an increasingly choppy sea, and a very nice Bolivian dinner, hard to get round here where all is pizzas for gringos. I think English lorry drivers would like Andean food, I certainly do.

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