Head north from La Paz for a few hours and a small ferry crossing later and you are on the shores of Lake Titicaca – the highest ‘navigable body of water’. Straddling the border between Peru and Bolivia it is the only forlorn patrol ground of the Bolivian Navy.
It wasn’t always this way as Bolivia wasn’t always land-locked as it is today. Back before the Pacific War of 1879 between Chile and Bolivia & Peru. Chile came out on top and made land gains to the north which completely cut off Bolivia from its Pacific port of Antofagasta . The dispute rumbles on to this day where Bolivia claims access to the Pacific from Chile.
My base at the lake was the small pilgrimage town of Copacabana – set on a curved bay with peaks at either end in a miniature replica of the more famous Brazilian counterpart.
The lake itself had mystical significance to the Inca civilisation and the religious connection carried on through Catholic times with the large basilica in the middle of town containing a 500 year old statue of the ‘Virgin of Morena’. More recent still is the procession of car blessing with flowers and sparkling wine which takes place on the square outside the basilica during the day.
The main attraction of Copacabana for the non-religious is the opportunity to visit the ‘Isla Del Sol’ an hour boat-ride away – I started at the very north where there are some modest Inca house ruins and a following the road along the spine of the island toward the south. A few local communities have set up a few friendly toll booths and for a few dollars in all toward the community you have free reign of the island.
The cloudy skies and occasional rain along with the rugged scenery made me feel as though I were walking in Ireland at points. Only toward the end of my trip did the clouds clear and finally I could relax with some beer and food in the sun and admire the deep blue waters below before getting the boat back to town and heading on to Peru.