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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

La Paz to Copacabana, Lake Titicaca, & Bolivia Floating Islands

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When we left La Paz we were told it was a 3.5 hour journey to Copacabana.
Now the first thing anyone learns when traveling in South America, is never to believe the time they tell you a journey will take.
Or for that matter when they will pick you up.
We were scheduled for 7.30 a.m.
Now that means I am up at 5.30 a.m.
I have to pack the room, deal with a child who has just woken and who wants to just sit and use the laptop and not help.
On this occasion, this meant tears.
The allowed him to eat breakfast, and use the internet, but the internet wasn't working.
This is Bolivia.
I try to schedule time for him for these things, but often I can't facilitate what he desires because of outside restrictions.  Like no internet!
So the tears started.  Then he spilt his cereal milk. More tears.
I was a bit surprised.
He had actually chosen the morning bus over the afternoon bus.
We had talked and agreed that this was the day to move on.
To the best of my knowledge he wasn't overtired.
He was just very upset at the frustrations of being in Bolivia.
It was more than internet.
It was a whole bunch of stuff.
Yet he loves Bolivia and says he could live here.
This is difficult to juggle.
So when the bus arrives half hour late, I am also a bit cranky.
The it goes on a pick-up round for more passengers.
Then, I am pretty shocked we end up at the terminal.
It is 9 a.m. and we haven't even left La Paz.
There is no toilet on the bus, so I borrow a terminal ticket from a fellow passenger, and tell the host I am making a mad dash.

Finally we are off.
Back through La Paz.
And back through the road where the road block is.
Now I know this is going to take ages!  We have been there. done that!
The bus turns off, and hits the dirt.
What a surprise - not.

As we go along the dirt road, I notice the cars packed with people.
If you look at this one, there is kids on laps.
So as we bumped along, the bladders and nausea were not good.
My son asked 5 times for the bus to stop for the toilet.
Eventually he did, and the passengers exited like sheep to foul toilets with no toilet paper or running water.  But at least we got to go!

We finally made it along the lake shore of Titicaca.
It is a pretty region, with rich (for Bolivia) holiday houses, and huge boats.
When we reached the lake crossing, we were pretty excited, as we remembered our last visit here.
My son was pretty keen to buy a jelly from the same lady he got one from last time.
He was sure she had sat there for months, and was shocked at such a morning job, especially for 2 Bolivianos.
The bus was put on a barge. We were pointed to the ticket office, where we purchased our tickets to cross the lake for 2 Bolivianos each.
On the other side was this cute llama.

We arrived at the other side, and suddenly there was a guy asking to see passports.
As there was no office, I wondered if he was authentic.

We then all waited about 1/2 hour for the bus to arrive.
My son made a little friend, and then we all piled back on the bus.
I was glad we were at the front, as the road was so windy.

When we got to Copacabana, a guy jumps on the bus, and tells us all in Spanish that the Hotel Mirador has a 1 night 1/2 price special. 
A room overlooking the lake, including breakfast for 40 Bolivianos each.
This would do us fine.
I check the room for bed bugs - it all looks pretty newly painted and renovated.
Yes please.  It also has wi-fi so my son is happy.

The room was very spacious.
The lake view was incredible.
There was a slight odour - I later worked out that it was the septic, but it seemed to be everywhere near the front of the lake.
We felt very blessed to get such a great place.

When we woke, the lake was so still and quiet.
The reed boats were all outside.
We met the family from the bus yesterday.
The boys played again and they invited us on their bot for a trip to the floating islands.
Now we had already done Puno, but I was hoping it would be a reed boat.
It turns out to be a traditional charter, but then they say they make fish lunch - yum!

When we arrive, my son starts entertaining the boat with a dance of joy!

These islands are very different from the others out from Puno in Peru.
For starters they are not authentic.
They are wooden, and covered in reeds.
They have little huts, and cylinder shape drying houses for beans.
They have electricity.

But the good thing about these islands, is that you can catch a trout, and they will gut it on the spot.  Cook it, and serve it.
Since the Amazon jungle, my son has liked fish.
I am seeing recently he is trying new foods.
So I order him a plate.

We share a simple and lovely lunch with our new friends.
The boys start to run around, but the whole island is bobbing up and down, and they are promptly asked to stop.

As we head back the kids plan happily and I get to lie at the back of the boat and enjoy the sun.
This is a rare moment of peace for me as a single Mum, and I love the warmth of the sun.

As we head back, there are many reed boats filled with Bolivians going to the fishing huts for food.
These boats have motors hidden, and the reeds, only partially cover the boat, but the look is good.

That afternoon as we return from the floating islands, we ask why all the cars are decorated.
We are told it is the Benediction of the Virgin Mary - or something along those lines.
The cars are decorated, and are complete with Top Hat.

We see a man and woman wandering around with a hot pan with smouldering charcoal.
They are the official "Car blessers".
I am told al vehicles new to the owners, can be blessed.
You can see just next to the mans butt in the pic below the pan, which is placed under the engine.
The certificate of blessing is also fanned over the coals to get a blessing.

Next the lady shakes up a large beer bottle.
This is then squirted all over the vehicle.

Doors and engine are open, but she then takes another bottle and repeats it.
Then a third bottle is opened.
A liquid cross is placed in front of the vehicle.
Then the family owners of the vehicle get their hands washed in the beer.
Then they get a drink.
Then she gets a drink!
They are all quite excited.

Come to Copacabana.
It is completely on the Gringo trail.
But you will enjoy it!

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