The road from Oruro to La Paz is straight and flat and perfectly paved. If nothing else that is good for getting a lot of kilometres done in a short time. The main road goes straight through La Paz so we expected some traffic, but nothing like what we actually got. The road has three lanes, but if you drive close enough there is room for five cars next to each other. So that´s what they do. Bumper to bumper, mirror to mirror we crawl through the city. If all five “lanes” were moving it would not be a problem, but they are not.
This picture does not even begin to show the carnage, but by the time I decided we needed pictures we were half way out the city.
There is an abundance of taxis and they simply stop in the inner lane to try and pick up passengers. When that lane is all full of taxis the next just stops in the second lane and at some point also the third lane, leaving only two lanes, which is actually only one, for traffic to move along. It took more than an hour to move a couple of kilometres through the city until I finally adapted the Bolivian driving style. Screw everyone else. There is only me and I do whatever it takes to move. If I block other people, I really cannot be bothered to give a shit.
The unfortunate thing is, that it worked and we finally made the turn off. The road leading out of the city towards Titicaca is one of the main traffic ores in and out of La Paz so obviously it is hardly maintained. At some point it becomes dirt with huge potholes and only one track to get through. Gives us time to take a closer look at the surroundings and we are not impressed. There is no sidewalk, just a road and then 10 – 20m of simple dirt besides it before the houses, which with few exceptions are in bad condition. And garbage in bags or not just thrown all over. We pass through a two-lane roundabout where the outer lane is now used as a garbage dump. There is a truck unloading as we go through. It looks pretty official. I guess they simply ran out of space to put it.
We decided that La Paz does not look like a place we will stay in on the way back.
After the chaos we a happy to finally be in the countryside with normal traffic. There are two ways to get to Copacabana. Go south around the lake via Peru or go around north without entering Peru. Since the rental car is not allowed into Peru we choose the northern route which includes crossing the lake at the small town of Tiquina.
It is a short crossing that takes about 15 minutes on simple flatbed vessels. Calling it a ferry would be a bit of a stretch. It is more like a small piece of road with a railing and a small outboard motor. We drive on via a couple of planks. Undocking is done by hand with long sticks and across we go. There is no regulation of traffic. If a ferry happens to be a bit faster than another they just pass and on the other side it is quite the rivalry to get a spot for unloading. The quicker you are the more trips a day you make.
We were not really sure if this one got any customers.
As sick as a dog and feeling extremely sorry for myself. At first we thought it was altitude sickness but decided that it was just bad food and the altitude making me feel twice as bad.
On the last 30km to Copacabana there are more beggars on the side of the road than I have seen anywhere else. Old people or kids (for maximum emotional effect) are lined up in alarming numbers with their hands or hats out. I am assuming it is the Christmas rush and the fact that this is where a lot of Bolivians with money have summer homes, which has brought them out. I try to make a rough estimation of their numbers on the way to Copacabana but about halfway I stop at 100.
In Copacabana we stay in Hostel Las Olas. A fantastic place that was recommended by Will and Stewart. Apart from simple hotel rooms there are seven suites and each one is a separate building with a unique shape. Square, round and even one shaped like a snail with spiral roof and everything. We get the one called “tortoise” and that is actually what it looks like. Round with two floors and large panoramic windows with a lake view. It is funky and cool and we love it. It is after all my birthday.
We spend the day just chilling and checking out the town. There are lots of restaurants and Lorraine takes me out to dinner to celebrate. The place is very touristy, but at the same time also nice. Just like San Pedro de Atacama they have managed to not get run over by mass tourism and large hotel chains putting up ugly seaside resorts. There are a few large hotels, but they are nicely integrated and don´t stand out as misplaced.
Copacabana, you can see the strange shapes of the La Olas cabanas in the background
Since it was close to new year all the vehicles in the town were decorated and then being blessed by the local priest
The lake is so large it is just like being at the ocean which makes you forget, that you are 3800m above sea level. Once you start walking up and down the many hills you are reminded though 🙂 The last day we make an excursion to the very tip of the peninsula and are struck by the incredible diversity in nature within such a small distance.
We stopped for an Inca Cola on one of the false ”floating islands” We think the Bolivians are jealous of the attraction of the Peruvian floating islands so have just created their own little versions and made them restaurants.
All in all we really enjoyed Lake Titicaca and especially the little Tortoise cottage.