A Very Quick Trip to Copacabana

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It’s a 3 hour drive from La Paz to Copacabana, a charming town overrun with backpackers on the shores of Lake Titicaca.  Known for its beautiful basilica to the Virgen de Copacabana, Copacabana is also the gateway to all things on the lake.  Because there’s so much to see on Lake Titicaca and you have to take a ferry to get to any of it, most people don’t do Copacabana as a day-trip.  We did.

How this actually turned into a day-trip is a series of happenings.  We got on the bus out of La Paz at 9am with all intentions of spending the night on La Isla del Sol, but when we got to Copacabana, we naively paid for round-trip ferry tickets to La Isla del Sol, which we later discovered only cover returns on that day.  Being poor 20-year-olds, we just couldn’t justify spending more money for a ferry we already paid for just to spend the night on the island (for which we’d have to get a hostel room as well), so we ended up going back to Copacabana on the last ferry off the island, where we discovered there was a bus back to La Paz leaving at 6:30.  We figured, hey, it wasn’t that bad of a drive and we’ll be back in la Paz by 10pm, so why not?  Everything just kind of snowballed around saving money, despite the fact that we spent only $12 USD each for the entire trip, including transportation, meals, and a souvenir hat.  Oh, and photo of a little local imp who charged me 2 Boliviano for a picture with his adorable baby llama:

Baby llama! (and a little imp that charged me 2 Boliviano for this picture)

La Isla del Sol was a paradox.  A beautiful, lush, green, fertile haven of plants, sun and songbirds, it’s like we had gotten on a ferry in Bolivia and stepped off at a small, obscure coastal port in Italy, until you looked into the horizon and saw sharp, rocky peaks accented with snow and remembered you were at a higher altitude than La Paz itself.  The sun was so strong, it cast a blinding yellow glow over everything on the island.  It was beautiful, yet eery to be surrounded by such greenery and flowers, with songbirds chirping lovely tunes in the trees, all while being blinded by the intensity of the sun.

Beginning the ascent!

While our time was short, we managed to squeeze in the ferries to La Isla del Sol, a climb to (almost) the top of the island with stops for pictures and a beer at a lovely little cafe on the hillside with beautiful views of the surrounding area, plus a walk through the Basilica back in Copacabana with enough time to light candles to our families at the shrine to the Virgen de Copacabana.

Housed in a dark, sketchy hallway to the left of the main entrance to the Basilica, the shrine is lit mostly by candles burning with the prayers for loved-ones.  The walls are covered in messages and symbols painted with the hot wax of the burning candles.  You light your candle through one of the others burning on the tabletops, then let a few drops of hot wax drip onto table to stick your candle to it.  It’s incredibly calming and therapeutic to stand in this dark room among a multitude of burning candles, thinking of and praying for your family as you watch the wax slowly drip from your candle onto the table already covered in the wax of other candles.

Shrine to the Virgen de Copacabana

We got on the bus back to La Paz feeling pretty good with ourselves for making it to La Isla del Sol and back to La Paz in an entire day.  Then we remembered the bus ride to Copacabana and realized we’d be doing this drive at night.  Once you get to the Lake from La Paz, there’s a portion of the ride where you have to get off the bus and take a ferry across a small straight before finishing up the drive into Copacabana.  By ferry, I mean a boat only slightly larger than a dingy, on which they cram as many people as possible, powered by a sputtering outboard motor.  The bus gets on a flat-bed boat and picks you up on the opposite shore.

The “Ferries”

Despite doing this excursion at night, we made it back onto the bus on the opposite shore of the strait and to La Paz all together, with memories of beautiful vistas and our wallets still full.

One Response to “A Very Quick Trip to Copacabana”
  1. Kongo says:

    Love the photo of the boy and his llama

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