Archive for the ‘Bolivia’ Category

Getting High on Lake Titicaca

Sunday, October 14th, 2007

I got so high last week. I mean altitude, not on coca leaves (they taste awful). I set a new record: 14,000 feet. I climbed so high I was beginning to worry about pulmonary edema. But more about that later. I have to leave Bolivia first.

La Paz is shaped like a bowl, so to leave it you have to climb out of the bowl. But once out of the city there is a nice road to the famous Lake Titicaca. Now, I visited Lake Superior in Northern Michigan quite often over the past 35 years or so, and I still feel that is the greatest lake I have seen. So although Lake Titicaca is nice it can´t compare to Superior.

Having said that, There are some remarkable features about the lake. By the way the word “titi” means puma in Aymara and “caca” or “kaka” as it is spelled here, means grey. So Titicaca means grey puma. At 12,500 feet about sea level it is the highest navigable lake in the world. It is also the largest lake in South America measuring 170 km long by 60 km wide.

 People first settled there in 200 BC and legend has it that the first Inca Manco Capac, son of the sun god Inti, emerged from the lake. Together with his sister-wife Mama Oclla, they started the Inca empire. This was their garden of Eden I guess. Not surprisingly, the Inca called this the Sacred Lake.

More than just the lake, the entire area seemed a bit surreal to me.  Maybe I was just dizzy from lack of oxygen. The air was clear and the sun felt right on top of  me, grilling my face and arms. The people, mostly Aymara and Quechua-speaking descendants of the Incas, continue their work in the fields as they must have done 1000 years ago. this woman was herding her cattle. The second photo shows some people tilling the land at 14,000 feet. Can you see them in the lower part of the picture? What a way to make a living.

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A shot of Lake Titicaca.

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The road from La Paz to Copacabana climbed to almost 14,000 feet. It was difficult cycling some of the steep parts, I just got winded so easily. So lots of rest stops. And at the top, I could not believe it, but there were several children playing in the road. I wish I had taken a photo.

I leave Bolivia in awe of a country with something for everyone. You want hiking or trekking or mountain biking in the Andes, they got it. You want Amazon jungle tours, yep. You want to explore the largest salt flat in the world? Bolivia. They got mines, they got ancient cultures, they got modern cities, they have old Jesuit missions.  They have white water rafting. They even have beaches on Lake Titicaca if you can stand water at 51 deg F. And it is cheap. Rooms for $2, dinners for $2. Really. I recorded one meal I had in the mountains: A large bowl of soup with meat, potatoes and vegetables, a hunk of chicken with rice and salad and two large beers for about $2.

I met a Belgian guy who had been cycling around S. America for a year and he spent three months in Bolivia. My piddly three weeks did not do justice to all Bolivia has to offer. I need to come back sin bicicleta one day and see the rest. I hope you can make it there some day.