I hesitated a long ime whether or not to go to Lake Titicaca simply because I didn’t think a lake could be that special. In the end, I had a few days to kill in La Paz and curiosity overcame me. A guide book promised me a smooth ride on a perfectly tarred road with amazing views. Little did I know that the road is currently under construction to become a 4-lane road and basically completely closed.I booked a 2-day trip which included a visit to the Isla del Sol and Copacabana.
I had known for a while already that the north part is not accessible to tourists at the moment. The most interesting thing about this is that everybody is incredibly vague as to why. The closest thing to an explanation I got from my guide was “It’s a dispute between two indigenous groups. The government wouldn’t touch that with a pole. This means however, that the island is easily visitable in half a day at the moment.
Our guide was from the Isla del sol itself. He was born there and must’ve been somewhat of a local celebrity, at least everyone we crossed wanted to shake his hand. We did a small walk from the Inca palace on the south of the island, over the the actual village of Yumani. From there it’s a short thirty minute walk to a view point from which one can see the entire island, including the North and, if you’re as late as I was, the sunset.
The next morning, after a nice little breakfast we descended to the Inca fountain and gardens. Our guide told us about the ghosts he’d heard while growing up on the island and that they only got electricity in 1994. Running water is even newer, the waterpump lifting the water to the village on top of the island has only been operating for a few years. Accordingly you still posters everywhere asking you to use water sparsely as it’s carried up by hand.
Once he reached the Inca fountain he told us that this fountain rejuvenates you. It is now also known as the fountain of youth. He encouraged us to drink from it, but when I filled up my two liter bottle, he got a bit uneasy and reminded us to not drink too much at once, as we’re “not used to the high amount of minerals in the water”. I don’t think minerals is what is gonna make someone sick. In any case, I didn’t get sick, but I also didn’t feel a whole lot younger after those two liters either.
From the Inca fountain we took the boat back to Copacabana and there, a whole lot of celebrating was going on. I’ve finally come to the realization that I’m not “incredibly lucky” to visit villages whenever they have their big annual celebration.. It’s more that Bolivians seem to have big weekly celebrations or maybe even daily. There’s hardly a day where there’s no Fiesta going on. In any case this was the day of the indigenous people and many people spent it worshiping Pachamama and getting themselves and their priced positions blessed. Interestingly enough a lot of the people were actually coming down from Peru as the Inca’s (and also their descendants today) believe that the god of the sun was born in the lake Titicaca.
The most common ceremony was the blessing of the car, which I found particularly interesting because it started out with decorating the car with flowers, to please Pachamama. Then you pop the hood of your car and put all the other little gifts for Pachamama on top of the motor. Mother Earth particularly likes sweets and alcohol. I can totally relate. In addition you can add symbols of your wishes for the next year: Cash, houses, cars but also diplomas and certificates are very popular. Then comes the most surprising part. You park in front of the Catholic cathedral and have your car and yourself blessed with Holy Water by a Franciscan priest. I really wanted to ask how they felt about these blessings, but they were very busy. The line of cars was over a kilometer long.
The final part of the tour was the viewpoint from which one can have a look over Copacabana. This would have been particularly unspectacular if it hadn’t been for the festivities going on. The view over Copacabana… is ok. It’s a city, it’s not particularly pretty. But the viewpoint contains a statue of the Virgin Mary and everybody and their dog made their way up there to burn their offers to Pachamama next to the Virgin Mary and get her blessing too. On the way up we saw truth teller, fortune tellers using molten lead, stands selling all the possible sacrifices for Pachamama, including the lama fetuses we’d already seen in the witchers market and more. The houses that could be bought as the “wanted” or “desired” accomplishment were up to 10 stories tall. At the top, I saw many people sitting in front of a little square delimited by stones, containing flowers, coca leaves and whatever else they could afford. I’d later learn that these are people that are hoping to acquire some land for themselves in the coming year.
All in all it was a great experience, also because our guide was so immersed in it. He told us about the year he became a guide, he’d been up at the statue of the Virgin Mary to burn a mock certificate and ask for her blessing. He had us blessed by the Catholic priest. He also made it quite clear that he did not think “lead-pourer” are truly fortune tellers, as opposed to the inca priests who clearly know what they are talking about!