One of the places we didn’t get chance to write about before the mountaineering started for real: Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world.

At just over 3,800 metres in altitude, this was a pleasant day out from La Paz, with not too much of an altitude gain. It is only an hour and a half or so away from the city so pretty easy to get to. The lake was the cornerstone of the Tiwanaku civilization  the main city of which was situated on the former edges of the waters. The civilization is said to have fallen into decay when severe, prolonged droughts caused the waters to recede.

At the lakeside, we stopped off for a few minutes by a couple of houses where Cholas tried to sell us their wares of Llama and Alpaca jumpers (lovely material – incredibly soft and warm) as well as other souvenirs. The place where we were was maintained by the people who had helped Thor Heyerdahl construct the reed and balsa wood boats he used in expeditions across water bodies such as the Pacific Ocean to prove the concept that immigration across these was possible for early “primitive” peoples. There were plenty of miniature “dragon” boats for us to buy as well, made in replica of Thor’s vessel. While we were looking, a small launch was prepared for us to sail over to the Isla del Sol… not one of the reed boats though, rather a faster, smaller vessel made from more modern materials.

The journey to the island going over to the island was lovely. We could see the mountains of the Cordillera Real appearing in the distance and towering above the lake, and the water sprayed occasionally into our faces. The water was quite calm and clear, though I did end up feeling a little queasy with all the bumps of the boat on the water. The island itself was like something out of the medieval period. No vehicles, a mixture of mud brick houses and more recently made, painted buildings surrounding an old, traditional church; goats, cows, pigs and chickens all loitering around the houses. Fishing men and women on little boats in the water. The environment seems pretty harsh, with just rocky, hilly and dusty terrain – doesn’t seem like it rains too much there. Quite amazing to go through and there is a museum there with relics found from the Tiwanaku civilisation, which is definitely worth a visit.

We also went to a small island a few hundred metres away with views over the bay and also ruins of Tiwanaku graves – though just about everything had been raided by conquistadors and colonists, so not too much to see. Back on the mainland there was a stop off at a restaurant which cooked fresh trout from the lake – definitely worth it as the fish was really quite delicious.

We ony had a day at the Lake, and it was a bit of a rushed day. We had to get back to La Paz to organize everything for the mountaineering that we would start on the following day at the Condoriri. There is, however, a lot to do there and you could easily spend a week exploring the islands and their communities. Other islands include the Urus islands, Amantani, Taquile, Isla del Luna and Suriqui. If you have the time, definitely take it to explore some more!

Thanks Augusto for letting us use your photos!!!

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