Lake Titicaca

Titicaca might just as well be the first ever foreign word I remember as a child. It just sounded too cool to forget it: TITICACA. Caca, being the arguably the most common first word for many of us internationally, and Titi is important word to know for every a child as well.

Well, I guess that in a different way, the importance of both words remains rather high in the later stages of life, but this is already way off topic as well as (in one particular take) also a bit of a tabloid’s 3rd page stupid and mainly it’s absolutely misleading.*

*The terms titi and caca can be translated in multiple ways. In Aymara, titi can be translated as either puma, [lead]], or a heavy metal. The word caca (kaka) can be translated as white or gray hairs of the head and the term k’ak’a can be translated as either crack or fissure, or alternatively, comb of a bird.


Some facts about Lake Titicaca

Sunset at Lake Titicaca

Lago Titicaca is a 190km long lake with an area of 8 372 km², which makes it the largest lake in South America and 18th in the world. It is located on the border between Bolivia and Peru at 3 812 meters above the sea level. The average depth of the lake is 107m, the maximum is 284m.

The average surface temperature of 10 to 14 °C. Titicaca‘s birth age is estimated to be about 370,000 BC. The lake is home to more than 530 aquatic species as well as to the large populations of water birds. There are 41 islands on the lake, some of which being densely populated.

Isla del Sol

donkeys, views and ancient agricultural terraces @ Lake Titicaca

Titicaca is an important historical place for Incas. In their religion, the Solar deity (Sun God or Sun Goddess) is believed to have been born here, on Isla del Sol, the largest island on the lake.

Interesting fact about Solar Deities and sun worship could be found in various forms throughout many cultures globally. We are talking about various cultures in African and Arabic worlds, the traces of the sun worshiping could be also found in Chinese, Aztec or Celtic mythologies but also in Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity.

I guess that Sun was the firs big global thing for the ancestors of the Snapchat and Instagram cultures. While it was up, humans had an upper hand or at least better chances to survive an attack of other predators as opposed to the time of the Moon, when the creatures of darkness came up to hunt.

Ruins of the Virgin Temple on Isla de la Luna @ Lake Titicaca

Some theories suggest that this day and night survival conditions’ divide led to the mythical divide of good and evil. At the end of the day (funny to use this expression here), before humans mastered weaponry and later the electricity (therefore having improved vision at night) they were rather vulnerable against other predators, especially at night, as mentioned above.

I guess that it wasn’t always a fair fight against a lion in the middle of the night but I’d say than a pre-historic human had more chance against that lion than a lion has now against the priviledged white-fat-cigar-smoking trophy hunter with top of the range hunting rifle.

endless farming terraces and new houses @ Lake Titicaca

Oh – excuse me – off topic again (:0 Back to Isla del Sol then.

The main economic activities on the island, of the apparently around 800 families is agriculture – mainly quinoa (couscous like tasty thingy), fishing (mainly trout, US imported unnatural species to the local habitat) and tourism. Most, if not all hills on and around Titicaca are cultivated for farming with endless ancient terraces.

I’ve learned, that currently there’s a beef between the families from northern and central parts of the island and the southerners so the tourism is consequently only allowed in the southern part of the island. In my personal opinion, the tourism serves the southerners well, judging by the new and sometimes even luxurious houses in the main village as well as the amount of golden teeth I’ve seen when the friendly but otherwise rather shy locals smile at you.

BTW, the children of Isla del Sol are not so shy, on the contrary, they will engage you in conversations about what they are doing right or what are they planning to do soon. “Tienes que venir aquí esta noche, es mi cumpleaños y yo estare cantar.” Very cute 🙂

As for the tourism, there are many ruins on the island. The most visited are Sacred Rock, labyrinthy Chicana, Pilco Kaima and, Kasa Pata. Most of these date to the Inca period, which is around 15th century. The human presence in Titicaca goes however way beyond that. According to Wiki, in 2000, a team of international archaeologists discovered ruins of a temple underwater, thought to be between 1 000 and 1 500 years old, apparently built by the pre-Inca, Tiwanaku people.

Isla de la Luna as seen from Isla del Sol @ Lake Titicaca

Isla de la Luna

According to the Inca legends, Isla de la Luna is where Viracocha, the creator of all things commanded the rising of the moon. The non-impressive ruins of Mamakuna AKA Virgin Temple are the major touristic attraction on the island. Why is it not even weird thing to find out that the stupid and bizarre obsession with women’s virginity doesn’t concern Christianity and Islam only?

How to get there and where to sleep

You can take a comfortable, around 4,5 hrs long bus drive from La Paz to Copacabana, a town on Bolivia’s shore of Titicaca (not to be confused with the Brazilian one) for 30 Bolivianos (€3,80). It has a short stop to take a ferry across the lake, where you get off the bus and take a separate ferry for 2,-BOB. To get to the islands – get a ticket in one of the numerous agencies. We paid 30,-BOB each with an hour-long stop at Isla de la Luna.

As for sleeping in Copacabana – there are many hotels – so many that it appeared an overkill for the amount of visitors so we have scored a single room each for 50,-BOB, which is very cheap for Bolivia and far much cheaper than the booking sites asked for. Prices in Isla del Sol appeared to turn lower with the altitude – the higher one went, the lower the price. We went to the top of the hill at the beginning of the village and paid 80,-BOB each for a single room with private bathroom.

What would I do differently if I was coming to Titicaca with the knowledge of the place I have now?

I would have maybe tried to stay one extra night in the posh-ish hotel in Copacabana and find/start some party. The place looked busy before, with a massive party potential but then, after the sunset everyone disappeared. There were however many party facilities available with unusually low amount of reggaeton around.

I would also leave my large backpack in the Copacabana hotel so I would not need to climb steep hills at nearly 4000m above the sea level with a heavy luggage without Oxygen 🙂

Next possible destinations

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Published by jb

"Life is just a ride" - Bill Hicks

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