Lazin’ by the lake: La Paz to Copacabana

Cycling days 149 & 150 (and days off in Copacabana)

La Paz to Huatajata

Aiming to get on the road early to avoid the worst of the La Paz traffic, we set our alarms for 5am. Unfortunately though, our overly-rested bodies couldn’t get up at this hour and so we ended up leaving the Casa at around 9am (instead of our ambitious 7am target).

For cyclists, the recommended route for leaving La Paz is along the autopista – the only road that climbs out of the city at a reasonable gradient and with a nice wide shoulder. Sadly, however, this road was undergoing maintenance during our stay, with the shoulders removed and only a narrow lane left in each direction. Having ridden down the autopista on our way into town, we decided against taking it up. Even at speed going downhill, we were getting tooted by impatient minibuses as there was not enough room to overtake. We couldn’t bare to imagine the volume of tooting we would have had to endure had we decided to slowly drag ourselves up the hill. Sarah didn’t think her nerves could take it!

So, we decided to take the lazy option and make use of La Paz’s excellent cable car network to get to El Alto – and we were very glad we did! It was a lot easier than expected. As our bikes were fully loaded, the station staff let us pass through the disabled gates and use the lifts. We then simply rolled into an empty carriage and enjoyed the ride! It was actually a lovely start to the day.

We then had to cycle through the smog-fest of El Alto for what felt like the 100th time. As always, it was busy and slow going at first, but as we made it towards the edge of town, the road widened and the traffic decreased.

As we left the city behind, buildings on the roadside were replaced by mounds of litter and (sadly) an alarming number of dead dogs. But we were soon in farmland.

We were cycling along the main road to Peru which had a wide shoulder and was pretty flat all day. There wasn’t really that much to see for most of the day.

In the afternoon we got our first glimpses of Lake Titicaca and we were pretty excited. As we approached the edge of the massive lake, sections of the road were under construction which were pretty grim and slowed us down a bit.

We then skirted the edge of the lake along an undulating road for an hour or so, passing through cute villages along the way.

At around 4pm we stopped in the village of Huatajata and found a wonderful campsite right on the edge of the lake. There were loads of wild birds on the water’s edge but apart from the occasional squawk, it was a pretty peaceful spot.

We timed dinner perfectly, snuffling down some spaghetti while watching the sunset.


Huatajata to Copacabana

The next morning we awoke to a hive of activity at the nearby jetty. Locals were constantly coming and going in their little boats, buying and selling wares at market day – which was in full force in the village square.

We emerged from our frost-coated tent, said “hello” (in Spanish, of course) to the passing tradesmen, and were soon on our way.

The road continued to be flat for a few more kilometres as we passed through more small settlements, but soon we were thrown into a 7km climb. It was a really pretty road which had lovely views over lake Titicaca.

Once near the top we stopped at a viewpoint where four traditionally dressed women were being filmed for what looked like a music video. Once the ladies had finished their number, we descended pretty quickly to the lakeside at Tiquina.

From here we needed to get a rather rickety boat across a short stretch of water.

Once on the other side we stopped for a couple of tucumanas (fried empanadas) and began a rather steep climb before stopping for lunch.

The road after lunch was absolutely beautiful. We were surrounded by the lake often visible on both sides and the road climbed pretty much for the rest of the day. The views were wonderful and time passed very quickly.

Once at the top we then had the very quick descent to Copacabana. Here we found a good cheap hostel – Hostel Gabriel.


Days in Copacabana

With some time on our hands before we meet Sarah’s parents in Cusco (on 12th July), we decided to spend a few days in Copacabana. Sarah had also developed a slight chest infection so we felt she should rest until it cleared up anyway. What’s more, Copacabana is cheap, in a picturesque location, and a good base for a trip to nearby Isla del Sol.

Once you’ve eaten your fill of freshly caught trout and visited the enormous church, there isn’t really that much to do in Copacabana itself. So, like many others, we took a boat to a nearby island – Isla del Sol.

Isla del Sol, the largest island on lake Titicaca, is the site of the Incan creation story. It is an incredible place and a definite highlight of our time in Bolivia. The island has no roads and is very hilly, so visitors are restricted to hiking rocky trails and everything is transported by donkey.

After a 1.5 hour boat journey, we arrived at the island and began the steep hike to the top. We found a gorgeous hostel with brilliant views and settled into our terrace with a glass of wine, while watching the sunset.

The next day we enjoyed a few hikes and were blown away by the views and gorgeous weather. We were so glad we took the time to visit Isla del Sol.