Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl, no wait, not the Barry Manilow song but the promise of a rather delightful little gem of a coastal town on the Peru/Bolivia border, right on the southern tip of Lake Titicaca (you may snigger, I do each time I hear it!) We left La Paz around 8am, and the 3 hour bus journey was pleasant enough; it was broken up by a ferry crossing over the Straits of Tiquina. All passengers had to get off the bus and take a little motor boat over whilst the bus travelled on its own barge. The harbour area was an abundance of market vendors selling the usual snack treats but this time there was the opportunity to buy freshly cooked deep fried fish such as sprats and whitebait by the bagful, which smelt amazing but with little time to purchase we passed on the idea. The final leg of the bus ride from the lake to Copacabana itself was a lovely scenic route into this charming looking town.
Sadly, the promise did not deliver as expected. After checking into our rather spacious hotel (with cable TV), we took a stroll along the coastal path taking in some of the sights further away from the town itself, nice to get out of the bustle of the city for a change. But the shoreline just reminded me of Weston Shore back home, quite grotty and full of litter. Shame, because this should be a beautiful little tourist town.
As the town itself is very small, everything is within walking distance but every street you do walk down you find yet another expensive tourist restaurant full of hippy travellers thinking they are saving the world. Urrgghh. Kill me, kill me now. The church was very colonial looking as they all are in this part of the Hispanic world, but we didn’t see anything architectural that dazzled us that day. We did make it to a fantastic lookout point to watch the sunset over the Lake though, before coming down for some late supper.
One of the highlights (can you guess?) was dinner. The super fresh baked trout which Ruth and I had right on the shoreline in one of the small eateries for our evening meal came with all the trimmings of rice, chips & salad, washed down with a fizzy coke.
The following morning we took our pre-booked boat tour to the Isla del Sol, but only for the morning as we were getting the 1pm bus back to La Paz in time to meet our night bus to Sucre for our long-term stay. The island itself really was very picturesque, with a few scattered hostels and campsites, but no cars!! Due to the boat timings we actually only spent about 45 mins hiking up the first mountain before heading back for our return journey on which I foolishly got very sunburnt! D’oh! It was a shame not to have stayed longer to see more – perhaps the key is to stay on the island, not in the town.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect was that we found the locals very hostile towards us gringos without any real justification, even including being shoved out of the way by a woman marching up the street when there was plenty of room either side of us. I’d gladly have moved out the way if she’d said…oh, anything! Also, due to the town’s fiesta in honour of its patron saint that was just coming to an end when we were there, the whole place had a strange niff in the air: urine. Maybe I’m being too harsh, the town had just been celebrating after all – lots of drinking and parades round the main plaza, so maybe the entire population was just grumpy and hung over. It just seems a shame that in our 24 hours in Copacabana we didn’t even come across that many nice reactions from locals, despite our best efforts!
That night the big fiesta continued, with a live band performing along with a firework display which we saw from our hotel room. Perhaps our unfortunately rushed visit didn’t give us enough of a chance to really appreciate Copa and all it had to offer – it’s certainly a must on many people’s lists…but first impressions count for a lot, and although the town is a great jump-off point for Lake Titicaca, we aren’t in any hurry to go back.