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Last days in Bolivia: La Paz, Copacabana y Isla del Sol

BOLIVIA | Sunday, 19 May 2013 | Views [1156]

La Paz - 11,975 feet above sea level and you can certainly feel it!

My time in La Paz was short, only two nights but that was more than enough for me. A capital city nestled low in a basin surrounded by mountains, it didn't have the wow factor as some previous cities had done but it was on my list of places to visit. Boasting all the trademarks of a city; a busy metropolis of people going about their daily business, lots of traffic and lots of pollution!Having said that it did have a very interesting musem that I visited, the Coca Museum.I spent around an hour in there reading the information on how coca leaves have been used since pre Inca times to the present day, it was also where I discovered I'd been chewing them wrong!

I seemed to roam around the city aimlessly and can even say I was quite bored! One place that I did seek out was the witches market, a street lined with stalls selling the usual tourist paraphernalia but if you look closely amongst those items you see the llama foetuses that the market is well known for. The Bolivians often bury these under the foundations of their houses as an offering to the goddess Pachamama. Not the most pleasant sight but the reason why they're sold!

One thing that stuck out for me were the shoe shine boys of La Paz or lustrabotas as they are known. A common site across the country, except the one's in La Paz cover their faces with balaclavas. A strange sight and slightly shocking if you haven't read about this prior to visiting the city, fortunately I had! I was intrigued to find out why they wore those so decided to find out. I was saddened to read the reason they wear them is to conceal their identities so as to not be discriminated against, often their family members do not even know they are shoe shine boys. It was upon reading that article I realised how difficult some people's lives are. For those of us who choose to travel, we are merely visiting these places, the people you see working on the streets and in the plaza's, this is their life. After witnessing that, I have to admit it was one of the most humbling moments I've had on this trip.

Happy to leave La Paz, I caught the bus to Copacabana where I spent the night in a great location right next to Lake Titicaca. The town itself is quite small and pleasant but the main reason for staying there was to take a trip to the Isla del Sol. Due to lack of time I was only able to spend half a day visiting the south island and took the one and a half hour boat ride across to it. Upon arriving on the island you can see why it is a haven for visitors. A climb up the steep set of stairs, of course making you out of breath, allowed for the perfect view across the lake. I continued up the hill and came across llamas, alpacas and donkeys, one of which almost knocked me down the steps when I was trying to capture a rustic looking photo! There wasn't much time for anything else before it was time to get on the boat again. Sitting next to one of the guides on the boat we had a conversation in Spanglish which was pretty interesting When we arrived back in Copacabana he turned to me and said "It was a pleasure to meet you, my friend for an hour" then thanked me for visiting his country. Speaking with the locals is always a great reminder as to why travelling is such a good experience.

A night spent next to Lake Titicaca wouldn't be complete without seeing the sunrise over it, something I was lucky enough to see and definitely a memorable moment. A stunning end to my trip in Bolivia

Tags: coca leaves, isla del sol, la paz, lake titicaca, shoe shine boys

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