CRUISING EL LAGO

28 Feb, 2014 | Nia Haf

Social issues, Nature and Tourism

Lake Titicaca’s boat owners in and around the tourist town of Lake Titicaca.

Despite being a landlocked nation there are plenty of opportunity to travel by boat in Bolivia. Bolivia is home to the highest navigable lake in the world, the infamous Lake Titicaca. Here, the best way to travel is of course by boat. Traditionally, boats hand crafted from Totora reeds were used to travel between the shores of the 8,372 km² lake and its islands. Today, however, it is possible to see all manner of aquatic transportation around the lake.

Sitting at the top of Cerro Calvario looking towards the horizon, one would be forgiven for assuming that the vast expanse of water before them was an ocean. During my time in Copacabana I had to keep reminding myself that this wasn't an ocean at all, but an enormous lake, spanning 8,372 km², and cutting through the highlands of Bolivia and Peru. The idea of travelling by boat in a landlocked country may seem improbable to some, yet there is no other way of cruising Lake Titicaca. These vessels offer a convenient and natural way of connecting the dozens of communities that live near its shores.

Walking along the beach it is impossible not to be stopped by boat owners trying to lure you into a 30 minute trip on a paddle boat, an excursion to the Isla de Sol, or a tour of the Islas Flotantes. The competition is fierce along the beach with so many different boats, prices and destinations. I’m bombarded from every angle by shouts of “Senorita, senorita! Media hora solo cuarenta bolivianos!” They needn’t worry, Copacabana seems to be the destination for backpackers and family excursions. Hoards of tourists pour from the ever-arriving buses onto the shores of the lake ready to take a ride.

The variety of people who own and run the lake's transportation are as diverse as the nationalities of those attracted to the holiday destination. Teenage boys, giggling Cholitas and stoney-faced men are among those prowling the shores in the search for customers.

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