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Memories of my travels between 1972 and 1982

Friday, 17 June 2011

June 17th: Lake Titicaca

On July 17th 1976 I was travelling around Lake Titicaca.  I was leaving La Paz where I had seen the Gran Poder parades and making my way to Cuzco where I would be for Inti Raymi.  The two days spent travelling by the lake were wonderful.

The bus journey from La Paz to Copacabana was straightforward, starting at dawn and climbing onto the Altiplano through a grove of eucalyptus.  The margins of the road were still icy and I tried to sleep.  At Tiquina there is a short strait between two large peninsulas and then we drove along the lakeside and the little hills that border it.  Copacabana, felt like a village as much as a town, quiet and spread out, the banks of the lake along one side.  I allowed myself to be led to a hotel in a back street along a cobbled street with a central sewer but my room had views over country and hills.  In town I watched a procession just like the ones that had been going on for days in La Paz after the main Gran Poder parade.  I walked to the church on the hill where the dancers were, then took a long walk along the shore, listening to the peace and the water.  I returned to town only at sunset, admiring the deepening green and red of the eucalyptus, and the pastel colours on the lakes and in the trees immediately after sundown. 

At midday the following day they were processing again in the main square over a bed of flowers,  prayers were being said and the priests were out.  I could see some of the day before's dancers more sober now, and quena (flute) players in butterfly costumes.  Many people were watching but I felt the urge to move on.  I got on a truck for what turned out to be a roundabout route to Yunguyo, the border, which should have been just a mile or two.  Across the border I had to wait for immigration to open, but I met friends and looked around for another ride.  Finally we took a fairly empty truck to Juli.  This was beautiful lakeside scenery, one or two little villages away from the lake where the margins were wide, and past  the town of Pomata.  I sat on top a while and this was a wonderful, bumpy, dusty, merry trip.  The lake and its deep blue water were almost always in sight and, as so often, a truck was the best way to appreciate it.  There was plenty of wildlife, birds mainly, plovers, duck, gulls, grebes, ibis and herons .  We arrived in Juli as it got dark and found a bare, earthy, collectivo room in a simple inn, which had a simple restaurant.

In the morning everyone woke early after a poor night's sleep.  I had breakfast sitting on the pavement of the square on eggs and coffee, and there was time for a quick look in one of the restored churches which Juli is famous for - the outside was finely decorated but it was plain inside.  We got a truck to Puno about 9.  This time we drove more inland by villages which were off the main road past interesting rock formations.  After another couple of small towns nearer the lake we got stopped for roadworks at Chicuito, where they were building a new road, and I wandered around the town.  With the new road development it seemed that the journey I had just done would never be the same but the lakeside was still beautiful despite the disturbance.  In one village under smooth rocks before Puno they were working on the reeds to make the grassy thatch which would go on the houses.

Lake Titicaca, 2006:  Picture by Adam Jones, CC

Church near Juli, 2009:  Picture by Ivo van Herp, CC

View juli in a larger map

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