Monday, 7 October 2013

06/102013 Stage 38 copacabana - el alto by bike

06/10/2013 Stage 38 Copacabana - El Alto Two Parts

2013-10-06 click for more photo's
06/10/2013 Stage 38 Copacabana - El Alto Two Parts 

Untitled by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details Copacabana ElAlto part 1 by bike
Untitled by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details Copacabana el alto part 2 by van
Wow what a packed  day !
It started with a duff feeling on waking and on looking around at the empty bottles I realised why .
Never mind a good stiff climb will clear the head. We started the 450m climb out of Copacabana behind a tractor and over the next 75 kms we overtook each other eight or nine times and kept waving to each other . We never spoke but felt that we had at least bonded in some small way .
The climb was completed in one go by which time we were both feeling pretty good . The views had been good but became outstanding as we topped out at 4200m and undulated over 10kms of beautiful moorland before weaving along the shoreline of Lake Titicaca . We frequently cycled along arretes  with views of the lake to the right and to the left and it became difficult not to keep stopping to take more pictures. It was just breathtakingly beautiful. The blue of the sky and the lakes. The startlingly white snowy mountain tops, the smell of the eucalyptus trees combined with perfect cycling conditions made for a stunning ride. At San Pablos De Tiquina we stopped for lunch and had what is a typical roadside snack of what is essentially a pasty which can have a variety of fillings . I was really enjoying my postre of Gelatina [ jelly in a cup ] until I found three of the vendors hairs in it. Never mind  at least they were free. After the brief lunch break we caught one of the many ferries crossing the 800m stretch of water to continue following the lakeside on the east side  
We kept hearing music playing at several lakeside rest areas and eventually pulled into the noisiest one where we discovered they were  celebrating the Baptism of the Lake waters .Lots of dancing and and singing with about a hundred people gathered. All of a sudden we became centre stage and  everyone wanted a photo taken with us , wearing the  helmets and riding the bikes. Lots of hugs and kisses . 
Ten km further we met Olivier and Alina a Swiss couple  who had been travelling for 1 1/2 yrs but had only been in South America for 2 weeks. They were going to ride around Lake Titicaca and then head for Ushuaiai intending to get there by  March 2014 . We have to get there by mid December .Hmmm .Hopefully we'll see them on the road again somewhere .
At this stage there was a strong tailwind and we flew to our destination of Hotel Titicaca . It was however a four star hotel and in the middle of nowhere with no shops . A difficult decision but we decided to take advantage of the tailwind and push onto the next village, Huarina . Once in Huarina it was clear that it was fiesta time as everyone  was dressed up in fancy coordinated costumes. Lots of fireworks and noise but despite a warm welcome we were told that every hotel or equivalent would be full and in any case there would be no chance of sleeping with the festivities. Best advice was to push on again to the next village where there would definitely be a hotel . By this stage it was getting slightly more built up and closer and closer to La Paz which we'd decided would be too far [150ks].
Batallas the next village seemed dull but big enough but there was no hostel and we were advised to take a 7kms side road to  where there might be a hostel. That was until one of the men came and proposed that we jump in his van and let him drive us the remaining 40 kms to El Alto/La Paz. The cities of La Paz and El Alto are effectively one with El Alto having the highest commercial airport in the world .The size of two together however is enormous and the approach road is a six lane highway but no defined lanes and traffic weaves from left to right and vice versa , so we were pleased to have taken up the man's offer and pay £8 for the van ride. The 92 km we rode today I will never forget and the 40 km we covered in the van were best covered at speed because they had lost their magic with lots of traffic and becoming more and more built up.
Just outside the hotel they had blocked half the highway and about 200 people had gathered to dance and sing with a band . It was a very religious occasion with mainly indigenous people swaying and jumping to the music with  a lot  of the women crying with emotion. 

We hadn't planned to be in El Alto and not so soon and remain undecided about tomorrows plans. We'll see. Might catch a bus because the next stretch looks exceedingly boring before we hit the Salar de Uyuni. 

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