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Full Circle

Day 182: La Paz to Copacabana, Lake Titicaca

La Paz, Bolivia 
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Cholas (women from the countryside) in downtown La Paz.
Michael Palin - Full CircleBack on the altiplano heading for Lake Titicaca and the Peruvian border. It's the dry, winter season, cold and brilliantly clear. Scrubby grass, adobe farm-houses with walled enclosures attached for the animals - mainly healthy-looking llamas and less healthy-looking cattle. The eastern horizon dominated, as always, by a string of snow-capped volcanic summits.

So still and unmoving is the air on this tableland that when Lake Titicaca comes in view it is hard to know if it's an illusion or not. On the map it looks like a bullet hole through the Andes, yet in reality it has a strangely insubstantial appearance. Its waters are a striking, almost absurdly deep blue, the sort of sheer over-emphasized blue that you get in badly-printed holiday brochures. At its shoreline water and land seem to float into one another, and the islands on the lake look as though they're suspended a few feet above the water.

Once I've rubbed my eyes and found it still there, the lake becomes more beautiful and beguiling all the time. Over five and a half thousand square miles in surface area and fifteen hundred feet deep, it is an enormous stretch of water to find three miles above the sea. The Incas believed it to be the fount of creation, the birthplace of the Sun God. The Indians call it El Lago Sagrada, the Sacred Lake.
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  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 182
  • Country/sea: Bolivia
  • Place: Lake Tititcaca
  • Book page no: 242

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