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From Cusco to La Paz: Adventure Overland Through the Lands of the Incas

Lake Titicaca Bargains

Cheap Ways to Travel on the Lake that Borders Bolivia and Peru

At an altitude of more than 12,500 feet, Lake Titicaca is the world's highest navigable lake. The Incas call it the "womb of mankind" and the people who live on its shores believe they are among the world's oldest civilization. The 110-mile-long lake sits on the border of Bolivia and Peru ringed by farms and rugged cliffs and dotted with islands.

The small Bolivian town of Copacabana perched on the shores of the choppy, blue water, is a lively community of cheerful people who hold numerous festivals and fiestas. Copcabana is most famous for the Madonaa Negra del Lago (Black Madonna of the Lake), a 3-day festival beginning August 15. Due to the large number of festivals that draw in campesinos from as far away as Cusco, it's a great place to find cultural entertainment and regional dances. Every Sunday afternoon, the local priest blesses cars and trucks adorned with flowers and streamers.

For under $12 a day, one can easily hop around the lakeside communities and islands. In Copacabana, one of the best bases for exploring Titicaca, the Alojamiento Aromo rents out small, clean, and cozy rooms for about the same price as a meal of fresh trout from the local market: $1.50. A step up in amenities, the Hotel Ambassador has clean and comfortable rooms with bath for $5. The roundtrip boat ride to Isla del Sol is a mere $3. Boliviaweb (www.boliviaweb.com) is a great source of information on Lake Titicaca.

From the Peruvian town of Puno, three hours by bus from Copacabana, travelers can visit the native Uro Indians, who live on reed islands that drift around the lake. Also accessible from Puno is La Isla Taquile, the "Island of Weavers," where travelers can stay with a local family for little more than a dollar per night. It's a great place to live and learn with the island's inhabitants, who make their living from textiles and promoting their culture. The neighboring island of Amantani also offers lodging with local families, who are known for their basket weaving and stone polishing skills.

The largest city on the shores of Lake Titicaca is more than just a base to explore surrounding areas. One of Peru's best modern writers, Jose Maria Arguedas, named Puno the symbolic capital of Latin American dance. Puno's Carnaval celebrations are even said to rival those in Rio de Janiero in terms of colors, dancing, and high spirits. November 4, the date of Puno's founding by the Spanish, is also celebrated with reenactments of Indian legends and dance competitions. The Hostal Colon Inn, Tacna 220, Puno (www.titicaca-peru.com) is an excellent bargain with lavish rooms starting at $45.

CRAIG GUILLOT is a freelance writer and photojournalist who currently lives in New Orleans, LA.

 
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