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La Paz

The capital city, with the majestic Illimani (Aymara word meaning "water bearer") overlooking La Paz, is considered the queen of the mountain gods.  It dominates the sky on the background of La Paz. It stands at over 21,000 feet in the Cordillera Real. 

 

La Paz stands at an altitude of nearly 12,000 feet above sea level. I drink copious amounts of coca leaf tea to help me combat the effects of altitude sickness. Purely for medicinal purposes of course! 

I remember as a child arriving into La Paz and the excitement of seeing this sight unfold before me as we would make the descent into the city. That feeling of elation has never left me. Touching down at El Alto airport, it was like opening a secret box of jewels and seeing the sparkling wonders within...

The spectacular view of the Illimani mountain from the plane as we descend into La Paz

 

With the lovely welcoming Uros people on the floating reed island of Tortora.  

The Andean highlands are home to a vast indigenous population of several million, mostly Aymaras and Quechuas. 

 According to some anthropologists, the Uros are descendants of the first settlers of the Altiplano, the Andean Plateau.  As a result of successive invasions by Aymara populations and the Incas, an increasing proportion of the Uros became confined to the floating islands and small villages around Lake Titicaca.  

Catholic missionaries accompanied the Spanish conquistadors and attempted to convert the indigenous peoples. One of the many Churches, this one, in Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca is an example.  Before Christian use, it was the site of an Inca Temple of the Sun, from where worshippers sailed to the sacred island of the Sun and the Moon. Today both beliefs, especially among the indigenous people, are still practised and many fiestas and processions are held regularly around the country. 

One of the many colourful markets in La Paz.  The Cholas wearing their distinctive bowler hats, which were sent to Bolivia in the 19th century for English workers but when they proved to be too small for the men, the women from the indigenous Aymaras adopted them.  The Cholitas wear their traditional skirts called polleras, with layers of petticoats and very colourful shawls. This beautiful contrast of these vibrant colours against the backdrop of clear blue skies makes each step a wonderful sight into everyday life in these communities. 

The only way to visit the sacred islands is to travel by boat across Lake Titicaca.  It is South America's largest lake and the world's highest navigable body of water.  The birthplace of the Incas, it is home to numerous ruins.  Its waters are famously still and brightly reflective.  It is home to rare aquatic wildlife such as giant frogs.

The only way to get to the hotel is by foot or by llama ! You have to take it easy due to the altitude, I drink abundant amounts of Coca tea leaves which helps me tremendously with the effect of altitude sickness.  Add honey or sugar as it has a slightly bitter taste.

With my mum on The Island of the Sun, with The Island of the Moon in the background; both sacred mystical islands. This is a truly magical spiritual place.  Words or photographs are not enough to express the entrancing, hypnotic, heavenly experience one feels.  

On The floating island of Tortora, made entirely from reeds, so breathtaking - literally!