The Copacabana ch'alla
Copacabana Travel Blog› entry 81 of 98 › view all entries
A short hop over the border from Peru to Bolivia, arriving at the place with the rather catchy name, just cannot get that damn song out of my head, the original Copacabana. A small but culturally significant hilly town on the Bolivian shore of Lake Titicaca. Well let’s see, what was my lasting memory of my time here? Now let me think... Maybe it was the beautiful sunset views over Lake Titicaca from my hostel? Maybe the back to basics ‘charm’ of Copacabana, not much in the way of paths or roads, internet or hot showers, read as ‘a bit rough around the edges’. Hmmmm nah maybe the incredible day of uphill trekking at 4000 metre altitude across the the mystical Isla del Sol (Island of the sun) where Incan legend suggests to be the birthplace of the sun and the moon.
The passion and frivolities surrounding the Bolivian tradition of Ch’alla really captivated me. At first, I couldn’t quite work out what in the hell was going on that first day in Bolivia outside of the Copacabana cathedral. Why in the heck are there so many cars waiting outside the basilica covered in flowers and other weird nik naks? Why is there now a priest throwing holy water over the said cars all the time whispering a blessing? What was going on here? Then something even more peculiar went down.
I didn’t realise before coming here, the cultural and religious significance of Copacabana to this country. I thought it was just a tourist stopping off point for Lake Titicaca but it is much much more than this. The basilica houses the famous ‘virgin de la Candelaria’, a statue of the virgin Mary believed to work miracles, apparently saving many a sailors life when in trouble on Lake Titicaca.
I awake on the morning of my birthday, the day I need to leave to take a bus to the capital city La Paz, and I just fancied going to see some more Ch’alla action. Luckily, they were still going on, so had a fantastic start to my birthday getting immersed and uplifted in the fun. Oh and just a little bit covered in champagne!