“Team Mercury had an early rise in order to start a trek to Lake Titicaca. We were picked up by the amazing ‘La Paz on Foot’ crew, that showed us around Palca Canyon; needless to say we were excited for our adventure. The drive to Lake Titicaca took around 5 ½ hours, instead of the expected 3 hours. While this could have brought our team down, we were excited to leave the city and see the countryside. The main reason for this delay, as told by the guides, was most Bolivians leave the city during Holy Week, heading for secondary and lake homes in the country, especially near Copacobana (on Lake Titicaca). It was surprising to see families driving in buses, vans, biking, and even walking this way. What a neat cultural learning experience!
On our way to our final destination, we picked up a local man, Don Tomás. Tomás then took us to a local market, which we had arrived too late. Unfortunately, most markets close around noon- strike one for getting fish. After this, we wanted to learn more about the area near the lake, and see how pollution, especially from mining. We went to an old mine that was still being used, but not nearly as much as it had twenty years ago. From the mine to the lake, there was a small stream of water. While the water looked clean, the rocks and sand that had come in contact with water all appeared to be orange. This was pollution from the mine using certain metals, like iron. Don Tomás and our two other guides explained that it was good that the mine was barely used anymore, but they were still saddened that the lake was being polluted.
We arrived near our final destination of Santiago de Okola, Lake Titicaca around 3 pm. Don Tomás, who granted us access to his town as the president of tourism, explained that this town only has 80 families, and is a large farming and fishing community. About 300 tourists visit this town a year, and most of them are Bolivians. For the next couple hours, we explored the local school and museum learning more about the Bolivian culture. Finally, around 5, we were ready for the thing we came to do: fish. We grabbed a net, and walked to the shore of the lake. Our host hopped in his boat and paddled out to where he knew there would be Ispis (a small species of fish – or so we thought). Unfortunately after two casts of the net, we came up empty-handed- strike two and three.
Since we struck out on searching for fish, we planned to set up a net overnight to catch more fish early the next morning. For the rest of the night, we planned on hiking over a small mountain, eating dinner, and sitting around a bonfire. While it was a bummer we didn’t get any fish today, we gained more valuable advice and experience, and got to know more about the culture around the lake. We learned how the number and size of fish in the lake has been decreasing due to pollution and overfishing, as well as some about the mining communities. While today we gained some qualitative data, tomorrow we will wake up before the crack of dawn and try to ‘reel in’ the quantitative data we’re searching for.”
Written by Harrison Aiken