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Copacabana – Not that one

October 15, 2012

“At the Copa, Copacabana
Music and passion were always in fashion
At the Copa…. they fell in love”

The song refers to a nightclub in New York not the small town on the banks of Lake Titicaca but it could easily refer to the Bolivian town which has the feel of a faded British seaside resort.

As soon as our painless border crossing was completed we headed down the main road to Copacabana. However to our dismay the perfectly good asphalt road was closed and there was a diversion down a fairly ropey dirt road. We thought we would be clever and nipped back on the asphalt halfway along but soon came to a massive pile of dirt on the road so had to double back onto the dirt track.

Anyway eventually we reached the small town of Copacabana and settled right by the beach to watch the sunset with a beer.

Copacabana itself is a really chilled place and outside religious festivals is pretty quiet. In the main square of Copacabana there is a massive cathedral which houses the Virgin of Candelaria. The interesting thing here is that the priests at the cathedral will bless your vehicle (for a small fee – 10).

We couldn’t resist getting the Beast blessed. This is known as Ch’alla The first stage is to dress your vehicle up with fancy decorations. In the square outside the cathedral are a number of stalls run by indigenous women who gleefully decorated our truck with colourful rosettes and plastic flowers.

Then you have to go round the back of the cathedral to a small indoor booth where you buy a blessing ticket.

When the priest comes outside (there are set times for the blessing and a sign outside the cathedral telling you when they are) he will take the ticket and start blessing the vehicle with some latin words and liberally spraying holy water on the front then all around including on the driver’s seat. Some people even open their engine hood to get the motor blessed. After this he will bless you, putting holy water in your hands – which you’re meant to wipe off through your hair – and then you are done.

The next thing to do is to christen the vehicle with some local champagne or beer which is poured over the wheels (including the spare) and of course the occupants take a swig as well !

Blessing over it was time to set off for the mainland of Bolivia. After only about 30km of driving we came to a small town and a ferry terminal where barges cross the 500m of water to the mainland.

We drove straight onto one of the barges and the owner asked how heavy we were. We told him and he said in a worrying tone “Muy Pesado” – very heavy ! Ok we were now worried. A number of locals piled on board and we set off with the owner poling us off the shore. Once we were clear of the shore he started up the tiny outboard motor and we were on our way.

As we crossed the barge wobbled alarmingly making loud creaking noises – we were very glad of the blessing we had just had as we hoped that the barge didn’t sink – like others had before !

We were very relieved to reach the other side and reverse off onto dry land. We noted that none of the foot passengers seemed to pay and we fitted the bill for everyone who had crossed with us !

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 15, 2012 4:35 pm

    awesome blessing ritual. I dig the priest official blessing baseball cap

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