I was pretty excited to get to Lake Titicacca. I remember being in 5th grade and learning a little about this lake (I’m not sure why we were learning about it), but the thing that really stuck in my head was that the lake had massive trout in it! I don’t think that is the case any more (if it ever was), but it was something I’ve remembered over the years.
First, however, we had a long drive ahead of us. We decided to break it up by spending some time in Tinajani Canyon. We didn’t know much about Tinajani Canyon except that we’d seen some pictures of really interesting rock formations that reminded me of southern Utah.
On the way into the canyon, you have to drive about 30 kilometers of dirt road. It’s not a difficult or challenging road, and we were flying along at around 60 kilometers per hour when we got a flat — the first flat of our entire trip!
I pulled off to the side of the road (luckily there wasn’t much traffic here). We had a tire repair kit (which I hadn’t looked at since I’d bought it) and I pulled this out and started reading the directions. Basically, this kit allows you to plug the puncture so you don’t have to swap out the tire for your spare. All you need in addition to the kit is an air compressor to fill your tire back up once the puncture has been plugged.
I set to work. We found the puncture in the tire, and to my dismay it was not really a puncture but more of a 1 inch tear in the tire. While the tire repair kit warned that you should only use 1 plug, I realized this was a pretty serious issue and decided to throw two plugs in there just for the hell of it.
Turns out, two plugs just weren’t enough. This tire was on life support (although I didn’t realize it at the time). We had beat the hell out of these tires, and this one was finally on it’s death bed. I wouldn’t say we seek the difficult roads, but we don’t shy away from them either. So, after getting their asses kicked all through Baja Mexico, Central America, the Guajira Peninsula, and Northern Peru, the tires were nearing the end of their life. We’d put about 30,000 miles on them, and those miles were tough. Just looking at the tires you could tell they’d taken a beating; it’s probably just very lucky we’d gotten to this point without a flat.
When my repairs to the tire failed, I had to fall back to our spare. I had never changed the spare on this truck before, and I didn’t really know where the tools were or how to operate them exactly. To make things even more difficult we were at around 13,000 feet, so every movement I made while trying to jack the car up, pull the existing tire off, swapping it for the spare, and then remounting the flat tire under the truck seemed to require supreme effort and a lot of breath. Oh, I forgot to mention — the sun was setting so I didn’t have much daylight left!
I was able to swap the spare before it got too late, and we finally arrived at a beautiful little campground in Tinajani Canyon.
The next morning we got up and spent a couple hours touring around Tinajani Canyon before hitting the road again for Lake Titicacca. Along the way, we stopped in a little town and they were able to patch our flat tire. I wanted to put the tire with the flat back onto our truck, and I had to argue with the mechanic a little bit about this. I was just in denial at the time about the state of that tire; we should have been trying to find new tires as soon as possible but I hadn’t accepted that yet. I didn’t want to leave the spare on because it had about an extra inch of tread that the other tires didn’t have and I was worried about this causing trouble.
Anyhow, some advice to future travelers based on my experience. First, those flat repair kits are actually incredibly handy and very easy to use! I recommend you take one with you. Second, I wish I had practiced changing a tire on my truck beforehand — in a parking lot somewhere back in the USA. I was just fumbling around with the tools, and at one point I thought a part of the jack was missing so I had to improvise. It just took a lot more effort than it had to, and it would have been a lot less pressure if I had known what I was doing! Finally, I had been warned about the state of my tires way up in Colombia. For some reason, I thought I could finish the trip with these tires and just kept ignoring all the warning signs.
We spent the next night camped in a little village along the shores of Lake Titicacca in Peru. I remember this campsite because there were a bunch of cyclists camped out there from Brazil and Argentina. It was here we had our first close-up look at the lake.
The next day we continued along the shores of Lake Titicacca and officially crossed the border into Bolivia. Just past the border is the little town of Copacabana, where we settled in to spend some time really enjoying the lake.
During our visit here, we ate trout multiple times at some little food stalls that were right along the beach. The trout was absolutely delicious and turned out to be some of our favorite dishes we would have during our entire stay in Bolivia.
There is a little cathedral in Copacabana that tourists flock to for a single reason: to have their cars and trucks blessed by a priest. We’d heard about this before and were intrigued, so we headed into town to check it out.
Having received our first flat tire of the trip just a couple days before, we took it as a sign that we needed to get our Dodge RAM + XPCamper blessed by a priest! While I’m not sure the blessing would save our tires, we had a lot of fun doing this.
Coming up next: our amazing day exploring Isla Del Sol.