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The Los Angeles Times, June 26, 1898, p.14:|
STEAMBOATING ABOVE THE CLOUDSALL ABOUT TITICACA,
THE HIGHEST NAVIGABLE LAKE OF THE WORLD.
From Our Own Correspondent.
CHILILAYA (Bolivia), May 30, 1898.--Steamboating above the clouds. Floating calmly over the highest navigable waters of the globe. Sailing under the glacial snows of the loftiest peaks of the Andes, so near the sky that heaven and earth meet close around you and make you think you are on the very roof of the world.
This is what I have been doing for the last day and night upon Lake Titicaca. As you read this letter you will be sweltering under the hot sun of an American summer. It is always winter upon Lake Titicaca; a cold wet winter during half the year, and a cold dry winter during the remainder. At some times the winds from the Andes sweep over the waters like a blizzard, and at others it is as calm as the Dead Sea in midsummer...
Some of you will soon be going to Mount Washington to avoid the heat of the city. This great lake is more than twice as high up in the air as the top of Mount Washington, and it is situated amid scenery which is infinitely more grand.
Some of you will spend your vacations upon our Great Lakes. This lake is almost as big as Lake Erie. It has an greater average depth than Lake Superior and its scenery is a combination of that of Lakes Lucerne and Geneva, in Switzerland, and of our own beautiful Lake Champlain.
Our Great Lakes freeze over in the Winter. Titicaca never freezes. I have written of the skies of the Andes. Those of Titicaca have all of the beauties of the Andean heavens, combined with others peculiarly their own...
The air is so clear that you can see for miles. Leaving Puno, Peru, I was shown the sacred blue Island of Titicaca, fifty miles away, and soon other islands came into view, which seemed to float upon the waters as though they were balloons or balls and not the outcroppings of the highest mountain chain of our hemisphere...
You know of Lake Titicaca from your geographies. They will tell you it lies in the Andes, about half way between the Isthmus of Panama and Cape Horn, 12,550 feet above the sea. They represent the lake as oval in shape and state that it is 120 miles long, fifty-seven miles wide, and that it has an area of 5000 square miles. Some of these statements are true, others are all conjecture. The lake has, in reality, never been carefully surveyed...
In crossing from Peru to Bolivia we sailed a distance of 110 miles over water which was in many places, the captain said, more than 1000 feet deep. Lake Superior has, I believe, an average depth of something like six hundred feet [the actual average depth of Lake Superior is 483 feet, or 147 meters, with a maximum depth of 1333 feet, 406 meters]...
Think of a body of water like this at an altitude of more than two miles above the sea. Let it be more than three hundred miles from the ocean in a basin which next to Thibet [Tibet] is the loftiest inhabited plateau of the world. Remember that you must cross a mighty desert and climb on the railroad over a pass which is nearly three miles above the sea to get to it, and you have a slight idea of the wonders of Lake Titicaca.
You must add, however, that while it is fed by the snows and glaciers of the Andes, it has itself no visible outlet to either ocean. Nine rivers flow into it, but only one carries off any part of its waters. This is the Desaguadero, which connects it with its little sister lake, known as Lake Poopo, which lies about two hundred and eighty miles further south in this same Bolivian plateau. The Desaguadero has in this distance a fall of 500 feet. It is a rushing turbulent stream large enough to be navigated by steamers for a part of its length. It carries off a large volume of water, but Lake Poopo has no outlet to the sea, and notwithstanding this drain Lake Titicaca remains at the same level whether the season be wet or dry, year in and year out.
STEAMERS OF THE HEAVENS.
The steamboats which sail upon Lake Titicaca might be called the steamers of the heavens. They sail at times in and out of clouds, and they are nearest the sky of any craft on earth. Think of lifting an iron of 600 tons over a pass higher than the top of Pike's Peak! This is what was done with the steamer Choya, upon which I am now writing. The ship was made in Scotland and brought to Mollendo in pieces. Here it was loaded upon the cars and carried over the Andes to Puno. It was there put together, and it now sails as well furnishes its passengers with as comfortable accomodations as any steamer of its size on American waters.
It is as beautiful as a gentleman's yacht, and it can make twelve knots an hour without trouble. It is propelled by a screw, and its fuel is Australian coal, which is brought over than more than seven thousand miles of water and lifted on the railroad over the Andes to Puno, at the edge of the lake. By the time it reaches the ship the coal costs about $25 in gold per ton, but the traffic on the lake is so great that the steamers, I am told, pay for themselves many times over.
A large part of the freight of Bolivia goes to the markets of the world via Chililaya and Puno over Lake Titicaca and the railroad to the seaport of Mollendo. Cargo is brought for hundreds of miles to this point upon mules, and on the steamer days it is not uncommon to see 1000 mules being loaded and unloaded there. In 1895 more than $1,000,000 worth of imports came into Bolivia by way of Lake Titicaca, and more than $300,000 worth of Bolivian goods were shipped out.
There are now steamers once a week from Puno to Chililaya and return, and nearly all passengers and freight to and from La Paz, which is, you know, the biggest city and the commercial capital of Bolivia, go over this route.
I am now on my way to La Paz. The city is about forty-five miles, or almost a day's ride by stage, from here, and all baggage, freight and passengers are carried there by horses or mules. The United States mail for Bolivia is brought across Lake Titicaca and carried, with other foreign mail, on a wagon to La Paz. I tried to bribe the mail carrier to take me with him today, but the weight of mail bags was 1600 pounds, and he said that this was all his 8-horse team could haul on the gallop, and that I must wait for the stage tomorrow.
CARRIED OVER THE MOUNTAINS ON MEN'S BACKS.
The ship on which I crossed Lake Titicaca is the largest and finest of the fleet. There are three other steamers belonging to the Peruvian corporation or the English syndicate which has the monopoly of the traffic, and in addition they have little steamers which bring copper, silver and tin up the Desaguadero River from the rich mining region of Oruro.
The Titicaca steamer line was founded by the Peruvian government as a part of its transportation system, which, as I have said before, was the most expensive ever planned or built. The first steamers cost more than their weight in silver. They were made in England and shipped to the Peruvian coast and thence carried on the backs of men and mules over the Andes. It was ten years after the ships were landed on the coast before they got to the lakes, and the English engineers drew salaries during the delay while bossing the job.
One of the larger ships was later cut in two and a section of hull fifty feet long inserted. This work was done by the railroad shops at Arequipa, and the ship so lengthened is used on the lake today.
The smaller steamers ply to and fro from the lesser ports. They visit most of the towns upon the coast and carry freight and passengers to the numerous islands.
See also: Peru News - Brazil News - Chile News - Argentina News|
The Republic of Bolivia, named after independence fighter Simon BOLIVAR, broke away from Spanish rule in 1825; much of its subsequent history has consisted of a series of nearly 200 coups and countercoups.
Democratic civilian rule was established in 1982, but leaders have faced difficult problems of deep-seated poverty, social unrest, and illegal drug production.
In December 2005, Bolivians elected Movement Toward Socialism leader Evo MORALES president - by the widest margin of any leader since the restoration of civilian rule in 1982 - after he ran on a promise to change the country's traditional political class and empower the nation's poor majority. However, since taking office, his controversial strategies have exacerbated racial and economic tensions between the Amerindian populations of the Andean west and the non-indigenous communities of the eastern lowlands.
CIA World Factbook: Bolivia
Area of Bolivia:
1,098,580 sq km
slightly less than three times the size of Montana
Population of Bolivia:
July 2007 estimate
Languages of Bolivia:
Spanish, Quechua & Aymara (all official)
Bolivia Reference Articles and Links
Wikipedia: Bolivia - History of Bolivia
LOC: Bolivia Country Study - profile, 20pp .pdf
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Embassy of Bolivia, Washington, D.C.
US Embassy, La Paz
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