This is a view of Copacabana, Bolivia’s main settlement along the shores of Lake Titicaca, taken from the top of Cerro Calvario, or Calvary Hill, just before sunset. The views are similarly attractive in each direction —if you ignore the piles of trash.
Forming the town’s natural northern border, Cerro Calvario is also one of Bolivia’s most famous and oft-visited Catholic religious sites, with small monuments, built in the 1950s, representing the 14 stations of the cross lining a trail that winds to its summit.
It’s a fairly steep 30-minute climb over hundreds of steps and with a summit topping 4000m —4015m, or 13,174ft to be precise— you will be huffing and puffing before and when you get there.
Popular throughout the year, Cerro Calvario is especially busy during Easter when thousands accompany the Virgen de Copacabana, Bolivia’s most revered image, to the summit during a candlelit procession.
The monuments themselves didn’t stand out so much as the graffiti and messages that cover most of them. I’d never seen so much paint scrawled on anything religious anywhere before. That didn’t really bother me; it seemed almost natural, what you’d almost expect from pilgrims wanting to leave a mark.
The piles of trash they and tourists left behind, or simply threw down the hillside towards the lake shore, were bothersome. Enough to nearly ruin the entire experience. I left mad at myself for allowing myself to expect more from human beings these days.
First an 18-image gallery of the monuments, stations and altars on the summit. Click on the image to view it larger.
And a few more shots.
As you might expect it’s a popular spot from which to watch the sun setting over Lake Titicaca. A crowd will gather.
And a popular place to dump your trash as well. This trail of plastic leads down the slope and towards Titicaca, South America’s largest lake.
Yes, there is recycling bin on the summit. One that remains mostly empty.
If you decide to stay after dark like I did and be one of the last ones to descend, be sure you have a good flashlight. You won’t make it down without one.
Note: Initial images from April 2013. Galleries updated regularly as needed. Click on image for additional information.