(featured image of Isla Del Sol, Bolivia in the middle of Lake Titicaca via)
I’ve always imagined Los Angeles superimposed onto an Island that I once visited in middle of Lake Titicaca. You can take an overnight bus from Cuzco to Puno and then take another bus to the Bolivian border and end up in Copacabana, a small port town that can get you to the islands in the middle of the lake.
I was traveling solo, but got adopted by a group of Chilean spring-breakers, a librarian from Dusseldorf. We decided we’d all adventure to the islands together. I made the sophomoric mistake of buying a case of beer to transport to the island. I did not anticipate the difficulties the altitude would provide for my beer-craze.
We got to Isla Del Sol, a 14 square kilometer rocky island in the middle of Lake Titicaca — after disembarking from the boat you had to climb fifty feet up to the path. From there we walked a few kilometers to the inn that we stayed at. It was cold at night, but we were all huddled together in a room. The beer helped.
There are no roads on the island — it was entirely accessible by paths. If you pay a few bolivianos a man with a donkey can take your luggage anywhere on the island. The island is inhabited by rural subsistence farmers who open their homes to international tourists. Since there are no cars the island had a timeless vibe. The island had of course been occupied by indigenous peoples since at least 2200 BC.
We’d go on hikes to the lengths of the island. We’d hike to a pizza parlor passing alpacas and epic endless views of the Andes. We had to walk everywhere we wanted to go. It was really was a pleasure.
I spent about a decade traveling abroad before returning to my hometown of Los Angeles. I like being in another place and then returning home, because you have a new perspective on how to navigate your city. I’d spent time in New York and realized that I wanted to live in a more transit-oriented pedestrian centric version of LA. That’s how I landed in East Hollywood initially. In an apartment that was easily walkable to two Metro stations, and on three major bus lines that could get me across the city.
I also knew from my travel days that the best way to explore anything is on foot. So I started only frequenting businesses that I could walk to.
But I’d always think about those formative early hikes in remote and rural places like Isla Del Sol. If paths were your only option that might reframe your city. So I started going on longer journeys overland. We’d walk through the hills of Los Feliz and Silver Lake to friends houses.The best time to go was at night when threads were empty and the only people out in these residential neighborhoods are people walking their dogs and parking. These hills also reminded of those hills in the middle of Lake Titicaca.
We could travel overland to our destination (and maybe entice fellow walkers with a covert Tecate “road soda” to drink along the way.) Friends would think it was wild that we didn’t just drive, but I started to feel accomplishments in distances that I’d traveled on foot in a city that has been misdiagnosed as a place that nobody walks.
In non-contiguous foot journeys I have walked from The Verdugos along the Arroyo Seco into zocalo that founded our city, along the foothills going west down Sunset Boulevard all the way to the 405 in Westwood. Which isn’t too dissimilar from the initial route that Spanish exploration parties made in the late 1700s.
So that is how I imagine my life in Los Angeles. When I walk I am tied to history. I am traveling at the speed of ancestors. I am able to take in things that would not be normally observed traveling over 3 mph.
Sometimes I’ll pull up a map of Isla Del Sol, and superimpose it on a map of Los Angeles. I’ll realize that hikes I did from the dock to the northside of the island are the same length as walking from Larchmont Village to Studio City. I’ve never done that walk in a single sitting. Maybe I should.
The hope though is that through this blog, I’ll take you on some of these foot journeys through LA. And let you know what I got into along the way. We’ll eventually collect all these posts and create maps that can be used to navigate this city.
Isla Del Sol, Bolivia
Los Angeles, U.S.A.