Though we didn’t enjoy our time in the city of Copacabana, there were plenty of interesting things to see in the immediate area. This was a place of extreme importance for the Inca Empire and pre-Inca tribes, and a number of centuries-old ruins still exist today.
When Spanish conquistadors first discovered this strange formation high on the rocky hill south of the city, they assumed it was some sort of torture device, and named it “Horca del Inca”, which means “Incan Gallows”. But they couldn’t have been more mistaken. The rock formation was built in the 14th century by pre-Incan Chiripa Indians, and wasn’t a gallows at all, but an astronomical observatory. Seven flat slabs were precisely wedged between two stones, permitting the Chiripa to measure and observe the stars. Today, only one slab remains.
Due to a catastrophic computer crash, we lost all our pictures of La Horca, but you can go here to see what it looks like, and read a bit more about this interesting bit of pre-Hispanic astronomy.
About a mile and a half outside of town, you can find the Incan Baths. We decided to walk, and enjoyed a pleasant 45-minute hike along Lake Titicaca, to the town of Kusijata. Though our frustration with Copacabana should have prepared us for defeat, we were still surprised to find the entrance to the baths closed. Grrr… they had sounded pretty cool: a cylindrical basin filled with water from the mountains, arrives through subterranean passages. Grumbling about our bad luck, we managed to find a cool path back into Copacabana, past houses and a lot of farmyard animals.
Closer to the city, we found Inti Kalla, or the Inca’s Tribunal. A small field of large boulders carved into the shapes of seats. Not much is known about the Tribunal, but the assumption is that it was a meeting spot for priests. We couldn’t resist sitting on a few, striking what we imagined to be the noble poses of Inca Priests.