BY: MATTHEW CHIN
In Bolivia, one of the most isolated countries on earth with most of its landscapes untapped, one woman built an environmentally friendly hostel next to the lake. Hermana Libertad dubbed her eco-hostel “Kasa cultural Sol y Luna” where travellers can stop by anytime and stay for the night for as little as $2.50. The hostel is considered experimental and follows Andean culture— living off the land, only eating locally grown food.
The hostel sits about 20 minutes away from the bustling town of Copacabana, a lakefront in Bolivia that borders Peru. Sol y Luna overlooks Lake Titicaca, which is one of the most popular tourism attractions in Bolivia. Lake Titicaca is considered sacred land and is known as a playground of the Gods. Apart from being a spiritual epicentre, it is also home to a thriving tourism industry, where people come to see the stunning lakeside views and bustling nightlife.
With the rise in tourism along the Titicaca lakefront, the booming economy has also brought a growing pollution problem that is affecting both agriculture and drinking water. With a fishing industry that relies on the health of the lake, Bolivians are trying to find ways to keep the Titicaca clean. Libertad strives to maintain the sacredness of the lake through preservation initiatives.
Away from the commercial side of Copacabana, Sol y Luna incorporates recycled and discarded materials into the construction and daily functions of the hostel. Libertad worked with local children, women, and the elders from 36 different native communities to clean the beach by collecting waste from plastic bottles and tires, which have been repurposed to improve the hostel.
Plastic bottles were used for the walls of the greenhouse and as a roof for the homemade dry toilet. Old tires were either turned into baskets to grow edible plants, or used as steps. Glass bottles combined with mud were used to create bathroom walls.
The plants that Libertad grows support a vegan lifestyle, including beans, lettuce, cauliflower, rucola, and marigold.
The hostel also collects rainwater, which is used for plants and toilets, to assure that nothing goes to waste. Other features in this environmentally friendly hostel includes hammocks that overlook the lake, and the air is said to carry the scent of eucalyptus seeds. The hostel itself has six rooms with a lake view.
There are even workshops led by Libertad to learn how to harvest and prepare vegan food, the history of the Andean culture. She welcomes volunteers to help create new additions to the hostel.
By using materials that would otherwise pollute the water, Sol y Luna is empowering lakeside communities by turning wasted materials into practical additions to the hostel, while preserving the Andean culture, making it both a culturally-rich and environmentally-responsible destination when traveling to Bolivia.