TitiKayak Debrief: Circumnavigating The Highest Navigable Lake In The World By Kayak

Gadiel Sanchez Rivera Louis Philippe Loncke Explorers Club Flag

Back in August and September I posted a couple of time about the TitiKayak expedition. For those who don’t recall, that was the attempt by Belgian adventurer Louis-Philippe Loncke and Peruvian explorer Gadiel “Cho” Sanchez Rivera to become the first people to circumnavigate Lake Titicaca by kayak. The lake, which is located at 3812 meters (12,507 ft) in altitude and falls along the border of Peru and Bolivia, covers an area of 8372 sq. km (3232 sq. miles) and is widely considered to be the highest navigable lake in the world. Lonke and Rivera set out to paddle 1100 km (683 miles) around Titicaca’s parameter while taking photographs if its shoreline and GPS coordinates of its current position. The hope is that the data will allow researchers to study the impact of climate change on the lake in the years to come by having baseline numbers to compare their readings to.

The expedition actually wrapped up in late September but due to busy schedules and other commitments, it has taken a bit of time to upload the photos from their journey and share details of what it was like out on the water. All told, it took Lou-Phi and Cho 38 days to paddle around the lake, staying close to the shore for most of the way. Stopping frequently to take photos and gather GPS data, the two men were meticulous in their approach and stuck closely to their plan as much as they could. They did run into some issues when attempting to cross the border into Bolivia, as law enforcement at the checkpoint between the countries were reluctant to let them pass, in part because they had never seen a kayak before. It took two days to sort out the paperwork, but eventually it came together and the adventurers were allowed to continue on their way.

Dealing with immigration officers were the least of their worries however and there were plenty of other challenges to keep them on their toes. For starters, August and September are winter months in the Southern Hemisphere and this was one of the coldest winters in recent memories. The boys faced freezing temps for much of the way and the Puno region through which they traveled received its highest amount of snowfall in the past 30 years. Cold temperatures, snow and a big lake don’t always make for the best of conditions.

The primary focus of the expedition was to not just paddle around its shores but to also survey the health of the body of water. What Loncke and Sanchez Rivera discovered is that Titicaca is facing some serious challenges. The water was littered with garbage and is contaminated by chemicals and sewage dumped into into it from the surrounding communities. In short, the lake faces some major issues in the future and with no regulation or proper water treatment in place, it is going to get much worse before it ever starts to get better.

You can read more about the expedition and the team’s experiences on the TitiKayak blog. You can also review the photos they took along the way in their Photo Inventory. All of the images have been uploaded and organized, but GPS coordinates have not been matched to them just yet. That is a big job that will be completed sometime early next year, completing the full data set of the inventory.

Congrats to Lou-Phi and Cho on completing this amazing adventure. Great effort on both the exploration and environmental front.

Kraig Becker