by Rory Carroll and Andres Schipani in San Pedro de Tiquina
Sunlight glinted off the lake, a scenic expanse on the roof of South America, and Bolivia's navy was busy perfecting the art of yearning.
Sailors marched past a little dock. Mechanics fiddled with patrol boats. A captain trained his dog to retrieve objects from the water. It was another sleepy day for a fleet lacking a crucial element: the sea.
Beyond the ice-capped peaks to the west lay their object of longing, the Pacific ocean, but Bolivia's navy was marooned and landlocked at Lake Titicaca, 3,800 metres (12,470ft) above sea level in the Andes.
"I've never seen the sea," sighed Wilmer Camargo, 18, a conscript sailor in navy blue uniform. "But when I do I would like it to be a Bolivian sea."
He spoke for a nation. South America's poorest country lost its coast in a 1879-1884 war with Chile and wants it back. La Fuerza Naval Boliviana exists to keep that hope alive by cultivating a maritime conscience and end the "enclaustramiento".
"The sea belongs to us by right, to take it back is our duty," said a sign at the tiny base in Copacabana, an outpost of the 4th naval district based at San Pedro de Tiquina on the south-western shore of Lake Titicaca.
Outsiders have long considered the navy an idiosyncracy, a toy force with a hopeless dream puttering in the mountains. Scornful Chileans joke about inviting Bolivians to the beach.
But as the 150th anniversary of the War of the Pacific looms the forlorn fleet of small patrol boats and catamarans is acquiring more credibility.
A force of 50 men and four patrol boats is due to join a UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, the navy's first such international mandate.
Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez, an ally of Bolivia's socialist president, Evo Morales, is funding an overhaul of the force, including a officer training academy.
Perhaps more significantly Chile has softened its blank refusal to negotiate. President Michelle Bachelet says all territorial issues were resolved in a 1904 treaty but has agreed to discuss coastal access. Admirals from each country recently exchanged visits.
"There is a clear historic injustice and the Bolivian navy was created as a way of protesting before the whole world," said Captain Remi de la Barra, a senior navy official. We are perfectly qualified to sail in any sea in the world. And sooner or later, God willing, we will be sailing in our own sea."
Sceptics see little chance of a breakthrough. "Supposedly there are talks but I see no advances, no signs of change," said Gustavo Fernández, a former foreign minister and policy analyst. "Everything is still as it always has been and, I think, will remain like this."
Doomed or not, Bolivia's yearning for the sea is undiminished. A coast would boost national pride and economic sovereignty. Like presidents before him Morales speaks in front of an antique map showing Bolivia with its pre-1879 coast. White-uniformed sailors serve as his guards of honour. For the 5,000-strong navy it is a point of honour to redress a historic grievance, a mission made explicit in 1963 when it became a separate branch of the armed forces.
In addition to the vast Lake Titicaca, Bolivia has 5,000 miles of navigable rivers which require patrolling. The navy intercepts smugglers, delivers supplies to remote rural areas and rescues people and livestock during floods. Life is not dull, according to Captain Ramiro Pardo, a commander at San Pedro de Tiquina.
Sailors helped archaeologists explore the lake for Inca ruins, for example, and when Fifa, world football's governing body, briefly banned high-altitude football matches - a threat to Bolivia's mountain stadiums - the navy staged exercises on Andean peaks to show Fifa's health concerns were groundless.
Such eclectic missions did not trouble the relaxed feel at San Pedro de Tiquina, an postcard-perfect tranquil idyll. Officers wore tracksuits and on the parade ground cadets chased after a ball. The only vessels skimming the water were packed with tourists.
Despite being confined to a trout-filled mountain lake the navy was ready for when - and it was when, not if - Bolivia regained a slice of the Pacific, said Captain Ramiro Arispe.
The mission to Haiti would hone preparations. "Surviving in waters infested with sharks are things we are not used to. But ... we are ready for the open sea," he said.