Living up to a name

Days: 309-310 (30 April 2015 – 1 May 2015)

Total distance travelled: 58,825.6 kilometres (36,537.64 miles)

Earlier that morning we’d boarded a shuttle on the shores of Lake Titicaca (in the town of Puno), yet by that afternoon, despite traveling about 160 kilometres, we found ourselves again on the shores of that great lake.

We were however now in Bolivia, the morning having seen us cross the border and finally depart Peru after forty seven amazing days (okay, so not every day was amazing)!

Deposited in the town of Copacabana, the name alone immediately conjuring images of a both a beach and party town (which it possibly was), we had plans to move on quickly, our destination being a couple of hours offshore, Isla del Sol.

Making our first stop a nearby tour office (where we were also able to leave our packs whilst we lunched), we booked our passage to the island, grabbed ourselves some more Bolivian cash (we’d already changed our last Soles at the border) and in an hour or so, found our way down to the harbour… in truth really just a sandy shore with a handful of rickety wooden piers jutting out into the lake (of course we did retrieve our packs as well).

As we waited, we heard a familiar accent (Australian), and quickly struck a conversation with Rob, and his Canadian girlfriend Kayla who just so happened to be on the same boat.

Whilst on board, we were approached by a fellow we’d originally assumed was crew, who instead was most eager to sell us lodging for the night.

We haggled hard and agreed to take a look when we landed, and after landing on what looked a picturesque island, we began a pretty long ascent up towards the islands largest town, Yumani.

As the opportunity presented, we also queried prices for other accommodation, but our original price remained unbeaten.

By now puffing and panting, we arrived at his place with clean but basic rooms… but one look at the view and we were sold!

We promptly settled our bill (it seemed we’d grabbed ourselves a better deal than anybody else that was staying there as well), then suddenly inspired by a trio of English travellers, followed their lead and grabbed ourselves some wine.

Views too good to pass up!

Views too good to pass up!

More beautiful mountains

More beautiful mountains

Our early thoughts of doing a little exploration, now very quickly abandoned!

Warming sunshine (and equally warming wine), the company of new friends and this stunning view helped us waste away all of the afternoon… followed by the evening, in which we managed to polish off four whole bottles of red.

From sunshine, to twilight, to moonlight…

From sunshine, to twilight, to moonlight…

Eventually we thought it would be wise for us to venture out, this time however not for more wine (an endeavour by which all of our previous excursions had been motivated), but rather for some dinner.

In scenes reminiscent of ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’, the first restaurant was too expensive, the second actually had little of the menu available, whilst the third restaurant… well, with the rest of the town essentially dark, it would have to do!

It was just before we entered the third dining establishment, that we’d encountered three Colombian women out on the path with a surprising question, “Did we know of anywhere to stay?”

Turns out they’d arrived on the island on one of the days last boats, then rather than secure themselves beds, had instead rushed to a nearby peak to watch the sunset!

We suggested our place, which sounded agreeable to them, so we joined parties for dinner and dined with our hilarious, slightly crazy, new Colombian friends.

Our 3 crazy Colombians. Why find a bed, when you can find wine?

Our 3 crazy Colombians. Why find a bed, when you can find wine?

Fortune shined upon us (well, in a literal sense it was in fact the moon), for had it been a dark night, surely it would have seen several twisted ankles and/or grazed knees.

Instead, beneath ridiculously bright moonlight, we were able to guide our new friends back to our hostal, of course this was after we’d managed to squeeze a fifth bottle of wine in between the four of us!

It was with a little surprise that we got back to our lodging, to find not a single soul around.

There was nobody for us to ask if they could find these girls a room!

We apologetically (although it was hardly anybody’s fault) offered them the chance to share themselves between our rooms, but they were happy to head back out into what was a truly beautiful night and continue their search.

It was somewhat humorous when we all woke the following day (with slightly sore heads) to a very wet morning, to discover that none of the empty rooms around us had even been locked!

A beautiful, wet sunrise (Click on image to enlarge)

A beautiful, wet sunrise (Click on image to enlarge)

We’d planned to make an early start this particular day, and although the weather wasn’t apparently living up to the islands name (unlike the previous afternoon), we resolved to head regardless.

After all, we’d had mixed reports as to how long the round trip would take, so we were keen to give ourselves time enough to catch the return ferry that afternoon.

The only catch was, we needed a staff member to arrive so we could stow our packs somewhere, before we began our journey.

Eventually a lady did make an appearance, we sorted our packs and got ourselves walking.

The truth is, we didn’t actually know where we were going, but we had an idea of the general direction and that seemed to serve us well enough.

Even the rain ceased, and with the odd bit of sunshine, we were treated to some pretty impressive rainbows.

As we passed one of the many accommodation options, our party grew in number, as we were joined by a friendly canine companion.

On the march under partly blue skies

On the march under partly blue skies

There was a small fee to travel from the south of the island to the north (or vice-versa), and thankfully on the back of our tickets there was a map.

We would have likely travelled the same path regardless, but now we tread onwards with far more certainty!

Our path took us essentially right over the heights of Isla del Sol, so understandably this meant that we generally had stunning views in most directions.

Absorbing the islands stunning vistas

Absorbing the islands stunning vistas

…although it wasn’t blue skies in every direction

…although it wasn’t blue skies in every direction

Unfortunately for us, we were headed in a northerly direction, and there was one area of the island above which still however a dark grey band of clouds… you guess it, that would be the north.

Shortly, the rain and the wind, seemingly in cahoots with each other, both thought it a good time to hit us with all they had, but given that our surrounds were pretty barren, there was little shelter to be found.

As such, we just opted to march onwards, bit by bit feeling the cold creep into our bodies.

It was also the perfect time for the zipper on my waterproof coat to break, meaning I began to get wetter and colder than most (fortunately, I’ve since replaced the broken zip with a bulldog clip, in a show of ‘Macguyver’ like ingenuity… one month later).

Eventually we had Chincani, the islands largest Incan ruins in our sights, and finally the rain began to slacken.

We were met by what must be the hardiest salesman in all of Bolivia, to whom we paid our entrance fee, then began to take in this place that looked like a nice place for a picnic.

Okay, so that’s probably not creating the image I’d intended, however the first thing we spied was in fact an ancient, sacrificial table (sounds a little bloody and gruesome), yet we can only assume accidentally, the stone ring that surrounds it, resembles a circle of seats around the aforementioned picnic table…

This sacrificial business is no picnic…

This sacrificial business is no picnic…

The sun even emerged as we took in the ruins proper, wonderfully positioned so that they could fully enjoy the tranquil bay down below.

We even observed campers who’d made the beach below their temporary home.

The largest Incan site on Isla del Sol, the ruins of Chincani

The largest Incan site on Isla del Sol, the ruins of Chincani

Now we’d walked quite some distance already, and as yet not actually had any breakfast!

As such, the four of us were by now starting to feel quite ravenous.

Thankfully, our chosen path was something of a circuit, meaning we didn’t have to walk a couple more hours before the prospect of a feed, as the northern town of Cha’llapampa was nearby indeed.

From afar it looked a beautiful sight, although the closer we got, the more run down and disheveled it began to look.

We lost our canine friend briefly, as he raced off to chase a flock of sheep (much to the anger of the local shepherds. True story, they began to throw rocks at him), before he re-joined us for the stroll into town.

Our dining options looked few, but we eventually found a small place where we tucked into deliciously cheese, tomato and egg rolls, washed down with slightly burnt coffee.

Seemingly the wait was too much for our fifth member, for when we emerged from breakfast, he was gone and not sighted again.

A cute harbour near Cha’llapampa

A cute harbour near Cha’llapampa

The ensuing walk along the eastern shores proved a picturesque affair, aided by the fact that we’d seemingly left the rain far behind, the sky above now predominantly blue.

It was an undulating path, but never all that difficult, and for the three Australians in our party, smelled distinctly of home given the prevalence of flowering eucalyptus trees (yes, they are endemic to Australia… and yes, I know I do harp on about this quite a bit).

Walking the east coast under the shade of eucalypts

Walking the east coast under the shade of eucalypts

Finally leaving the coast to make the ascent inland

Finally leaving the coast to make the ascent inland

Eventually we left the shores, and began to both head inland, whilst starting to make a slow ascent.

Cresting a rise, we were a little surprised to find ourselves within a village, and even more surprised to find a crowd gathered in and around its grassy plaza.

It appeared to be some sort of community meeting, although given the glazed looks from many knitting women, it was just as likely some sort of political debate!

Bringing the community together… or possibly dividing it down political lines!

Bringing the community together… or possibly dividing it down political lines!

Eventually we joined our original path, just a little shy of where we paid the entrance fee, and made our way back to town where we could retrieve our packs.

We’d made the walk in probably around six hours, a fair bit quicker than the suggested nine or more hours we’d been advised the day before… although admittedly, the deliverer of that information was trying to sell us on the merits of hiring a boat from him to get there!

Down at the harbour we sorted out our ferry tickets, then decided to pass the hour or so we had to kill with a basic lunch of cheese and tomato sandwiches, when suddenly, we spotted our three Colombian friends!

They’d thankfully found themselves beds for the night, so all had ended well.

Children tow plastic bottle boats in the harbour at Isla del Sol (left) & The party in Copacabana that cost us a room (right)

Children tow plastic bottle boats in the harbour at Isla del Sol (left) & The party in Copacabana that cost us a room (right)

Back on the mainland, we parted ways with Rob and Kayla, who’d planned to head on to Peru, whilst our intent was to grab a room in Copacabana for the night.

Fat chance of that!

It so happened that this particular weekend was a religious festival in town, and after trying around thirty different places, it became apparent that the town was truly, booked out!

After we met another gringo couple who’d wandered for four hours in search of beds, we decided to cut our losses and jumped instead on board a public bus for Bolivia’s largest city, La Paz



* Our shuttle from Puno (Peru) to Copacabana (Bolivia) cost us $25.00 Soles per person.

* The boat from Copacabana to the south side of Isla del Sol cost $20.00 Bolivianos per person each way.

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