Isla de Sol, no roads just donkeys

Trip Start Dec 30, 2010
Trip End Jul 06, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hostal Willka Watta

Flag of Bolivia  , La Paz,
Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Continuation of Day 22 January 25th - Bus trip was pretty uneventful. Border crossing was busy, so a queue for a police check, queue for exit stamp for Peru, a 200m walk then queue for entry stamp for Bolivia, seriously, the guy never checked my picture, just stamp stamp stamp! Outside border control, the area was pretty rough, young teens exchanging money, a few vendors. Of course 3 Australians walk past 8 blonde Canadians that were on my bus, stopped, asked them where they were going and hinted strongly that they should stay at Loki La Paz as they should 'hang out'. The Canadians didn't seem too impressed, the guy didn't ask anything else except for where they were going and where they were staying, creepy.

From the border, it was 8 miles to Copacabana. For once, I was not entirely sure of my plan. I wanted to stay on the Isla de Sol, but this was dependent upon the return boat schedule and bus schedule to La Paz. It only took 30 minutes of lugging my bags around to work out I could spend one night on Isla de Sol. I had no hostal booked, but knew there would be hostals waiting at the other end. Seeing as I was unwell again this morning, I elected for a Bolivian hot dog with Fritas, and my first taste of vinegar on the whole trip. Around most of the Americas, there is no sign of vinegar, do they not know how great it tastes? Maybe I'm biased. I also had my first espresso of the trip. It was recommended in the guide book and I do love a tasty espresso. Most of the coffee so far has been a pot of hot water and a jar of Kenco.

I board the boat early and end up sitting next to a very pleasant girl from Guernsey, UK. Her name was Phillipa, a chef, who spent 7 years in Switzerland, 2 in New Zealand, 2 in London, before returning home to set up her own restaurant. She has managed to pay herself back her director loan and business is good. She is able to close the place down for two months while she tours Bolivia and Peru with a company called Gap. She elected for some time off the tour to spend by herself. Conversation was great and made the journey to Isla de Sol very short. Took time to leave the boat, ie a 3 foot gap between pier and boat meant climbing ungracefully with bags and ass hanging out. Phillipa was met by a young boy and his donkey for the trek up an painfully steep hill.

I grabbed my return boat ticket, and got chatting to a lad of maybe 5 or 6 asking if I needed a place for the night. Of course! He said it was up the hill and I could see the room first and then decide. Just before I started the climb, I bumped into Phillipa again and agreed to meet for dinner that night. This young lad offered to carry my rucksack, but my big rucksack was longer than him, so I started this climb with both bags. Ahem, after maybe 20 seconds, I dumped my smaller rucksack on him and continued. he was moving at such a pace that I had to regularly stop and say '(breath breath) han (breath) g (breath) on a moment'. I'd lean over, hands on my knees, breathing out my ass! I'm not sure whether the little nipper was mocking me or trying to make me feel better, but he also had his hands on his knees, but wasn't breathing like me, and when I stood up, he was off again. This stop start action happened about 7/8 times. My body was in agony, I could barely get oxygen in my lungs and starting to feel very faint! Finally, we made the top. I was introduced to the hostal owner, but it took me around 3/4 minutes to regain my composure and string a sentence together. What a great tactic, take me up a crazy steep hill, then ask if I like the room? Of course I did! I was hardly going to venture off in search of another one. I did pay over the odds, but that meant 9 quid instead of 6 quid. Nothing to really complain about. In my room, I collapsed on the bed and slept for an hour, heart racing away still and trying to breath regularly enough to get some oxygen inside me.

When I finally come around, I'm feeling better. I have a few hours before dinner so grab my pack and set off for the ruins of Pilko Kaina.  Similar to Easter Island, everyone you walk past will say hello, good morning/afternoon etc, so friendly and again, no-one hassling you. The walk to the ruins was not too far, a little down hill, but the views were spectacular! I walk past a group of European girls, one caught up with me, and after a bit of chit chat, asked if I knew the history about the ruins, I didn't and she tutted and walked off? Did I have a guide tshirt on?    Hung around the ruins for a while before heading back to the hostal, after checking out a few places to eat on the way back. On the way back, passed many Donkeys, Cows and Llamas that were being escorted on the paths. First Island I've visited where there are no roads, just donkeys or travel by boat around the island.

Unfortunately dinner was a no show. I guess in such modern times, we forget how much we rely upon a cell phone or an IM to sort out meeting someone. Like the idiot I am, I sat around waiting for 90 minutes, just in case she was late, or I had the wrong time or whatever. Hunger came and went and I called it an early night. Not sure which hostal she was in and seeing as she had a further climb up the hill, maybe wasn't feeling so well. Nevermind.

I had another sleep interrupted by a severe rain storm, just as loud as the storm in the Tambopata National Park of Peru, that time I had no window, so the storm was very loud. Here, on Isla de Sol, a tin roof, so no chance of sleeping, plus it was so cold, that I slept with my hat and gloves on.

Miles walked 1.67
Temp 24 C 76 F

Day 23 January 26th - After a noisy night of rain, I'm concerned about the paths for my walk today. How muddy will they be? Am I going to destroy my only proper pair of shoes? The hostal provided breakfast of bread rolls with butter and jam, coffee, and a banana and something smoothie, which was very tasty. I sat and had breakfast with a German couple, very pleasant conversation for an hour.

OK, it's 9am, I want to be at the dock by 330pm at the latest, so have 6 hours to explore the Island.  I wanted to try and head north as far as I could without being too far away to walk back. The lonely planet guide had a rough map of the trails on the island, so I set off hoping for the best.

After 30 mins, I came to the end of a trail, I ended up squeezing through some bushes, climbing over a wall, walking behind some sort of shed, climbing another wall, and finding a path used to move donkeys. I'm constantly climbing, but not suffering like the day before. I pass a Brazilian couple who look lost and then see the summit of the mountain Cerro Santa Barbara. At the top is a cross erected on a pile of stones. The view from the top made me appreciate the size of the island and the beauty it holds.  

Ahead, I spot another mountain top, so walk over to that hill top and then find myself stuck. The only way was down and there was no path, just 3/4 foot drops, fields of crops to walk through as well as fields of mint to walk through, so instead of going back the way I came I figured I could slowly descend from this mountain, and just take my time about it. I managed to descend in a zig zag fashion down this hill, surviving small drops, walking through fields of mint, squeezing through more bushes. One could say I was lost, but I'm on Isla de Sol in Bolivia, I just happen to be in a tight squeeze! 

I concluded the drop by having to sneak through a little farm, sadly seeing a donkey who must have fallen from the top and I'm back on a path and I'm climbing again. My fast pace on the flats has reduced back to a slow canter. I turn a corner and am faced with a large cow and her calf, with 3 donkeys behind them. The cow is chewing on some grass but it looks to me like I'm scaring the little one. I stand there frozen, the cow looks at me, and I look back. Would a cow head butting you hurt? Luckily, the lady moves the cow on and I continue to Bahia Kea, a beach in one of the coves. To reach the beach, I walked down a staired path, for a good 15 minutes, so who knows how long that will take to walk back up.

Walking along the beach, I pass some guys juggling and a school and found a bench in the shade to evaluate where I was and what I should do next. After 30 mins of relaxing, I had no choice but to walk back to my hostal. It had been 3 hours up until this point, so can't risk missing the boat and then miss a bus to La Paz.

Yes that steep staired path took a good 40 minutes to climb, I chat to a Korean guy on the way up, any excuse to stop and breathe. This time, I would take a different route back, on the west side of the Island.  This involved another climb, but not as steep, each time I stopped, all I could do was just smile, seeing where I was and what I was looking at. It took another hour or so to get back to my hostal, so clearly my original route, with no trail and mountains to climb and descend, was not the best choice in the morning, but how was I to know?

Back at the hostal, I rest for 5 minutes, grab my rucksack and head down the original path I climbed up with the young lad the day before, to go find some lunch. Seeing as I hadn't had dinner the previous day and been walking all day, I was fairly hungry! Lunch consisted of a local cafe, I was given a menu with 12 options, and after 5 mins, was told only two were available. I chose spaghetti with tomato sauce. Food was obviously cooked to order as it came out 30 minutes later and it was perfect, great taste and a wonderful view to add.

Boat back to Copacabana was slow and the sun was burning on my face. I had enough time in Copacabana to check some football scores, seeing Utd win at Blackpool made the evening so much better. What also makes my days better are receiving comments on my blog. No matter how the day is going, someone spending a few minutes to add a few comments makes my day!
There seemed to be some confusion on which bus I was on, but found one I did and off to La Paz. The first hour of the route tested my nerves. You've all heard about or seen the dangerous road in Bolivia (Top Gear Xmas special couple of year ago) well, we were not on that road, but the road we were on took us around mountains and there were no safety barriers. Even some of the flatter straights had large ditches either side of the road, so sleepy I was not, my eyes were fixed on the road.

After an hour we came to part of Lake Titicaca that needed to be crossed via boats. That meant the passengers catching a small fishing boat to cross the river and the bus, well, driving onto what I'd describe as military landing vehicles. Sadly it was so dark that I couldn't take a picture of our bus crossing the river. Instead, I picked up some local food, fritas and sliced fried sausages with mustard. Cheap and tasty. Only another 4 hours till we hit La Paz.

Miles walked 4.86
Temp 25 C 80 F
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Pete on

Sounds like you made a bit of an ass of yourself with the climb up the hill....I would love to know what was running through the boys head as you were dying and climbing the slight hill at the time....v amusing!

Dave on

Finally, Ant gets some vinegar! you must have been through cold turkey.
Nice of you to let that little lad beat you up the hill.

The Real Toni Border on

Ahhhh least you got up the hill......

Laura down under on

Hey Tony B! I have just spent hours reading all of your blogs and I am very envious, but very happy that you are having a wonderful time. I don't know where you are finding time to write all of this- but keep it up! Look forward to the next instalment of 'Tony's Travels' x

AndyWray on

Hey Ant - been a while. Just thought I'd drop you a line to let you know how much I'm enjoying your blog - pretty inspirational stuff. Keep the updates coming despite how jealous they're making me...

pops on

with so much walking are your trousers getting loose,just like your but,food looks good diet coke everwhere/lyn says hi/she like reading your blogs,great scenery,like your new freind she looks a right pig./hope you tum is o/k with all you are eating/are the bites getting better/take care/look forward to the next episode-

El on

Hi Tony!
Another brill entry. It's great to hear about all the randoms you have been making friends with as well as the amazing sights. We are all really missing you here at Church View! New lodger just isn't the same!!! Lol....take care of yourself, looking forward to next episode x

Kimberly on

Another great installment. Love all the commentary about other random travelers and locals! Really great pictures too. I have the Copacabana song in my head you know it?

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