Copacabana & Isla del Sol (Lake Titicaca)

Trip Start Apr 10, 2012
Trip End Apr 06, 2013

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Flag of Peru  , Puno Region,
Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The drive from Puno was not too bad after all. It certainly didn't compete with the Cruz Del Sur buses but it was not as bad as we thought. The route into Bolivia was close to lake Titicaca and we had really nice views along the way. We got to the boarder at about 9.30am and at this point SJ was getting a little nervous as this was our first on land border crossing and we were entering a 3rd world country. We had to get off the bus and after exchanging out Soles for Bolivianos (1 = Bs10) we had to get in the queue for the Peruvian immigration. When we entered Peru we completed a visa form which was stamped and given back to us. Apparently if you do not keep this piece of paper the Peruvian border control will charge you a sum of money (this can be anything all depending on the border control person) when you leave. Thankfully we had been told about this and made sure we kept the slip of paper.

The border control people look very mean and intimidating but we sailed through the Peruvian side with no problems. We then had to walk across the border where our bus awaited and where we had to go through the Bolivian border control. Again they looked mean and intimidating but we sailed through and got another stamp in our passport. We are not sure it would have been so easy had we crossed the border at night time! When we went past the large "Bienavidos a Bolivia" (Welcome to Bolivia) sign, next to immigration, AK decided to seize the opportunity & jump up to attach one of his Hillsborough Justice campaign stickers to it....he was lucky not to get caught by the security guards carrying guns. A quick photo of his achievement, and we moved on.

We arrived in Copacabana 20 minutes later and in general it was a bit like Peru but you can tell the people are poorer in Bolivia. We got off the bus and retrieved our backpacks (this is always a stressful thing as you never know if they have been stolen by someone!) and headed into a tour/travel agent and booked a boat to Isla Del Sol and a bus ticket to La Paz two days later. We met a girl called Katie from California on the bus from Puno and she was going to join us in our trip to the Island.

We had a couple of hours to kill before our boat left so we headed out for a little explore of the town. It was full of shops selling the usual fabrics, bracelets, charms and leather goods. Things were fairly cheap and although SJ had her eye on a leather handbag and AK a fluffy alpaca hat we decided to wait until La Paz as it is a huge city and we are sure to find them cheaper!

We bought some snacks and a drink for the boat and headed down to the lake. It was a bit confusing as there were lots of boats and lots of tourists but we eventually found our boat. It was a small motor boat and it seemed that the amount of people queuing couldn't possibly all fit on the boat but they did! It seemed there was no space for AK, SJ and Katie as a few 'older' Australian ladies had decided to take up a lot of space on the benches with their bags and did not offer to move them even though they could see people had no where to sit! SJ decided to move their stuff for them and made space for us to sit. With people crammed into the bottom part of the boat and a number of people on the top of the boat we were good to go.

Not long after we set off a group of Brazilian guys decided to roll and light a joint. Now AK & SJ really do not have a problem with people smoking the great green herb but when they are sat next to barrels of diesel on an enclosed boat they thought these people were very stupid. The boat ride was only 1.5 hours, surely they were not that desperate for a smoke that they would risk everyone's lives? The guy driving the boat asked them to put it out and thankfully they did.

We arrived at the beautiful Island of the Sun safely and we got off and started to look for a hostel. We were very quickly accosted by several boys of about 9/10 years of age all saying they would take us to a hostel. The hostels they were talking about were high up on the hill and with 15kg backpacks AK, SJ & Katie were not keen. We eventually settled for one a bit closer although we still had to climb a numb of stairs. We paid our Bs5 which is 'for the south island people' and headed up to the hostel.

AK and SJ got a private room and Katie got a dorm which turned out to be private as no one else was staying in the room. The rooms were very basic, no electricity other than a light and definitely no wifi but they were clean if a little on the cold side! The view from our room was amazing. It overlooked the lake and you could see the snow capped mountains in the distance. It was also east facing which meant that the sun came up from behind the mountains and lit up our room in the morning. To get this sort of view else where you would have to pay a lot more than the 7 we paid!

We had decided to hike up to the top of the hill (I say a hill but it is a bloody big hill) to watch the sun set as we had been told there was a viewing point at the top so we set out and started to climb the stairs. It was tough going for SJ and Katie but AK took it in his stride. AK has become a right hardcore hiker and wants to hike whenever he has the opportunity. We stopped off for bottles of beer and bumped into a Dutch couple that Alan had previously met on the bus to here, and hiked the second half of the hill with them. The south part of the island has many hostels dotted on the hill and there are a lot of fields with either lamas, sheep or donkeys in. They use the donkeys to haul stuff from the boats up the hill and all over the island and although they look relatively healthy it still made SJ sad as they have no life other than slaving away in the sun for the people of the island.

We finally reached the lookout point, cracked open our beers and watched the sunset. It was really beautiful and you could see for miles from the top. We got talking to a group of three young Brazilian lads called Marcello, Cesar and Adriano, who were all really nice and friendly and we walked back down the hill with them. AK being a big fan of brazilian football past and present, talked to them all the way back about the beautiful game. They very kindly offered to cook dinner for us back at their hostel, so we chipped in for the ingredients and headed to their hostel. We had a delicious meal of spaghetti with tomato and sardine sauce. It sounds disgusting but actually tasted really good and everyone cleared their plates. we sat around the table talking about all different things, we mentioned to the lads that we were planning to walk the length of the island the next day, from south to north and that they could join us if they fancied it, which they did. It was time for us to make the twenty minute walk back to our hostel in the pitch black of the night, so we left, with plans to meet up again at 8am the next morning for the small hike.

After a surprisingly good sleep in the lumpy and bumpy bed, AK and SJ were woken by the sound of the donkeys ee-oreing in the distance. We got up and dressed, brushed our teeth and were outside waiting for Katie in 15 minutes. Once Katie was ready we set off up the dreaded stairs to meet the Brazilian lads. AK walked ahead and SJ and Katie arrived out of breath 10 minutes later. So we all set off for a day of hiking in the sun. After about 20 minutes we came across a gate at which stood two local men to whom we had to pay Bs15 each for 'the people of the north island', record our name in a book and then we were free to proceed. It was another chance for AK to write another fake name and occupation in the record back....small things!

After a couple of hours hiking up and down hills we eventually reached the ruins close to the north part of the Island. We were not totally sure who built them but we think someone told us they were Inca ruins and the island is thought to be the birthplace of the Incas. They were not as special as Machu Picchu but it was interesting all the same. After a short rest we moved on toward the town and beach of the north island. We passed a kind of outcrop of rock so we decided to go and take a look. The view was amazing! You could see out to the Island of the moon (Isla del lunar we think) and the beautiful sandy coastline of Isla del sol. We also bumped into the three Belgian lads that Alan met hiking Colca canyon and they invited us to their hostel for drinks in the evening, so AK wrote the hostel name down and we continued our descent to the Northern town.

We eventually arrived at the beach and SJ was surprised to see little pigs just roaming free (there were also a few tied up with not a lot of space and SJ wanted to set them free). The town seemed very basic and the people quite poor. The beach and the water were beautiful and the boys and Katie decided to take off their shoes and go for a dip, SJ decided against it as the water was icy cold. We took lots of pictures and even got one of AK in a little rowing boat, with his beard he really looked like a boat captain! SJ was pleased that two pigs came trotting by after trying to raid the backpacks of some girls further up the beach. They were a bit boisterous and grunted a lot but as soon as SJ rubbed their back they stopped still in a daze and gave the odd grunt as they relished the mini massage they were getting. They are very clever little creatures and as soon as SJ stopped stroking them they trotted off without a backward glance.

We carried on walking down the beach toward the town, through half built houses and other buildings and eventually arrived at a small water front where the boats stopped. There was some public toilets, a little shop selling all kinds of stuff, a street food vender and a 'restaurant'. We decided that although the street food looked nice we were going to eat in style at the restaurant. We all took a seat inside and ordered soup and their specialty which was fish either fried or baked with rice, chips and veggies. The 'restaurant' was just a one woman set up in a small two room building and this coupled with the fact the table cloth was covered in ants made us very nervous about the quality of the food. We had no other options though so we decided to stick it out and hope for the best. We'd decided in the mean time that we would hike the alternative route back, along the beaches, as oppose to getting the boat. When the food arrived though we were very pleasantly surprised. The soup was hot and delicious and fish was fresh and very tasty.

We ate up, paid up, and decided to start out on our hike back as the afternoon was wearing on and we had a fairly big hike ahead of us. We bought some snacks from the shop, watched a 'stray' sheep pinch and eat rose like flowers from a garden and then get chased by a small scruffy looking dog (the things you see never cease to keep us thoroughly amused) and started our hike back south.

Although there were some hills the hike back was fairly easy and as it took us along he coast it was a beautiful walk. There was lots of greenery and we walked through a few little towns and said hi to the locals who were working very hard going about their daily business. It seems that most people are farmers of some kind and as the island is full of hills they must have a very tough life. The donkeys have an even tougher time as they constantly haul huge loads up and down the hills of the island. We all gained a lot of respect for the donkeys as they have a tougher life than the people.

We were all very tired and started to slow down as we approached the check point between the two parts of the island. We showed our slips of paper proving we had paid our dues to both the north and south people of the island (we really did not know how the island survived before tourists as they get a lot of their money from all the visitors) and carried on up past the lookout point....the end was in site and we all felt very relieved. We got back into the town at the south end of the island at about 6pm. AK needed to look for the hostel where the Belgian lads were staying but after an extensive search no one, including the locals, had heard of the hostel! AK felt really gutted as this was the second time we had said we would meet them but didn't. Anyway, as SJ and Katie were very tired they decided to go back to our hostel and stay in and chill. AK came back but had decided to go back to the Brazilian lads hostel for a few drinks.

SJ went to the cafe that was part of the hostel and ordered spaghetti with tomato sauce and Katie ordered pizza. When it arrived it was very basic but then we were on a small island and all their supplies arrive by boat. As we were hungry we ate up and paid up and retreated to our rooms to chill. SJ tried the shower but was disappointed to find that they were lukewarm at best. She decided to have an Hokey Cokey shower, you put your left leg in, your left leg out in out.....get the picture? It was a quick body wash as there was no way she was putting her whole body under the freezing cold shower. Later she sorted her back pack, did some blog writing, had a read and was in bed lights out for 10pm.

AK arrived back just after 10 and brushed his teeth and jumped straight into bed. He planned to get up at 6.15 to watch the sunrise from our balcony so he set his alarm and we were quickly fast asleep. It seemed like no time at all when AK's alarm went off. He got up, got wrapped up and headed out to the balcony with a chair. The sun rise over the lake from our balcony was unsurprisingly beautiful, and AK took some good photos as it was rising.

SJ got up, well after sunrise, and after packing our things and meeting up with Kate and the Brazilian guys, we were sat ready and waiting for the boat. while waiting a few of the locals needed help with pushing a boat into the lake, a task which was much harder that what it seemed. AK, Cesar, Adriano and Marcello wasted no time in helping out. After helping out with the boat, it was time for us to board our boat and start the ninety minute journey back to the touristy lake side town of Copacabana.

After arriving in Copacabana, we said our goodbyes to Marcello, Adriano and Cesar, who very kindly offered to put us up if we ever visited Sao Paolo....AK said he would love to take them up on their offer in 2014 when the world cup was being held in Brazil.
We already had our bus tickets booked for La Paz, so we rushed to a restaurant with wifi to book a hostel for that night. Unfortunately the wifi didn't work properly so we had to get on the bus with no hostel for La Paz for that night, a predicament AK and SJ usually tried to avoid. Luckily there was a Australian girl on the bus who we shared a room with in Puno, and briefly seen on Isla del sol the day before. She was heading to a hostel she had found in her lonely planet book, so we decided to go with her after the four hour bus journey.
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