Copacabana - Haunted By Barry

Trip Start Aug 16, 2003
Trip End Apr 21, 2004

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Where I stayed
Playa Azul

Flag of Bolivia  ,
Wednesday, April 7, 2004

After crossing the Strait of Tiquina in a little boat, we reboarded our bus and wound our way down to Copacabana with lyrics from Barry Manilow buzzing round both our brains! We were dropped off at the lovely town square, complete with ornate, Moorish cathedral, where a kindly local gentleman directed us to the 'Playa Azul' hotel, described in the L P guide as a 'splash-out' option...

Once again, amused by the contradiction in guide book description and our opinion, we decided that the room was reasonable enough for a night, but we would definitely look elsewhere for the next three nights. So, after formally checking in, we left our packs and walked the streets in search of a place to eat (keeping an eye out for prospective future accommodation, all the while).

Most of the restaurants appeared deserted, and in fact some places had tables left uncleaned from lunch, with no staff around to either clear up, or serve us. We finally veered into a place on the main street where at least there were other diners. The atmosphere was pretty good, with The Rolling Stones playing over the stereo, and the food was ok (but not enough to encourage us back!). After dinner, I managed to exchange a couple of books at an Internet cafe, so reading was again on the agenda before bed.

Skipping the hotel breakfast, we went across the road to a cafe, before moving our stuff to a new hostal (it seems 'hostal' and 'hotel' are used interchangeably, and sometimes hostals actually provide a higher standard of accommodation). As it was pouring with rain and a river was running down main street, we spent a few hours back in the Internet cafe before having lunch and chilling out in our much nicer room. When the sun finally burst through the clouds by mid-afternoon, we ventured down to the lake-front and hired a kayak to go canoeing on Lake Titicaca. After donning our 'life-jackets' consisting of four matchbox sized pieces of polystyrene stuffed into a nylon waistcoat, we spent an enjoyable half hour paddling around the vicinity; looking down into the crystal clear waters and managing to spot a few of the little silver fish that were on many of the menus back in town.

The little lad who had shown us to our vessel helped us out of the water and held out his hand for payment, with the price suddenly jumping by 5 Bolivianos. I had intended to give him a tip anyway, but thought it extremely cheeky that he had made the decision for me. I did not have enough change for the inflated fare, and he apparently had no change to give me for a note. That was until I walked away and he miraculously found some coins deep in his pockets after all! With rye smiles, we left the diminutive hustler and went back to shower and change for dinner.

On the way back, we were both waylaid by a number of souvenir stalls and shops and ended up buying more presents for people back home and for Andrea, herself! We shortly discovered that the promise of hot water 24 hours a day in our new room was somewhat exaggerated. After what at best could be described as a tepid shower, we quickly dried and dressed to warm up! At this point, we also discovered that our toilet would not flush properly and from then on, we had to take off the lid of the cistern and lift up the arm attached to the plug - Bolivian plumbing!

We had a decent meal at La Orilla that evening, although we did get moved to accommodate a group of Germans! An early night followed as we had booked a day trip to Isla del Sol, and needed to meet the boat at 8.15 the next morning.

Grabbing a swift breakfast of what seemed like outsized 'Sugar Puffs', fruit and yoghurt in a cafe along the way, we joined the growing group, gathered at the shore. We found seats at the back of the small boat and began the 2 hour journey to the Isla del Sol, through drizzle and grey skies. It had stopped raining as we moored at the north of the island, and we all disembarked before being corralled into a tiny museum for a brief pep talk by our guide. Now possessing a sketchy outline as to the history of the island, we followed the guide on a 45 minute walk to some Inca ruins and sacrificial table. Apparently, the site was the birthplace of the Inca culture and therefore of great importance. A formation of rock was pointed out and said to represent the puma, but very few of our group could actually see the resemblance - it had perhaps weathered considerably since Inca times.

At that point, our group was spilt, with the majority returning to the boat to travel to Isla de la Luna, and a few hardy souls remaining to undertake the three hour hike along a hilly track, transecting the island. Contrary to what many of you may think, Andrea and I stayed to trek Southwards on the island, and actually managed to reach the small village at the end of the route in just two hours. At times the going was tough - hills kill at almost four thousand metres up - but we pressed on regardless and were quite thankful that the island chose not to live up to its name, by being rather overcast and cool (that did not prevent us from burning our faces, however!). As we neared the end of the walk, we had to run the gauntlet of a number of artisans and beggars, trying desperately to part us from our cash. We have become fairly hardened to this, and politely dismissed each one in turn (including a few children with pet llamas, demanding money or sweets for a photo!), but one girl was overly persistent and followed Andrea for about 100m, tugging at her sleeve and whining all the way. She only gave up when Andrea threatened to throw her off the cliff! (She didn't really, but did get quite firm after her umpteenth 'NO!')

Having reached the 'Inca Steps' ahead of schedule, we had almost two hours to wait for our boat to pick us up for the short ride to a minor ruins and then back to Copacabana. We sat down on the jetty and enjoyed some well-earned chocolate and Pringles and saw that a small ferry was preparing to return to the mainland. With only a slight hesitation, we decided to jump aboard and truncate our 'guided tour'. We were shown up to the roof of the boat, where we sat and enjoyed the cruise back. To our frequent consternation, Barry Manilow randomly entered our thoughts, unbidden as we made the journey back to Copacabana - we have come to realise that this is the curse of the town!

The next morning was spent having a leisurely breakfast to fortify ourselves for a walk around the lake (not the entire lake, mind!). Following directions out of the town, we first walked across a flat plain, where pigs, sheep, donkeys and cows appeared intermittently. The scenery was superb, but we found we had to continually check where we put our feet to avoid stepping on tiny black and brown frogs that hopped across the mud track from puddle to puddle. After an hour of wandering, we came up to a rocky hillside, overlooking the lake. We found a small trail leading upwards and made our way along it, and up one side. We were met with breathtakingly beautiful views all around and soon found a spot amongst some rocks to rest up and enjoy our surroundings.

Feeling restless, I ventured off on my own for a while and clambered further up the hill. Glad to have my camera with me, I snapped away at the scenery, included a lovely secluded beach and plenty of pretty wild flowers, as well as Lake Titicaca itself. Once I had returned, I sent Andrea off, so she could see for herself, then we sat back and soaked up the sun in our own private paradise.

The walk back was just as enjoyable as dragon-flies flitted about our faces and humming birds zipped from flower to flower. Unfortunately, Barry maddeningly joined us whenever we settled into a comfortable silence, forcing us to converse all the way home!

Dan and Andrea
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