At the Copa...Copacabana

Trip Start Sep 02, 2008
Trip End Dec 14, 2008

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Monday, September 29, 2008

As Barry Manilow rightly tells us... music and passion were always the fashion in Copacabana!

Well breaking our recently made rule to avoid German run hostels, we booked into La Cupula in Copacabana on the banks of Lago Titikaka..which for those of you ignoramus' that don't speak Spanish is Lake Titicaca.
Proving our theories shouldn't be idly tossed aside, I found a home from home in our en suite toilet, thanks to an undercooked lasagne that I'd ordered from the painfully slow restaurant on site. Despite having only 2 other customers the waiter disappeared for ages on doubt he was also tending to the reception and dashing between the two, Basil Fawlty style. So definitely no German run hostels from here on in, having said that the hostel was pretty flash lots of hammocks and deck chairs with a great view of the lake.

Copacabana, like I mentioned is the Bolivian gateway to Lake Titicaca, and was pretty much awash with tourist shops and restaurants. Most do a fantastic menu del dia for about 12 Bobs (approx 1 English pound) which included a hearty vegetable soup...actually I'd say the best veggie soup I've encountered thanks in no small part to the many chunks of beef that was in it! Seemingly Bolivia, like many of our European friends, take a slightly laissez faire attitude to catering for veggie's! Following the soup we had a choice of steak with chips and rice (everything comes with chips and rice) or Trout (..with chips & rice). The trout was top notch, definitely the best food in Bolivia that we've stumbled upon. Then followed orange jelly..well it would have been jelly if it had been allowed to set, but it tasted fruity!

Copacabana though is a good example of where Bolivia needs to up it's game where tourist towns are concerned. True, it had the pedalos in Loch Ness monster-style shapes...but where I ask was the mini-golf? Where were the amusements? Where were the waltzers? I tried to suggest they send someone on a fact finding mission to Blackpool to sort themselves out, but alas I fear something was lost in translation.

Bereft of anything else to do, we had to amuse ourselves by going on a boat tour to an island on Lake Titicaca known as the Isla Del Sol. It turns out that this island was the birthplace of Inca legend, for it was here that the bearded white God, Virachocha ,first appeared to instruct his followers to build empires and conquer all before them. Incidentally I've christened myself Virachocha on the account of my beard, I'm imagining the Inca God impressed his followers with a flowing beard tinged with red (not ginger), although this nickname has failed to catch on with Jen! I know all this detail because despite the island being visible from Copacabana the boat we found to take us there went as quick as I swim...and it may shock some of you to know that Michael Phelps I am not. A painful 2 hours later we docked at the Southern end of the island. The 2 hours on the boat though allowed me to reflect on a truly great disaster than has befallen me since our travels began. In fact a greater modern traveller disaster I cannot imagine...yes I've got ipod problems. First signs of problems came in Argentina when the laptop failed to recognise my ipod when I was charging it then cheerfully reset the ipod wiping out the 18gb of music I had diligently transferred from my external HDD drive. Still all was not lost as I had some music on a flash drive, plus I could keep up to date with how bad Palace are doing by downloading regular podcasts. However the final straw came as during our salt flat tour I was impressing our fellow travellers with some kiwi music (Fat Freddy's Drop) when the ipod froze..and since then it has resolutely failed to thaw. No end of diagnostic mode, disk mode and resetting cannot get rid of the unhappy ipod icon that suggests that I am in possession of an ex-ipod. Imagine my dismay at actually having to make conversation during those never ending bus rides!

Anyhow I digress, we eventually reached the Isla Del Sol to be faced with the ancient Inca Steps. This was a ridiculously steep set of stairs (even worse than our first flat in Edinburgh) with random obstacles along the way including locals selling tat, llama's and mules. The latter proving remarkably difficult to persuade to move if they didn't feel like it ;-)

At the top of the steps though we found our hostel for the night which had amazing views cross the Lake towards Peru., definitely well worth the climb. After the obligatory haggling with the owner (much shaking of heads, many "muy caro" and the classic walk off) we settled on $3.50 (US) a night and headed off to the shop to buy beers.
Not unlike most Kiwi's I know, as soon as we had settled down with our beers a couple appeared from nowhere who, it turned out, hailed from the mighty Mount Manganui. We became best of buddies sharing a couple of rounds, travel stories and agreeing that Titicaca was just a poor man's Taupo (joke) before heading off to dinner. Finding dinner on the island proved funnier and more difficult than we had expected. The first place we tried had a single gas hob (and no customers), so despite her friendly toothless smile we decided to try elsewhere. The next place showed no signs of hospitality and didn't have a toilet so we took our custom elsewhere. In fact it seemed most tourists had the same issue which meant we all descended on the same restaurant, a good hour later we were presented with our cutlery... a big moment we had deciphered as this was the 30 minute warning that food was likely to appear! To be fair we all had a fantastic meal and again another thing in Bolivia that was worth the wait.

The next day we were up early and after failing miserably to persuade the hostel manager that we had negotiated breakfast as part of our 3 and a half bucks (the Kiwi couple we discovered to their annoyance had negotiated a rate of $12 !!) , we embarked on our trek to the Northern end of the island.

Not wishing to stereotype our Kiwi friends, but they had voiced their outrage numerous times at having to shell out for various national park entrance fees as you complete the trek from one end of the island to the other. As such they had given us there tickets from the day before so all we had to do was present these and we could pass at the checkpoints saving ourselves a good $25.
Imagine our surprise therefore that on encountering the first checkpoint we were faced with a registration book where our names should have appeared against the ticket number. To add to the mess a far too friendly (for our liking) American began translating when he mistook our acting dumb routine for not understanding Spanish. After an uncomfortable standoff we agreed to pay a nominal fee to allow him to change the date of our ticket and we went on our way feeling slightly dirty at having being so tight!

After which we enjoyed a very pleasant trek, including a look round some Inca ruins (as I commented to one German enquiring whether they were worth the climb - if you like ruins you'll love this place); personally I'm slightly lukewarm to ruins, but when in Rome...honk!

The journey home is only noteworthy for our first run in with Israeli travellers. Our first travel experience 10 years go was often spoilt enhanced by the introduction of some Israeli friends...I hate to generalise, but as the Spitting Image song goes "I've never met a nice South African, and that's not very surprising" in our case we like to substitute South African for Israeli. Anyway mild xenophobia aside (I'm sure they're all lovely really), our ludicrously slow boat was held up by a group of Israeli's who sauntered down to the dock 20 mins late (we had actually set off and been going for 10 minutes but due to the speedy boat we were only 100 yards from shore and so "El Captain" turned back to pick them up. Despite this being the last boat of the day, we then had to wait another 5 minutes as the group attempted to bargain the price down (saving themselves about 30 cents) oblivious to the death stares coming from those of us already on the boat. El Captain stood firm though and they merrily jumped aboard without a care in the world.

The delay almost proved disastrous as a wild storm was moving towards us across the lake, El Captain came to our rescue though and kicked both engines into life (we'd thought the second one was just for show!), however the vessel starting veering wildly (well as wildly as it can at half a mile an hour), but all's well that end's well - we ended up back at La Cupula in time for tea...and so another stint in the en-suite ensued!!!!
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