The border crossing was of corse, muy interessante - an elderly man with a stamp sat at a desk! When we got off the bus to exchange money and to walk across the border, we met a good few people who had been on our Amanti island (lake titicaca) tour and we realised we all had pretty much the same plan for Copacabana, so we all arrived pretty much together and bought boat tickets to Isla del Sol, another island on Lake Titicaca. When we arrived on the island there was some kind of huge celebration going on, which we later discovered was a welcome to the people who had taken part in a huge walk somewhere between Peru, Bolivia and the Lake Titicaca Islands - we're not entirely sure of the details, but the gist was certianly uniting countries! Whatever it was, it was cause for great celebration amoungst the locals, lots of bright colours on the shore and around the island, lots of singing and dancing, and a huge long speech in Spanish which we couldnt hear let alone understand
! Anyways after the celebrations had calmed down a little, we were taken to a hostel by one of the hundreds of kids swarming the dock who all scramble to get tourists to stay in their parents hostels - being a group of 6, we managed to bargain a good deal and started the trek up to the very top of the island, with our big packs. It was pretty tough going at what was already 3600m above sea level before we started climbing up, with the big bags which weigh a tonne, plus trying to stop Sunny (the 5 year old son of one of the ladies we'd met on the first island tour) from falling off the edge of the cliff, but we were told it would be worth it for the views at the top...
They were right - the view was absolutely stunning from our hostel. The rooms/bathroom were of corse pretty basic, but for 2pounds for the night we werent expecting luxury! As we stood on
the balcony of the hostel, we all decided the water looked pretty inviting with the sun shining on it, so we decided to go all out and trek down to the waters edge (pretty far down!) to swim in Lake Titicaca. We set out not realising the extent of the lack of path down there, but managed to figure out a vague route which got us down without any problems. The potential problem we then realised was that none of the six of us had bought a torch....it was about 5.30pm by now, and considering the sun sets about half six, we'd were gonna be pretty lucky if we got back before dark, and none of us fancied the walk we'd just done downhill back up in the dark
! But we were nearer the water than the hostel by the time this dawned on us so we carried on and hoped for the best! Naturally, by the time we got down there the sun was no longer shining and it was pretty nippy but there was no way we were chickening out at that point, so Amber, me, Theresa, Sunny and (eventually, after lots of persuasion!) the Columbian in our little group, Daniel braved the water. It was so worth it - to be swimming in crystal clear water, right in front of stunningly beautiful snow-capped mountains in the middle of Lake Titicaca was pretty incredible. Also incredibly cold, but with three of us being English girls we're used to chilly waters - Daniel on the other hand is not so much, hence the amount of persuasion and the threat of us pushing him to get him in! Once we were in and swimming around we got vaguely warm, but the shocker was when we got out, attempted to dry ourselves and put some clothes on before heading back up the huuuge cliff to the hostel - easier said than done! We were also fighting against the light, which always makes it more tricky! But, after a while of making up the route, going with "upwards and to the left has got to be kind of right" we got back to the hostel just before dark, and in time to see the sun set behind the mountains - amazing :D
We got back to the hostel aboslutely frozen, so me and Amber decided it was the appropriate time to bust open the Cusco hot chocolate we had bought, so we all sat well wrapped up, with our hot chocolate/coffees, to warm up - lovely
! Then came the search for somewhere to eat - you'd think that on an island of almost solely "restaurants" and "hostels" it wouldnt be difficult, but most of them were either shut, only sold trout, or tried to charge us ridiculous amounts (not actual ridiculous amounts for us, but ridiculous Bolivian prices!)! Eventually we found a lovely little place with three options for a meal (mucho choice, I'm telling you) including veggie appropriate stuff so we settled in there for what turned out to be a long night - the soup (standard quinoa/veggie goodness) came pretty quickly, but then we were in for a long wait before the trout and omlettes came! But it was worth the wait, all the food was lovely and we enjoyed a bottle of nice wine between us - the group decided it had been one of those "magic moment" days which suited a drink at the end of it! By the time we wandered back to the hostal we were all pretty knackered so all headed to our bedrooms and Amber and I put the old iPod on the speakers and enjoyed the toblerone bar we`d treated ourselves to using the Peruvian change we couldnt get changed into Bolivianos anyways - a good way to spend it we decided, having not had proper chocolate since we've been here!
After a surprisingly good nights sleep on the island, we had a good breakfast at the hostal, the highlight for me being the tea coming in TOY STORY mugs!! And not only was one toy story - all four were matching, which I haven't seen once out here, everywhere has the mix and match idea to crockery
! Daniel and Paulo did the big walk to the other end of the island but we decided we just wouldnt make it in time to catch the boat back to Copacabana (they're pretty speedy guys!) so we just hung out with Theresa and Sunny around the south part of the island where we were, and walked over to the Inca Ruins where Sunny had a brilliant time playing hide and seek in the ruins, and making friends with yet more Bolivian children over there! With some pretty amazing views there and on the way back, we grabbed some lunch in a funny little place where the menu looked full of lovely things but when we asked for a cheese sandwhich (one of the seven or so sandwich fillings apparently available), we were told "we only have egg or chicken for sandwiches"! And when we asked for a fruit salad the response was "we only have two fruits - bananas and papaya"!! It was pretty funny, but the food we did end up with was very nice, and cost under ten pounds for all four of us, so no complaints whatsoever!
We got the 3.30pm boat back to Copacabana (another incredibly relaxing, beautifully sunny boat trip!) expecting to get back on the same big bus (like a coach from home) we'd got off from Puno to get to La Paz, but apparently not - turns out the Titicaca (name of bus company) tickets from Puno are always changed at Copacabana for minibus tickets to take you to La Paz... The first we heard of it was when Theresa just went to check out the bus and the lady pointed at what Theresa described as "the really shitty looking one" down the road
! After a bit of investigation we realised that a good number of gringos seemed to be lining up to get onto the same bus, so it must be right - we hoped! Another moment of slight panic when the driver told us to put our packs on the roof of the bus (no apparent attachement for them, just the roof!) but we put ours safely together and again hoped for the best! We got on the bus (with Theresa and Sunny) realising it was gonna be a pretty bumpy ride, but we what we hadn't expected was the bus driving telling us all to get off so we could cross a lake....interessante! Noone from the bus really had a clue what was going on, but thankfully a very helpful little local girl pointed us in the right direction of the little ticket office where we each had to buy a ticket for the little motor boat which then took us across the lake, while our bus went on a bigger almost ferry-like thing. When we all got off onto solid ground on the other side our bus was nowhere to be seen so we all hung around on the corner of the road and waited eagerly for it to come around the corner - which eventually it did, thankfully! Obviously they never think to tell you these things beforehand, so all of us on the boat were in histerics that we'd just got off our rickety bus with all our stuff attached to the roof, to get on a motor boat to take us across the lake, in pitch black (the lake crossing happened at about 9pm!) - was hilarious! So it was back on the bus for another couple of hours driving before we arrived in La Paz - finally!
We've just got a couple of days in La Paz - doing the essential bits (death road and the witches market!) and a couple of other bits, before heading to Potosi in a couple of days.
Hope all is good in England, and you that you all enjoy the easter holidays :D