Published: October 14th 2010October 8th 2010
We took the overnight bus from Cusco and headed to Copacabana. We were assured that the bus was ´directo´but in true South American style ´directo´never actually means direct as we know it. About 40 mins from the Bolivian border all those going to Copa were told to get off the bus and collect their luggage. All 22 of us were then piled into a 15 seater collectivo and were driven the rest of the way to the border. At the border we all piled out again, got stamped out of Peru, walked across no mans land to the Bolivian border, got stamped into Bolivia and finally got back on our collectivo that was waiting at the other side for us. Worryingly the collectivo we got on had no tread on any of its tyres. Thankfully it was not wet when the driver swerved to miss a flock of sheep blocking the road! About 10 mins and in one piece later we arrived in Copa.
Copacabana sits on the banks of Lake Titikaka which is the hightest lake at altitude. Copa sits at 3800m. The lake is huge and when you look out over it you forget it´s a lake as
you can´t see the other side. It looks like the sea. Also hard to believe that you´re still at altitude. Copa doesn´t have much going on which was quite nice as we wanted some time relaxing after our trek. The first day we found a lake-side bar with deck chairs and sat watching the world go by drinking the local beer. The sun here is so strong during the day that we got burnt. A stark contrast to after dark when we were going out with 4 layers on.
On our third day in Copa we took a boat over to Isla del Sol. We got dropped at the north of the island and walked along the ridge line to the south. It was a nice walk although we quickly remembered we were at altitude when we got to the top gasping for breath. When we arrived at the south of the island we found a hostel at the top of the hill which had amazing views overlooking the lake. Having enquired about a room we were shown to the room firstly by a five year old boy and then by his older ( 8 years) sister. They were
both extremely helpful and amazingly understood our very broken Spanish. We settled in and spend the rest of the day chilling out on the terrace area outside our room. After an amazing sunset we went for some dinner at the hostel restaurant where we were again served by children.
The next morning we walked down the hill to get the boat back across to Copa. We all waited around with a few other backpackers until our little boat arrived, nothing more than a pleasure cruiser with a small outboard on the back and bench seats inside and on the roof. As usual they crammed us in so that all the seats inside and out were full and off we set. The little engine struggled to make headway and it was slow to say the least but quite relaxing anyway. That was until we were about 30 mins away from Copa and water started to slosh around under the floor boards. This was mildly amusing to begin with until the water began to slosh over the floor boards. One of the guys on the boat then asked those at the front to move to the back to shift the weight
backwards. At the same time the guy on the tiller increased the speed of the engine so we were going a tiny bit faster. They didn´t seem too concerened and we were pretty close to land at that point so if it came to a swim it wouldn´t have been far. The water continued to rise but only slowly so we all still had dry feet. Eventually after an eternity Copa appeared round the headland and as soon as we docked we all jumped onto dry land as quick as we could. We were never in any danger but it was a little cçworrying at the time.
The bus to La Paz departed on time from Copa and was another ´direct´ busm this time interupted by a river where we all had to jump off and get onto another little boat for the trip across the water. Meanwhile the bus went on its own little barge which appeared to be made of wood. How it carried it we didn´t know. When the bus reached La Paz, it appeared below us at the bottom of a wide canyon with snow capped mountain tops, quite an amazing sight. We spent just
the night in La Paz, which is pretty frenetic, again at high altitude but with all the usual pollution too, not the best combination.
Next day we hopped on a night bus to Uyuni, about 11 hours, from where we were going to do a trip round the Salar de Uyuni. The bus, after slowly leaving La Paz got going and we fell asleep, but not before having to politely ask a Bolivian guy to turn off the music from his mobile phone which had been playing at full volumn from its tinny speakers for the first two hours. However, three hours into the journey and it was all change. The smooth tarmac road had deteriorated into a muddy, unpaved road and we bumped and vibrated for the next eight hours until we finally reached Uyuni, not having slept at all. We got off the bus at 5.30am, feeling exhausted and it was bitterly cold. Needless to say the touts weren´t well received that morning. We found a hostel and quickly fewll asleep. Uyuni isn´t the nicest or most entertaining of towns so once we had booked our tour for the next day we did the best we thought
and headed to the nearest bar where we spent the rest of the day and evening.
The next morning we got up for our trip and made iur way to the office to meet our group. It turned out that we were on the same tour as some of the people we had done our Inca Trail with so at least we knew who we would be spending the next few days with. We were shown outside to our jeep and driver Miguel. The jeep was substantially older than Miguel himself and the back door nearly fell off when he slammed it! At our first stop we realised that the jeep was not a Toyota Land Cruiser but a Toyosa land Gruiser which did not fill us with confidence. Our first stop was at the train graveyard which was pretty much as it sounds. We wandered around and took some pictures before getting back in our jeep and driving to a local village for lunch. After lunch we drove across the salt flats. They stretched as far as the eye could see and blinded you without sunglasses on. Our next stop was an island in the salt desert covered
in huge cacti, some apparently as old as 1000 years. After walking round the island we went onto the salt desert and attempted to take some perspective photos which were possible becouse of the endless horizon. In practice they didn´t work but we had fun attempting them. Once back at our car we drove to our hostel for the night. To our surprise it wasn´t as basic as we thought it was going to be although we only had electricity from 7pm-10pm so it was an early night after playing some cards with our group.
The next day we drove away from the salt flats and drove through the desert to our first lake which apparently was called Idiot lake. Here we saw hundreds of flamingoes. They were an amazing deep pink colour, much more vibrant than anything you see in the zoo. We had lunch next to the lake and even saw a fox that came to clear up after we´d left. We spent the rest of the afternoon bumping our way over the desert visiting several other lakes. The last lake we came to was Lake Colorado where we were to spend our second night. The lake
was a deep red colour due to the organisms in it and was fringed by white salt crystals that had accumulated into iceberg like structures at one side. Very surreal. The hostel this time was very basic and freezing cold. We all huddled into the ´dining´area for tea and then dinner and then straight to bed to try and warm up.
After a cold restless sleep we woke up at 5am to meet our driver at 5.30am. On the way to our next stop we broke down, not for the first time, but this time with the engine pouring steam. As before though Miguel with his magic spanner seemd to manage to get it going again. We drove to see some guysers which belched steam and eggy smells.We were allowed dangerously close to the crators with boiling mud at the bottom. We were rather apathetic as we were so tired and cold so we didn´t stay long. We all declined a dip in the hot springs so drove onto the Salvador Dali desert so named because of its likeness to some of his landscapes. Next we drove up to 5000m to see Lake Verde, this time a turquoise green
colour. We drove through ice on the edge of the lake showing how cold it was. After breakfast we said goodbye to some of the group who were going onto San Pedro in Chile and began our long drive back to Uyuni. We arrived back in Uyuni just in time to catch our night bus back to La Paz.
In the morning we arrived in La Paz to find that it had snowed overnight making the view of the city even more spectacular.
There are more photos below