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Published: August 11th 2008
At the Copa, Copacabana! Yes, as we travelled to Copacabana, on the edge of Lake Titicaca we couldn't refrain from singing Barry Manilow's cheesy tune either.
As we arrived at the shores of the lake we were waved off the bus, confused we asked the bus driver ¿Que pasa? He pointed us to a little boat and told us the bus would meet us on the other side of the lake. Fair enough, we were a bit confused as to why but compliantly hopped aboard. Then we saw our bus drive towards the water and onto a barge. So as we were ferried across the lake so was our bus. This was a nice wee change to our usual bus journeys!
We arrived in this touristy town just as the sun set on the lake and we were immediately in love with the place. It was fantastic to be by the sea again... woops, but hold on its a lake! This is the conversation we kept having while on the shores of Lake Titicaca. We kept having to remind ourselves that we were not at the seaside, Bolivia is a land locked country, we were at LAKE Titicaca. It
is so huge though, at 230km long and 97km wide it really does feel like the ocean! And Copacabana felt like a Bolivian seaside town, complete with pedalos and shore front restaurants and bars where you can enjoy the sun, beer and trout.
After a night on the mainland we took the boat the next day to Isla del Sol, or Island of the Sun. Travelling across the saphire blue waters we could understand why the pre-Inca people connected it to many mystical events - both the sun and another of their gods, Viracocha were born here. The Incas also believed it to be the birthplace of their civilization. In addition to these legends, artifacts and structures are still being found below the lake leading many to believe that a Bolivian Atlantis lies in its depths. With the sun shining on the sparkling water and the snowy mountans of the Cordillera Real looming beyond, Lake Titicaca certainly has a magical feel to it.
Unfortunately the magic wore off on Tony and he began to feel a bit sea sick, or was he choking on the diesel fumes of our boat? Thankfully before long we approached the island, where
Chola Dress on Isla del Sol
Mixing the traditional with the new
we planned to spend a few days and nights exploring. Stepping off the boat we were met by many local lads trying to help us with our backpacks and wanting to take us to their hostels. Despite our polite declinations, a wee boy latched onto us and told us he'd show us to a nice hostel. The main town on the Southern end of the island, Yumani was half an hour's climb up from the shore up the old Inca stairway. This stairway was beautifully constructed and fresh water ran from a spring at its top, down channels along its side. The stairway is enclosed in a pretty, terraced water garden which was watered by the springs. It truely was gorgeous. However, unfortunately we had our big backpacks to carry up here, it was steep, hot and sweaty work. Tony still feeling sick from the boat ride, began to struggle and turn a funny colour. Our young escort offered his help to carry some of our bags but too proud we struggled on...by the time we reached the start of the town on the hill top Tony was looking very ill. The first hostel we reached was, the boy explained,
Northern Isla del Sol
one of the more basic choices on offer. We didn't care, this would be perfect for us...Tony was happy he didn't have to walk any further and collapsed on the bed and Karen went outside to sit and admire the view...and watch smugly over the other gringos who breathlessly made their way up into the town.
The hostel was perched right on the edge of the hill and had the best view onto the lake and the mountains in the distance. It was stunning. We realised belatedly that Tony must have been suffereng from altitude sickness, brought on by the physical exersion of carrying his heavy bag (complete with tent) up the steep hill. As he recovered, Karen sat and enjoyed the view as the sun set over the lake. You could (and she did) spend hours watching the boats come and go down at the shore and the donkeys pass by. Despite the influx of tourists, life on Isla del Sol had not differed from the traditions of years gone by. There is no traffic on the island, therefore all the produce, groceries and deliveries are brought onto the island byboat and then loaded onto the backs of
Crossing the Channel
To get to Copacabana you have to travel like this!
donkeys and people who heave the heavy loads up the steep stairways. Compared to us though, the locals (young and very old) skipped up the hill, seemingly unaffected by the altitude.
After a day strolling around the village and well, sitting enjoying the view we explored the Southern half of the island, enjoying an easy walk with fantastic views to some ruins (Pilkp Kaina) on the tip of the island. These ruins lay almost camouflaged in the terraces and although there wasn't a great deal to see we still enjoyed exploring them all by ourselves. We imagined the Incas living here - what a great view they would've enjoyed. That night we enjoyed a fantastic trout dinner fresh from the lake, in a restaurant all to ourselves, romantically lit by a huge full moon that we watched rise from the water. Again, we could understand why people long ago (and even now) worship the sun and the moon.
The next day we took the boat to the Northern half of the island. We had planned to walk back but on the boat we bumped into our friends Tom and Carolyn again (we are getting increasingly suspicious they are
following us!). So after aother lovely coastal walk to more ruins we decided to get the boat back with them rather than hike back. These ruins were slightly more impressive than the previous day's. The Chincana ruins were much bigger, there main feature was the Palacio del Inca, a maze of stone walls and little doorways. We also saw the Ceremonial Table...thought to be the site of human and animal sacrifices. Then onto the highlight the Titi Khar´ka or Rock of the Puma, however to us it just looked like a big rock and we were a bit sceptical on this one and didn't really see what the archaeologists were getting at. We had time for a quick beer on the beach surrounded by pigs (!) and then back on the boat for the boat back to Copacabana.
What a great few days we enjoyed here in, it almost felt like we were on holiday! We can't wait to find out what magical sights the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca has in store for us. Now altogether - 'Music and passion were always the fashion, at the Copa...Copacabana!'
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