Mojo Back in Bolivia


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Published: March 4th 2009
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Inca StairsInca StairsInca Stairs

Beautiful place, but hellishly steep, and this is only 1/20th of the climb to hostel
The Isla del Sol, an island in the middle of Lake Titicaca, on the Bolivian side, is a popular tourist spot. I have met many travelers who recommended going there to see the sunsets. There is a lot more to this island than glorious setting suns. The island is already setting itself up to gain from tourism, so go quick before it becomes another trap!
Luck was with me once I landed and got to the hostel. By the way, that is an olympic feat in itself, walking up the Inca stairs on a hell of an incline up a mighty big hill/mountain. It is worth it. No matter what hotel or hostel that you book into you will have a glorius view (and your heart and lungs will have had a great workout).
I did not know much about the island, and so when I walked (staggered) past the fountain, on the first of many series of steps, I did not take much notice. I doubt I will ever get use to the altitude when it comes to walking up Inca steps.
The hostel, High Inca Pacha, is rustic but adequate, and it is on the sunrise side of the
Ancient RuinsAncient RuinsAncient Ruins

I hope these pictures capture the beauty of this place
island. The more expensive, sunset views hotels are further up the hill. I was very happy to see my hostel sign as soon as I entered Yumani village.
During my travels I have met many people, mostly Europeans, and have had good conversations. On the Isla del Sol I met three great people and had fantastic conversations. Ty and Lizzy are two accountants from Ireland who were doing the year off to travel. They are nearly at the end of their year and are going to do MachuPicchu and Equador before heading back. They hired a quide for this part of their journey and I met them at the hostel. Manuel, their guide, was parttime tourguide, university professor, author and medicineman. The four of us had supper and the breadth of our conversations covered global economies, Global Warming, South American mysticism, Bolivian politics, and healthy foods. They were scheduled to hike 4 hours the next day to the sacred stone and ancient ruins. I decided to join them and the rest of this blog and photos should try to convey some of that adventure. Mind you, my leg muscles are still aching and my face is quite sunburnt, but my
Zoom In to Wool ProductionZoom In to Wool ProductionZoom In to Wool Production

In the village at north of island, I spied a family processing wool
soul feels like it has its mojo back. This year of travel is reminding me that the crap times exist so we appreciate the good times that come along before and after.
Manuel was a wealth of information. One disturbing fact is that he is noticing the glaciers in Bolivia melt. He has hiked to the glaciers for many years and from what he can see of their retreat, he thinks they will be gone within twenty years.
The Isla del Sol is an odd place. I arrived in blasting heat from the sun. By evening it was quite chilly. Overnight the heavens seemed to explode in rain and hail, and in the morning there was a layer of snow/hail that lasted most of the morning. The hailstones were the size of small peas. Yet, life keeps on trucking in that semi-peaceful-country-way. We had a late breakfast waiting for the rains to end, and it was debatable if we were actually going to do the hike. Ty was ill with the flu and he and Lizzy had to carry their backpacks on the trek because they were not returning to the hostel. They planned to tour the reed
BoatBoatBoat

There are many tourboats to and from Isla del Sol
islands in the afternoon with Manuel, and then return to Cochobana. Manuel was the optimist and got us out the door and onto the uphill trek. *gasp* I can tell you that I was glad Ty had the flu and between he and I we had to stop to catch our breaths many times. We had to do the trek and get to the North Port to catch the boat, so the breaks were short.
It was quite bizaar, heading off in a layer of snow, on an island in the middle of the highest lake in the world, heading towards 10-12,000 year old ruins. As Manuel reminded us, the Inca civilization lasted for 200 years; whereas the pre-Inca peoples were the ones who built most of the trails and ruins that get labeled Inca by commercializm. This island has been the spiritual centre of peoples for over 10,000 years, and yes, that made my anthropolgical heart go pitter-patter.
Along the way Manuel stopped to show us medicial plants. Unfortunately, Peru imported the eucalypt tree to help prevent soil erosion. This tree consumes much of the moisture in the soil, and it has eradicated the natural trees. The
Sacred WaterSacred WaterSacred Water

According to our guide, the first spring (least water) is to wash, the second one is for spiritual blessings and the third is for community and healing.
trees on Isla del Sol are eucalypt.
Oh, I forgot to talk about the sacred fountain. Later, if you want, you can ask me about the spiritual rocks and places that Manuel described. For now, I can tell you that he thinks the fountain contains healing and restorative powers. The oldest person on the island is 130 years old. The water does not come from Lake Titicaca; Manuel said scientists studied the water years ago and it is a mystery from where the spring water originates. After our trek, I took notice of the pilgrams who walked up the Inca stairs and filled containers with the springwater.
The trek to the sacred stone and ruins was amazing. I wish I had time to type all of the info that I learned, and to describe the stones, water and sky. In a word it was awesome. And on a practical note, it was a grueling hike that taxed lots of muscles and made me feel very alive.
The last night I spent on the island was eiry. Manuel had said that lightening strikes only at the sacred rock on this island, and that the entire region had powerful
MapMapMap

Map on wall of Lake Titicac and Isla del Sol. I landed on the south port and hiked up to Yumani village
energy. When I walked to the top of the hill to see the famous sunset, I noticed chain lightening striking at most points on the horizon (Peru and Bolivia). This is not new, on the drive to Puno I saw chain lightening hit the mountains beside the highway. There must be some scientific reason why lightening occurs so often....the water....the minerals in the mountain. All in all, it is fascinating to sit on top of Isla del Sol.


Additional photos below
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Classic shotClassic shot
Classic shot

I think I saw a postcard of this scene, an island on the way to the Island of the Sun
Hostel FrontyardHostel Frontyard
Hostel Frontyard

Looking off towards Cococabana
SnowSnow
Snow

During the night it hailed so much that a blanket of ice was on the ground, some of it lasting for hours. (view from my bedroom window)
Canada MomentCanada Moment
Canada Moment

I tried to make a snowball before we set out on our trek. View from hostel front yard.
RainRain
Rain

We almost didn´t do 4 hour hike because of the cold rain early in the morning. Lizzy setting off.
Ty and LizzyTy and Lizzy
Ty and Lizzy

They are doing the year around the world trip and nearly finished. They will be back in Ireland by end of April.
Trek FeeTrek Fee
Trek Fee

It stopped raining by the time we got to toll booth
Snow and Eucalypt TreesSnow and Eucalypt Trees
Snow and Eucalypt Trees

I wonder how often this scene happens in Bolivia in summer?
GuideGuide
Guide

Manual is part time guide, part time professor, author and medicine man. Here he shows us plants for healing
Old and NewOld and New
Old and New

Traditional and modern pass each other
LevelLevel
Level

Some of the trek was level
Trek to Sacred RockTrek to Sacred Rock
Trek to Sacred Rock

Halfway along top of island mountains, on our way to sacred rock and ruins. Sometimes the cliff reminded me of Exmoor coastal walk, in England
Abandoned HouseAbandoned House
Abandoned House

We kept asking ´are these the ruins?´but we really had to hike four hours to get to the sacred ruins
ConversationConversation
Conversation

Lizzy and Manuel in conversation about island history
TyTy
Ty

Forging on after rains stop


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