The Tranquillity of Isla del Sol - Lake Titicaca

Published: October 3rd 2011
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I had failed to climb Huanya Potosi, something I realise I haven't written about yet - it's a monster work in progress I one for which I am truly struggling with the words to describe. I will get there eventually... I was devastated not to complete the climb, and after being stuck in La Paz for yet another day due to yet another protest I took a bus to Copacabana - a small, mostly gringo town on the edge of Lake Liticaca.

The stunning Lake Titicaca is best known for being the world's highest navigate-able lake, lying at a head-ache inducing 3812m, an even higher altitude than that of La Paz. It covers 8372kmĀ², for those of you at home who would prefer it if I gave those two figures in imperial measurements, you'll just have to get with the modern world and do the conversion back to prehistoric units enough. I arrived in Copacabana and decided to take the boat out straight away, I was pushed for time to make my flight to Florida at the end of October and although a nice looking town, I didn't fancy staying in such a condensed tourist location. I took the boat in the early afternoon onto Lake Titicaca proper.

I headed to the north part of the island, which I was told was both quieter and more pleasant to stay in than the south. What I hadn't thought of at the time of boarding, was the sheer amount of time it would take to the further side. Finally after 3-4 hours we arrived and I raced off quickly in search of a toilet.

I had arrived with a few backpackers; a couple in their 50's a German turned Australian hippy(!) and his Kiwi wife, and an Aussie couple around my age. We walked through a small scattering of houses, following some dusty and windy passages before emerging on the other side of the village on a sandy beach.

The tiny village of Challapampa is beautiful, somewhere that feels barely effected by the outside world. It is this that gives the place a magical charm, it is a beautiful and tranquil place where the families focus on simple farming and domestic chores, which in Challapampa, are the same thing.

My one and only evening in Challapampa was spent relaxing by the waterfront, enjoying the view of a large water expanse for the first time since Rio and and watching the locals carrying out their daily tasks. I was taken by the old romanticism of the island life was romantic and its traditional simplicity, I observed young children playing with a wooden pallet, lifting it and pushing it over and down the sand and finally to the water. High pitched giggles reached the air as it flipped one last time and splashed into the shallows of the lake.

As the sun fell stout women in traditional dress began to move their animals across the beach in both directions. Small groups of alpaca, llama, sheet, goats, cows and pigs ambled past slowly, not a simple person or animal was in form of rush. As the light faded, I had a feeling of contentment and relaxation - I was at peace, a very rare and welcome feeling.

I ate with the people I came over on the boat with in a small wooden building near to where we had disembarked our boat. There was no menu as such, only a standard set menu where you could choose from a few different types of basic meat - the food was cheap and tasty, a good end to a great day in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

I woke after a good night sleep and had breakfast with the younger Australian couple before I packed my bag and brought some supplies for the day. My plan for the day was simple, to walk across the island, from the north to the south, in good enough time to catch a boat back to the mainland.

I set out from the village and walked first through some school grounds, whilst ascending the island, following its edge through plenty of places with fantastic viewpoints. From above it was eveneasier to appreciate the islands simple beauty. Considering the condition of my knees from the mountain attempt, the hike was ill-advised, but the rage from my failure echoed through my body and I needed this day. From the school I made my way slowly upwards to some Inca ruins, Chincana.

Incan legend says that the creator of the universe, Viracocha, emerged from the waters of Lake Titicaca and created the sun on Isla del Sol, so of course the island has plenty of ruins from their era. These ruins resembled some old houses and sat on the coast of the island, a fantastic place to have been able to call home, the Incan's were a smart people.

I continued walking, up and over the island, enjoying the incredible contrast between the saturated dry colours of the landscape and perfect blue of the lake. On the far distant mainland, with snow capped mountains were visible. I cursed at Huayna Potosi crudely. I was doing the hike alone so on occasion I kept myself amused by posing for ridiculous timed photos and stopped for an occasional snack. I walked with all of my possessions carrying them with me to the top of four of the peaks on the island, sweating endlessly under the midday sun as I went. I used sun cream, but the sun was so over powering I resorted to wearing my Balinese sarong around my head like a bandanna.

After 5 hours of hiking, which included an hour climbing down a farm terrace whilst lost, I made it to the south of the island and into Yumani. I had made the right decision to stay in the north, Yumani had some charm, but was overpopulated with tourists and the generic pasta and pizza restaurants that dominate the gringo trail through Bolivia.

I had a fantastic time on Isla del Sol, it is uniquely beautiful, quiet and the northern half remains a very natural location. It was a brief, but perfect time on the island and a fantastic way to finish Bolivia. I had restored some of the damage to my pride induced on Huayna Potosi. I left for the mainland re-energised and jumped on a bus to Peru, optimistic and happy for the next step of my South American odyssey.

Additional photos below
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5th October 2011
Lake Titicaca

REALLY awesome Pic Alan! Can't wait to get down there!!

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