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Published: February 10th 2012
Now that we had been on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca by visiting Puno it was time to see it from the other side….The Bolivian side and therefore on to our 12th
country of the trip so far.
We were receiving better reviews from travellers that had visited the Bolivian side of the lake and heard that both Copacabana and Isla Del Sol were great places to visit, so off we went to Copacabana via bus. Now, we haven’t had much action on buses for a while and they have all been fairly standard trips, however this particular journey did have a couple of incidents. Firstly we witnessed the solidarity of fellow travellers from near and far and secondly we realised that Bolivia was going to be a place where people would try to relieve you of your hard earned cash by every trick in the book! Let me explain: the solidarity came from the travellers on the bus when we arrived at the Peru / Bolivia border. Basically there were a couple of guys still at the immigration office, that were on the bus earlier, and the bus conductor deciding that they were taking too long with their paperwork
for the border crossing decided to leave them and push on to Copacabana. This is when everybody on the bus seemed to explode in uproar, and demand that the bus wait for these stragglers’ by starting a full scale shouting match with the conductor. Our Spanish still leaves a little to be desired; however we got the gist that everybody was more than happy to wait for these guys instead of leaving them at the border. So after a huge ruck involving every Spanish speaking person on the bus (this of course excluded us!) it seemed the bus conductor finally caved and waited for the late-comers. A win for traveller’s power!
It was only then around 4 miles down the road when our next incident came about in the form of a ‘Copacabana Tax’. Basically, the bus stopped just outside the town and let a guy on board who was asking for 10 Bolivianos per person (about 9p) in order to enter the town of Copacabana. Having been riled up from the previous incident, the patrons of the bus were again, not happy! They demanded to see the tickets that they were paying for as they didn’t believe this
tax was legit, and after examining them noticed that the ticket was for entrance to a church within Copacabana, rather than a tax for the town itself. Therefore, everybody refused to pay the whopping charge out of principle and pretty much shoved this guy back off the bus to where he had come from…… another win for the tourist and 9p saved already, fantastic, but we knew from then that we had to be wary of fake taxes and con men in this country!
So, once the craziness finally calmed down and we arrived at Copacabana, we only had about 30 minutes to sort ourselves out, grab some money from the ATM and catch the last boat out to Isla Del Sol where we decided to stay for the next couple of nights. This should have been easy, however with only 1 or 2 ATM’s in the town, and a queue for them as long as a Harrords sale, it was going to be tight. This was mainly due to the fact that there are no ATM’s on Isla Del Sol and therefore everybody needs money before they get there and everybody needs it now as the boat was
about to leave. Fortunately, we did get some money out, and made the boat in time. A close call and a really mental couple of hours. Welcome to Bolivia!
Whilst on the boat over to Isla Del Sol we met an Ozzie girl Sharonee, who we got on well with and the three of us decided to stay at the same place on arrival. We had been recommended a place here by another Ozzie girl who we met in the Galapagos and she did warn us that it was a bit of a climb to the hostel, but she also said it was beautiful and relaxing there and that was precisely what Donna and I were looking for over the coming days. So, the three of us started to make our way towards our hostel up one of the steepest hills we have climbed so far with full ruck-sacks in tow. A good 45 minutes later, we finally arrived at the hostel sweating and panting like we had run a marathon, but the sight before us was perfect.
The place we were staying in was literally the last place before you went towards the north of the island
and therefore it was very isolated. The rooms were comfy and clean with awesome views across Lake Titicaca and the rest of the Island and there was hardly a soul about…..this is what we were after. Our evenings on the island were spent sipping a cold beer, watching the sunset, chatting to our new pal Sharonee and putting the world to rights, whilst our days were pretty lazy and consisted of reading, eating and catching up on some writing as well as taking in the stunning views of this fantastic place.
Whilst walking round the island we were constantly asked to pay more taxes for the island which again baffled us as it seemed we needed to pay every time we walked to a restaurant and back, however to be fair, this was a misunderstanding and after seeing our entry ticket, they generally left us alone.
Overall, our time here on Isla Del Sol was just what we needed after all the trekking tours and cities we had been visiting over the past weeks, and was a perfect retreat for some R&R. We knew that Bolivia had a lot in store for us too over the coming month
and this was a great place to start our Bolivian experience. So, on our way back to Copacabana, in a boat that chucked out more diesel fumes than an old articulated truck and therefore with headaches imminent, we looked forward to our time here, and to some of the amazing things this country had to offer…
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