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Published: March 20th 2006
Hola boys and girls, I´m back in La Paz, I guess I´m just a glutton for high-altitutde punishment. Altitude sickness really is the pits, especially after 3 weeks, when it normally should disappear in as many days... anyway, I soldier on to new lands and new scenes. This weekend was my Lake Titicaca long weekend, and it was one of the best side trips I have ever taken in my life! Here´s how it all came about..
JUEVES (THURSDAY) - left my hostal with a reservation for Sunday night, getting on the bus at the La Paz cemetery to Copacabana (p.s. it´s not the hottest spot north of Havana, they were definitely talking about somewhere else in that song). Checked out the local church, didn´t get to see the local virgin statue (apparently pretty famous). She must have been having a long weekend too, must be tiring... Picked a hotel at random for the night - not too fussy, as long as it has a roof and four walls.
VIERNES (FRIDAY) - it turns out that the roof was an issue in the end. We were hit by an almighty thunderstorm in the wee hours of the morning, and
the rain came through onto the other bed in the room, unfortunately occupied at the time by my German friend Hannah. It woke everyone up, not just us. The rain continued into the morning - Hannah chose to postpone her half day tour, whilst I decided to take a risk and boat over to the island (Isla del Sol).
The rain cleared by the time the ferry got to the southern end of the island, at the small village of Yumani. With recommendations for accommodation further along (muchas gracias, Clive), I hit the ruined Inca staircase running (ok, so I didn´t, but I walked a little faster than usual before becoming completely winded after the third step, and needing a good half hour rest). How do the locals (and everyone else, for that matter, do it?)
Now don´t get me wrong, I love being an international traveller as much as the next person, but sometimes it´s such a relief to get away from the hordes of gringos on their sheep-mentality tours. This was such an occasion. I only had to walk 100 metres from the boat dock to lose everyone else - and for once that´s a good thing!
decided that the local Aymara people would be a better source of directions to my destination than my somewhat lacklustre guidebook map, so I asked around and got put on the right track. I started following a couple of ladies and their herd (llamas, donkeys, sheep and pigs) along the road until they diverged and I went on. Twenty mintues later I was backtracking, looking for another local to put me straight on the path before I walked through someones´ beanfield. Caught up with a family and their two horses going my way, to the village of Cha´lla (pronounced Cha-ya), and chatted with the girl at the back about the horses, who were proving to be stubborn and kicking their legs back at any given opportunity. They left me behind at the base of the hill headed into Cha´lla, as I needed a rest break before tackling a hill of any description. Mustered my strength and made it down to the beach on Bahia Kea (Kea Bay) where I was to spend the night. Unloaded my pack and headed straight for the beach for some much needed R&R - not rest and relaxation, but reading and riting (ok, that´s not
a R, blame the teachers - sorry Belinda!)
The local kids came out of school later in the afternoon, and being the only gringo in sight, I was made quite the spectacle. They all said hello, even some of the teenagers. The Aymara people on Isla del Sol are the friendliest group of people I have met in my entire South American trip!
The hours gradually whittled away, and it became cold before sunset - the autumn weather patterns must be cold and wet overnight, and sunny clear days.
Filled my ravenous stomach with enough quinoa and corn to feed a farm of animals, topped it off with eggs, carrots and the ubiquitous Bolivian papas fritas (chips) and stumbled/rolled to bed.
SABADO (SATURDAY) - another burst of energetic exercise, over the hill from Cha´lla to Cha´llapampa. Said a fond farewell to my hostess after brekkie and headed off. This time I met with a woman from Cha´llapamapa that was visiting her parents overnight in Cha´lla. In a mix of Aymara and español (neither being my forte), we learnt about each others age, family, work, travelling and so forth. She tried her hardest to teach me the basics in Aymara,
yeah, another pier photo
Copacabana beach, Bolivia
but it´s one of those languages with glottal stops and interesting letter combinations, which I really need phoentic instructions to. Maybe I´ll just try to remember hello and thank you and leave it at that!
The light rain was back again by the time I got to Cha´llapampma, so my plans for boating back at lunchtime were spoilt, as I had to wait for the rain to clear to visit the ruins nearby. After dropping the luggage at a place recommended by Sande (the woman I was travelling the path with), I slept for a bit - to conserve my strength for the afternoon, of course! And, lo and behold! the sun came out about an hour later, so I hit the hills to find me some Inca ruins.
Beating the tour group rush was a godsend - I had the ruins at the Inca Palace all to myself, to stretch out on an Inca-carved rock and look at the expanse of coastline and lake spreading out before me. I was an Incan surveying her kingdom! Plenty of peace and quiet, only broken by the lapping of the waves on the shore, the sheep bleating on the hillsides and the
odd gull cry, that was until the gringo tours arrived, and the ruins were swamped with people making noise and generally running around snapping photos all over the place. I gave them their ruins, and went and hid in the midday shade (there was very little available) until they all went away again half an hour later. After they had left, I examined the other ruins - the Sacrificial Table - more like a reconstructed giant Incan coffee table; and the rock of the Puma, where the Inca god Viracocha allegedly created the entire world (just as plausible as the whole six day creation myth). On the way back to the hostal I also spotted what I assume is the Templo del Sol (Temple of the Sun), as it was facing east, as most or all of the important temples did.
Ended up with a solid case of sunburn, as I had stupidly left my hat and sunglasses at the hostal, not thinking of them when it was still cold and wet. Went to bed with a headache, but very happy at the end of my day in Cha´llapampa.
DOMINGO (SUNDAY) - woke up to another grey morning, but
boats in the harbour
Copacabana beach, Bolivia
not as wet as previously. Examined the developing sunburn (not too bad on my face, just a swollen and burnt bottom lip, and interesting tan and a bit of pain on my scalp - I´ll live), then went out for breakfast, and to await the ferry to take me back to Copacabana, via Yumani to the south. It was a good opporunity to get a closer look at the ruins on the south side that I had missed on Friday; these ones actually having roofs as well - most ruins to date are merely shells of walls, no ceilings or floors.
Back to Copacabana, and directly onto the next bus to La Paz, to get tucked into bed at my hostal by mindnight. Well, that was the brilliant plan, unfortunately the hostal had lost/forgotten my reservation, so I had to traipse around La Paz at night, looking for a place to crash for a night. Luckily one was found two blocks away, and I slept there last night.
That was my weekend! Hope yours was good too!
P.S. for those who haven´t emailed me (and you know who you are), get off your butt!
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