Having a strong cold and deciding to go to Lake Titicaca at 3800m is not exactly the smartest idea of all, but then I didn´t want to stay in Arequipa forever. So I jumped on the bus to Puno on the peruvian Titicaca shore, and from there straight on to Copacabana, Bolivia. And got stuck there.
Copacabana is a quaint little village on the lakeshore, and it is a major traveller's hangout. There are an incredible amount of cheap places to stay, and a lot of groovy places to eat, drink coffee, and drink the night away with other travellers, or people who simply got stuck here. But the best thing of course is the amazing view of sparkling blue Lake Titicaca, with contstantly good wheather, and the air so thin that it actually seems to be clearer than anywhere else. And maybe because there are less oxygene molecules in the air, you can actually see further....?
Isla del Sol
While Copacabana in itself is a good place on its own already, one of the main reasons to be here is a visit to Isla del Sol, the island where according to the legend the Incas first appeared.
From Copacabana, you take a tiny little boat, loaded with about 30-50 people, cruising over the lake for about 1.5 hours to get to the Isla. The most amzing part of this little boatride is when you finally turn round a rocky outcrop and suddenly have the snowcapped Andean cordillera in full view, almost directly next to the lake. The most annoying part of the little trip is that it is much more freezing cold on the boat than you though it would be....
And it was also freezing freezing freezing cold at night. Yumani, the village in the south of the island, has numerous places to stay - and if you really want to see the island, you have to walk the whole length of it, making an overnight stay neccessary. They are almost all dirt cheap and have great lakeside views, but they obviously have no heating, nor windproof windows. I slept in my full clothing and got up really really early to set out on the walk - it was to cold to stay in bed anyway...
The 3-4 hour hike to the north side of the Island brings you to some nice Inka ruins (more ruins....), and spectacular, breathtaking views every 5 minutes. Thinking again, the breathlessness probably had as much to do with the altitudes of up to 4200m - I freely admit that I only managed the hike because I was taking every possible medication: anti-flu, anti-headache/migraine, anti-altitude-sickness, anti-cough.....and on top of that, chewing a few coca leaves. And it still cost me - but it was more than worth it.
Economy of the Island
One of the most interesting stories I heard about the island was about its economic structure. Apparently, in the southern part of the island, people work in a cooperative, i.e. all the money earned from tourism is collected and shared out among everybody, including old or ill people. In the middle section of the island, money is not used, people just exchange their goods and services directly. And in the northern part, people are plain capitalists: who has money has money, who doesn't have money is screwed.
Sounds all very interesting - but a few things didn't add up in the story: firstly, on a tiny island like this (you can walk the whole length in 4hours - less if you are a resident used to the altitude...), it sounds incredible that there would be three different economic systems. And secondly, if everything is shared out evenly in the south, I can't understand why there were so many people agressively trying to sell THEIR hostel to me - if they share everything, it doesn't really matter where I stay, does it?
But it's a nice story.
Back in Copacabana, I decided to stay another night. And another. That's what Copacabana does to some travellers: you are just sucked in because it is so relaxed and laid-back. Some of my most enjoyable moments were with a group of five lovely uruguayans, travelling on NO budget. I.e. they were running around with a range of music instruments, playing in bars and restaurants, earning a few bolivianos for food. Instead of paying, I simply joined them, creating some kind of music in bars and having a good time. While it was a lot of fun, it also meant that I spent a lot of time outside on the street with them, rather than inside in a cozy bar where you have to pay for your drink. And it really gets freezing freezing cold once the sun is down.
So obviously my cold didn't get any better, and I awoke every morning with a terrible headache caused by the altitude - although some people might say it was the alcohol. Or the mixture of both. And I was also not convinced that my mix of medication was such a terribly healthy idea....
So I decided it was time to move on and get down from altitude, skipping La Paz and just going directly to Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia's east.
PS: Well, the photos.....maybe another day? It's a new problem today....
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