The view from our cabin on Isla del Sol
The view from our cabin on Isla del Sol was superb! The mighty Lake Titicaca (titi and caca in the same word – hee hee!), the snow-capped peaks of the Cordillera and incredible skies surrounded us. The surface of the lake is over 3800 metres above sea level and our cabin was a very challenging hike up another hill. Dave’s GPS showed our cabin just shy of 4000 metres! We spent most of our four day stay wandering around exploring the trails and beautiful landscapes of the traffic-free island. The island is dotted with Inca ruins and small villages. We loved the terraced gardens and we enjoyed the exquisite tranquility.
Everywhere we looked there were burros (donkeys) and llamas. Sheep, cats and dogs were also a lesser part of the domesticated animal population and we may have witnessed a cat fight or two. It was a different world. Un otro mundo. So to answer the question, how does one pass a llama on a trail... you don't. They pass you! So you'd better be ready to jump off the trail and let them pass you. They are on a mission.
Our cabin had electricity, but no heat. This meant
Community on the east coast of Isla del Sol
sub-zero temps at night under very heavy wool blankets. Our shower was heated by the “heat on demand” electric setups one often sees in these parts of the world. Once the sun rose, the temps became hot for the day. Due to the fact that we were 4km closer to the sun, sunscreen kept us from burning off our skin.
Donkeys and llamas play an integral part of local people’s lifestyle. Having trekked up the steep hills once or twice in the thin air (oh yes, we were gasping for that ever-adored oxygen molecule), we could understand why donkeys and llamas are used for transporting heavy goods up to la casa (the house) as even our beloved locals were huffing and puffing.
We often feel that it’s important to experience some of the lesser known and unattractive places in some of the countries we visit. Although not entirely planned, we had to overnight it in the dusty, bustling and unkempt town of Patacamaya due to bus times not connecting. We found a pokey little place to stay which had its own charm. Firstly, we had to pass through a tattered restaurant, then a construction zone. Then up the
The community on the north coast of Isla del Sol
stairs we found a nicely tiled hallway, nice door, nice key… and upon opening the door we swear the last creature to sleep in the bed was a rhinoceros. There were lumps and bumps in the mattress for no rhyme or reason. We also deemed the shower as being haunted as there was no rational explanation for its behavior. Needless to say, Theresa was the first to try it. And because of the amount of cursing and swearing, Dave decided to forego his shower for the day. (Good idea, Dave).
Patacamaya showed us the hard working people of Bolivia. Since we were probably the only gringo tourists in town, we served merely as a distraction to their work-focussed lives. A must-see when one is a gringo doing the gringo-thing most of the time. We walked along the aromatic streets whilst avoiding dogs (and their excrement) and garbage. There were no fancy streets, no street cleaner, etc. There was just enough time in the day to get one’s work done, go to sleep, then do it all again the next day. It was an interesting stay and we certainly saw a different side of the country. We had some laughs,
The Temple of the Sun, near Yumani Village on Isla del sol
met some nice locals and had some good food.
Our bus left ‘on time’ the following afternoon and took us to the tiny and sleepy village of Sajama in the awe-inspiring national park of the same name. We were surrounded by massive volcanos and vast grassy plains (bofedales), incredible sky and countless llamas. We hiked out to the edge of the ancient queñoa (Polylepis tarapacana) forest, the highest forest in the world which sprawls up the steep slopes of Volcán Sajama to an elevation of over 5000 metres. We also spent several hours hiking out to a natural thermal pool, which we had all to ourselves in this off-the-beaten-track national park. Due to the low numbers of tourists that visit this place, if you need food, just go into the place marked ‘restaurant’ and let them know you’ll show up for a meal. Negotiate a time, and the family-run business will make it happen for you! One great memorable thing – we got a heater in our room! We paid a bit extra, but it was worth it in the sub-zero nights.
At seven in the morning, we got off the once-a-day bus from Sajama to
the wee little town of Lagunas. Seeing as 7 am is not at all a time for locals to be awake, we waited for another bus to drive by us so that we could make our way to the Bolivian/Chilean border. Tambo Quemado is a cold and dusty truck-stop border town. We found some breakfast and hot drinks at a small café as we warmed up and waited for an onward ride. Upon asking if there were any public toilets we could use, the man replied, “Si, hay servicios publicos!” Then in Spanish, he continued to explain: “Just go through the construction site. Climb over the large pile of bricks, walk under the crane, continue past the excavator, sneak by the loader and dump truck and then walk down that steep dusty hill with the sharp scraps of rusty metal on it, then go underneath the building.” Something like that anyway… We did eventually find the facilities – and they were pleasantly clean… But he forgot to tell us to turn left at the cement mixer!
Stamped out of Bolivia – stamped in to Chile…
D and T…
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