Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Copacabana and Isla del Sol

From La Paz we bussed North West 3 hours to the small town of Copacabana. At 3800 metres above sea level, ¨Copa¨ is the jump-off point on the Bolivian side to explore the islands of Lake Titicaca. Lake Titicaca is one of the highest navigatable lakes in the world(some guidebooks suggest it is the highest in the world!). At 230 km long and 97 wide, Lake Titicaca stradles the border of Bolivia and Peru. After battling some belly issues, we were keen to be active again and get some hiking in as well as take in some of the gorgeous scenery of lake, mountains, and greenery of the region.

From Copa, we hiked along the dirt road 17 kilometres to the next town of Yampupata. Along the way we saw lots of trout fish farms lining the shores of the lake. There was hardly any traffic as we passed through several villages where the people always had a warm smile and an ¨buenos dias¨to greet us. The people here live simple lives, farming the fertile soil along the lake, fishing, raising sheep, and using donkeys as means to carry loads from one place to another.
We arrived at the port in Yampupata 4 hours later and hired a boat to take us over to the nearby Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun). Isla del Sol is the legendary Inca creation site and is the birthplace of the sun in Inca mythology. With a population of around 5000, Isla del Sol is dotted with several villages. The boat dropped us at the south-end of the island to the village of Yumani. We ate a well-deserved lunch of trout and hired some little niños (kids) to take us to the best hostel in the village. Up, up, and up we went passing donkeys coming down to gather goods from incoming boats. The niños took us to a great little hostel perched on the hill with an amazing view of the lake and the Cordillera Mountain range beyond. We dropped our stuff off and took off for another little walk to the top of the hill at the south end of the island. From there we watched fishing boats finish up their day as the sun dropped behind the mountains.
Up and at 'em early the next morning, our mission was to hike along the historic inca trail to the north end of the island in time to catch the only ferry from the back to Copa at 1.30. After some trouble finding the trail (and climbing a HUGE hill first thing in the morning- not an easy feat at 4000m above sea level) we were on the right track. We really could not have asked for a more amazing morning as we hiked along the ridge of the island, up and down a bit, through pastures where sheep grazed and passing farmers carrying loads of straw strapped to their backs.

As the sun climbed higher in the sky and the clouds cleared, we approached the Inca complex of Chincana, situated at the north end of Isla del Sol. We saw familiar constructions from Samaipata and the clues that this was indeed an Inca site, everything (windows, doors, mummy caves) carved and built from stone in 2`s, 4`s, or 8`s. We also saw the Titicaca Rock, which is the rock that the lake is named after. It means Grey Puma. The rock is definetely grey and apparently also looks like a puma, but we didn´t really see it. With a bit of imagination, the shape of the lake also looks like a puma when turned upside-down.

From the Chincana complex, it was a short walk down to the biggest town at the northern end of the island, Cha´llapampa. We had time for some lunch before boarding the boat back to the southern end of the island and then back to Copa. Back in Copa we stayed one more night before heading across the border to Peru to explore the Peruvian side of the lake and onwards into Peru.

Bolivia Fun Fact:
Bolivia has been a fantastic surprise for us and has lived up to its descriptions of being cold, warm, windy, steamy, dry, salty, and swampy. It is also very colourful; over 60% of the population of 8.8million claim indigenous heritage. Bolivia has it all...

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