For convenience (aka laziness) and to avoid either walking back up the steep hill to the bus station or being ripped off by a taxi we organised the bus to Copacabana through the hostel. Now La Paz is the start of the real tourist trail, so the hostel books you onto what is essentially a tourist bus which collects you from the hostel. Bit too easy really and not really to our liking but in another week we’ll be halfway through our trip and we still have some large countries to travel through and lots to see – we’re starting to realise that we won’t have time to do it all and when we can pay a couple of dollars extra to save some time organising things we’re inclined to take it at the moment.
If you look at a map of the Bolivian/Peruvian border you’ll see that to get to Copacabana without going into Peru and out again you need to cross a narrow strip of water. We all had to get off the bus and were put into small boats to cross whilst the bus gets put on a barge to do the same thing. Having been away from water since Vina del Mar, early in our Chilean adventures we bounded aboard enjoying seeing and being on the water and watching harbour life as our bus trailed 20 minutes behind.
The views of Lake Titicaca are stunning, reminding us of home. The lake is a clear blue surrounded by hills and snow capped mountains. At first you can appreciate that it is a large lake but the longer it stays in view the more it seems like a calm sea. In no time we were in Copacabana and of course we found somewhere to stay pretty much on the lakeside. Copacabana is not some idyllic lakeside location that you might get in New Zealand but a very busy tourist beach with plastic paddleboats and tourist boats galore that take you out to the islands.
However we remembered that for Bolivians this is their seaside holiday spot (being a landlocked country) and so we came to terms with it and enjoyed the bustle. Later we wandered to the Cathedral which has a real mediterranean feel to it – white walls, tiled roof and small plaza out the front. We had a small peek inside before heading to the market. Markets have been a huge theme in South America for us and so when we stumbled across a street with women selling only popcorn we were quite disappointed. There was also a small indoor market with a bit of fruit and veg and some dried out fly ridden meat but not much more. Instead we watched the dressing and blessing of the vehicles that leave the village – bit like a karakia for an outbound waka – sorted ourselves out with a boat to Isla del Sol the next day and went back to the hotel for some rest.
Having slept reasonably well despite our ongoing digestive issues we headed down to the beach the next morning for our boat to Isla del Sol. The island has two main settlements one in the north where there are many ruins intact from the Inca era and one in the south which is much more touristy and has some freshwater springs and a ruined ‘temple’.
First we visited the north, the settlement was really quiet and there was a long walk along an old Inca pathway to the ruins of Chincana. The scenery was brilliant and despite the strong sun (the sun was born on Isla del Sol according to Inca legend) we made it to the top and back down to the boat before it left for the southern part in the early afternoon. We only spent a brief 45 minutes on the southern part which is where the half day trippers go so was much busier and watched lakeside/island life before returning to Copacabana in time for the sunset. We enjoyed our first intro to Lake Titicaca and are excited to be heading to Peru tomorrow for more lake adventures.
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