Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Copacabana and Isla del Sol

Copacabana and Isla Del Sol

06/07 -  8/07


We woke up early on Monday to go to the bus terminal and catch the 8am tourist bus to Copacabana.  Copacabana (or Copa as it is lovingly known) is meant to be a backpacker/hippy's paradise and party hot spot, but the main attraction for us was Lake Titicaca (which has is said to be the largest lake in South America and the highest navigable lake in the world). Another attraction for us to visit this corner of the county was Isla del Sol, the biggest island located on Lake Titicaca and home to many fascinating Incan ruins. 

We were met with snow along the road to Copa - this doesn't bode well for our visions of a warmer climate. 

Our first glimpse of the magnificent lake. 

We had to dismount the bus at a little lake town so that the bus could be ferried across this section of the lake before finally making our way to Copa. While we waited, we got to see our first Llama in South America up close! 

Casually roaming the streets  

While the boat got loaded onto the ferry we were hoarded onto this passenger vessel. 

Scavenger lake birds that came right next to the captains head - he didn't look that impressed. 

Incredible to watch this massive bus being ferried across the lake and not tip over - even though we were hesitant at times. 

For some reason our passports were checked in this little village - we later came to suspect that it's because of all the hippies that come to Copa and set up residence here indefinitely....without the proper visa requirements being met. 

Finally after about 4 hours of travelling, we arrived at Copa. We quickly found some cheap accommodation and headed out to explore around this enormous body of water.
Rox on the shore of the highest navigable lake...IN THE World! 


Getting our nautical on. 

Huge hill in the town that you could climb up to the Cerro Calvario and pass the 14 stations of the cross that represent the stages of the crucifixion. 

It seemed that the lake was not only a tourist hub, but that many local Bolivian families flock to the lake for a bit of good ol' bonding time. 

Kids playing foozeball

We were sure this was a lovely place in the summer, but as it was currently winter and there was snow on the surrounding mountains, it ensured that an icy wind was ever present and therefore kept us bundled up. 

One could rent bicycles, tricycles, motorbikes and scooters to explore the lake

Car decorated for a funeral possession - couldn't think of a better place for ashes  to be thrown (except maybe the wildcoast in SA). 

One could also rent these Bad boy paddle boats at a rate of B$15 for 30 minutes.  We were keen but there was quite a wind picking up and we weren't sure how these little ducks would fare against the growing waves and we certainly weren't keen to be dunked into the frigid water. 

The lake seemed to attract many nature lovers and hippy types -  we even came across an eco lodge where all the plants seemed indigenous and it even had solar heating. 

We also stumbled upon a real hippy abode where everything was made out of recycled materials and decorated with shells, flowers and new age art. 

We guessed this was a hippy toilet - What?  Was the bush not good enough:) Luxury bos kak! 

Welcome to the hippy house 

After strolling along the lake for about two hours we headed back into the town and to the main square to see the jewel of the town -  the 6 de Agosto Cathedral.  

Classically there was a market outside the church to sell trinkets to tourists. 

The beautiful mosaic features of the cathedral added a dash of colour against its white walls. 

View of the top of of the hill from the cathedral courtyard. 

Awaiting the arrival of Papa Francisco...Only 2 days to go. 

We entered the cathedral but we're not permitted to take any photos. It was quite pretty inside with meticulously crafted statues and murals covering every wall.  We also discovered a room that gave tribute to all the different representations of the Virgin from each of the South American countries. 

The big doors leading us to the exit. 

We went back to our hostel to wait for sunset. We were excited to see the big yellow ball fall below the ocean-like lake. 

You would think that this was a tranquil moment in which we would be relaxing and enjoying this wondrous sight... You would be wrong! 

As we strode towards the shore, determined not to miss the sunset, we were hit by a vicious wind. Dust was flying around us, into our eyes and even our mouths! All the shopkeepers were hurriedly trying to pack up their stalls before the inevitable hurricane hit! We thought about following the crowd back to the safety of bricked structures but we were stubborn and never like following the crowd,  so we continued on. 

But once we arrived at the water's edge,  it was worth it! 

We quickly forced smiles for the necessary photies and hurriedly went in search of shelter. 

We went off to the local market to get some dinner.  The speciality of the area was Trucha, which is trout that is caught from within the Lake. 

We chose our market Lady and she quickly de-boned the selected fish within 2 seconds and popped it into the pan. 

Roxy with the finished product lying on a bed of potatoes, rice and salad. Hmm... Those eyes look tasty! 

Just as we were tucking in to the moist flesh of the fresh fish, the power went out! What? This isn't South Africa...didn't expect Load Shedding in Bolivia. We shouldn't have deleted that Gridwatch App! 
The dinner ladies all quickly jumped into action and collected candles and torches. We finished our dinner by candlelight and then tried to find our way home through the dark. 

The strong gale force wind had caused a powerful failure throughout the whole town. We were luckily able to navigate our way back to the hostel where we mobilised our torches, got ready for bed and snuggled up to watch some Brooklyn 99 before getting a good night's sleep! 


We woke up bright and early and our plan for the day was to get to Isla del Sol. It was still quite cold but at least the sun was shinning so we were excited for the day ahead. We went back to the local market to get breakfast. We got some saltenas, delicious syrup doughnut - type treats and a hot Api mixto in a plastic bag to go. The mission then was to go in search of a boat to Isla de Sol. Our plan was to go to the North side of the island and hike down to the South where we would spend the night before coming back to Copa the next day. 
As we walked down the tour agency Street,  the wind was still stirring up dust around us as a hippy tried to sell us pancakes from his platter. All the agencies' doors seemed to be closed which seemed odd as it was almost 8am but we eventually found one that was open. It was then that we heard the bad news, because of the hurricane type winds the night before, none of the boats were leaving from Copa to the island that morning. There were only two options, one was to wait for an afternoon boat which would only leave if the water calmed down, the other option was to take a 20min minibus to a point closer to the island and then take a boat from there. Of course the additional minibus ride would cause the cost to be unnecessarily elevated. We uhmed and aahed over the decision and then eventually decided to just pay a little extra to get us there earlier and stick to our original plan. But because of our delayed decision making, the minibus was already basically full. There seemed to be only one spot left. We were quite determined to get in there so Roxy tried to convince the driver that 5 people could sit in the back seat and three in the front - we could feel the tourists already seated in the bus giving us death stares and cursing at us under their breaths. Come on... In Africa there would still be enough space for five adults,  a baby,  a sheep and a couple of chickens! After much negotiating, the driver agreed to allow both of us to sit in front with him and the guide. We strapped our bags to the roof of the vehicle and squeezed in, Rox on Joy's lap, slightly elbowing the guide next to us in the face. 

The drive was a windy one but gave us some more beautiful sights of the lake. We arrived at a little port where we were told that we would have to wait for about 30 mind for the captain to arrive.  We all sat in the sun, trying to thaw out our fingers and chatted with the rest of our group. After about nearly an hour of waiting, people started getting a little impatient and when they enquired further, our guide said that we were waiting for Ricardo. He was trying to contact this guy but his phone battery had died, he tried to swap his sim card into another phone but it didn't fit so they needed a knife to cut the sim card and all sorts of other drama. Eventually after many a failed attempt at a solution but luckily no lost fingers, he decided that we no longer had to wait and ushered us into the docked boat. We were all excited to get going to the island but our happiness was premature because as soon as we were getting comfy, we were told to get off the boat. The tide was quite low and the boat was stuck in the mud and water grass. The guide and an American guy from the group were on the boat pushing with long wooden poles while the rest of the men were pushing from below. With all this manly power combined, there was no way that boat could stay stuck for long. The men were giving it all they had,  so much so the the American guy's foot went through the one window of the boat, splashing glass inside the cabin. With one more might push,  they were able to dislodge the stubborn 'stick in the mud' and the boat sailed off into the open water. Only problem...none of us were on it. The guide gestured to us to walk down the shore to climb onto the boat at another deeper point. 

 Waiting for the captain to arrive

We had to climb across a wobbly deck and then get ferried across on this little row boat before clamouring onto our vessel. What a mission,  but we were all on and ready to go. 
Just as we were about to leave, Ricardo finally pitched up so we had to risk getting caught in the reeds again to go fetch him. 

The broken window!

Ricardo was obviously the big boss and as soon as he saw the broken window, he insisted that the guy who broke it pay for the replacement,  even though he was just trying to help get the boat unstuck,  a thing the captain should have actually been there to do himself in the first place.  Everyone fought against him and refused to allow this poor guy to pay. Ricardo was a mean one though and threatened that if he did not pay, that they would turn the boat around and take us back to Copa. The American guy was then forced to pay but everyone on the boat decided to chip in towards the damages. It is so annoying when people are so heartless. 

First sight of Isla de Sol - notice the contour -  like lines that covered the island. 

Snow-capped mountains in the distance. 

Isla de Luna -  one of the other smaller islands one could visit on the lake. 

Pulling in at the South side of the island. As the seas were still too rough the boat did not go to the North as we had initially planned. 

Finally... We had arrived

Map of the entire island. Ready to hike to the opposite side, Joy? 

Kemley (from London) and Joy ready to tackle the Incan steps. 

Not sure who this guy is but he looks fierce! 

The Fuente del Inca/Escalera del Inca are these streams of water that flow from a natural spring at the top and pour down these artificial channels next to the staircase. It was believed by the Spanish that this spring was a fountain of youth. The locals all bring their donkeys here to collect water. This flowing water also results in some beautiful flowers growing along the steep and never ending staircase. We even decide to fill up our water bottles at the spring -  if it's good enough for the donkeys it was good enough for us (plus water purification drops of course).  Hopefully that fountain of youth story was correct... Guess we will find out in a couple of years? 

Little chapel 

As we had had quite a few delays in getting to the island and we had been dropped off at the South side, not the North side, as we had originally planned, we had to decide an agenda for the day. We had researched that there were Inca ruins in both the North (Chincana Ruins) and the South (Pilko Kaina). The walk from one side to the other was about 8km and would take between 2-3 hours. Thus, our new schedule became to first walk to the Pilko Kaina then trekking up North to see the Chincana ruins before climbing the mountain (Cerro Tikani) on the Northern tip to watch the sunset. We knew that the South was more developed but we were sure that we would find some accommodation in the North... Hopefully.

Trekking down to the Pilko Kaina ruins

After about 20mins of trekking, we had not yet come across the ruins and we realised that we must have taken a bit of a wrong turn. Whoops! To rectify our mistake would take a further add another 20mins onto the hour trek to the ruins. We decided that it was too much time to spend searching for these little,  secondary ruins so we agreed to instead start the walk to the North side where the more prominent ruins were to be found.

The path to the North... As long as we walk straight to the other tip if the island we can't get lost. Along the way we were stopped at a little Hut where we had to pay a nominal entrance fee to walk along this side of the island. 

Little Hut along the way. 

Stopping to admire the spectacular views and give our backs a break... These 'small'  backpacks are actually pretty heavy! 

Kem doing a 'cool guy' hat tip. 

Roxy learning from the master. 

Sun glistening off the ocean-like body of water. 

Kem was quite a character and our trek together was filled with chatter about our homes, our travelling achievements and our ambitions. But all this was irrelevant in comparison to this super special pose that Kem kept alluding to. If you thought his first pose was impressive then you are in store for a treat... After about an hour of us begging to see this revolutionary position, he eventually found the perfect spot and prepared to dazzle us. We waited in anticipation, expecting to see hand stands or back flips or a midget on a pony... But then he struck it...

... The Buddha pose!  
What a classic! 

All around the world you can find these little rock stacks. We had always thought that they were built for some religious reason but Kem, being the wise one that he is,  informed us that they were built by other travellers. As you build your stone stack, you are supposed to make a wish that is then meant to come true. Hmm... Interesting.

After about 2 hours of relaxed trekking, we reached the path down to the Chincana Ruins. 

As we approached, we noticed a group of people standing around the big stone table (if you look closely in the pic above you should be able to spot them). We thought they to were just there to admire the ruins but as we got closer we realised that they were actually performing some sort of ritual. Our intrusion obviously disrupted the ceremony as they quickly packed up all things and dispersed from the table. Roxy did get a glimpse of what they were packing into their animal skin bag - stones,little statues and other trinkets were all formed part of the ceremony. 

An uncharacteristic uncoordinated jumping shot... It must be the photographer. Haha!

 Much better

These were our first Incan  Ruins, so we were quite fascinated by the construction.  But our travelling companion, Kem, had already been to Machu Picchu (the ultimate of Inc an ruins in all of South America)  so for him these were rather underwhelming...

...but what Kem didn't realise was that although he had visited many  bigger ruins before, he had never visited them with us. Now, let's start the posing! 

Joy crouched in one of the storage units. 

Kem holding up the ruins with his bear hands

Roxy and Joy stealing Kem's signature pose

 Kem showing us how to properly find one's centre

Rox stretching out in the doorway. 

 Kem branching out and trying out the superman pose

As Kem was getting into the spirit, we decided to push it one step further and do some more realistic poses... Theses were sacrificial tables after all! 

Roxy saying her last prayers before being sacraficed again! 

Kem taking no prisoners. 

The sun wall

After we had had our fill of fooling around/admiring the ancient ruins,  we headed upwards to submit the mountain for sunset. 

The icy wind was still ripping through our clothing and lower the sun fell,  the colder it became. 

Joy at the top of the mountain with some more wishing rock towers. 

 Watching the last few rays of light slip away

Joy decided to get into the travellers' spirit and build our own wishing rock towers - please let our accommodation have hot water! 

We had a little bet as to what time exactly the sun would set - apparently 'set' has multiple definitions so an ultimate winner could not be decided upon. However, it was clear that Joy was the furthest off point - clearly she did not use her wish wisely. 

Last light hitting the tops of the distant snow-capped mountains. 

Changing colours of the sky

The trekkers - freezing cold but still smiling. 

As soon as the sun had properly set, we hurriedly walked towards the Northern town of Cha'llampa. The sun was down and light was fading fast. It was about a 45min walk to the town and we just hoped that we would be able to find some accommodation once we arrived. It soon became too dark and our torches/headlamps had to make an appearance. 

Trekking through the dark of the night. 

As we entered the town we passed many people walking around without torches or any helping light. There was even a football match going on in the dark. We felt quite pathetic fully kitted out with our lighting devices. Everything looked closed up, we knocked on the door of one hostel type building but we're met only with disappointment. We continued along the beach path until we came across a little old couple. They immediately beckoned us to follow them. Yay... We would find shelter. They lead us up a windy path, past a couple of cattle and through some construction areas. We stopped at what looked like a half finished building and they told us to wait there. We were a little confused but as we peered into the windows we saw fully made up rooms. A lady with a baby then appeared and showed us the rooms. One smelt strongly of paint and chemicals but the next one wasn't too bad. It had three beds and would only cost B$20 per person. The cheapest accommodation we have been able to find in South America thus far,  even beating the brothel hotel in Brazil. We were exhausted, freezing and ready for an early night. Kem cracked open a packet of crisps for dinner and we chatted for a little bit before snuggling under our many blankets for a well deserved sleep. 

 Lady who 'managed' the 'hostel'


As we had gone to bed early,  we were up before the sun. 

Our unfinished cheap accommodation. 

View over the little port town from our balcony.  

There seemed to be a large collection of different corn drying out on the balcony. 

Watching the sunrise while bundled up in our sleeping bags. 

Kem photographing the sunrise while standing under the moon. 

We wanted to catch the 8am boat back to Copa,  so after the sun was up, we got moving. Joy attempted to have a shower but unfortunately with a cheap price comes only cold water. It was a painful experience but at least she was now properly awake. Guess her traveller's rock tower wish didn't come true after all.  

The beach... Definitely not bikini weather though. 

We walked down to the little port and enjoyed a hot cup of coffee before we had to board the boat. 

Ooh... What flamboyant looking animals. The sheep were all painted different colours in order to identify who's was who's. 

Sweet... Is this speedboat ours? 

Nope... This is ours! One motor and filled with potatoes. 

The ruins on the South side that we couldn't find on land.  Think they look more impressive from the boat anyway. 

Our chilled boat captain steering the boat with one foot while not even looking. Luckily this lake is huge,  so the chance of a collision was quite slim. 

It was a 2hr trip back to Copa. Once we arrived we took Kem to the breakfast market where we treated ourselves to some syrup doughnuts and a hot drink. Kem wanted to relax in Copa for one more day but we were keen to get back to La Paz. We found a 12 o'clock bus, grabbed our bags and jumped on. We had had a wonderful adventure in Copa but we were excited to hurry back to La Paz to hopefully catch a glimpse of the Pope,  while he was on his tour through Bolivia.

1 comment:

  1. Hey ---what an adventure --you will never forget it !!!!