01.02.2011 - 05.02.2011 17 °C
Lake Titicaca is a dark blue expanse of water set with verdant green agriculture and terracing around the shore and located amongst snow topped peaks. Other than the raw beauty of the place the main attraction on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca is Isla de Sol which is the accepted birthplace of the first Inca, Manco Capac and the subsequent civilisation. The island is only accessible by boat and so our first stop was the lakeside town of Copacabana where we planned to spend two nights before taking a ferry to the island. To get there involved taking a bus from La Paz and at one point getting off the bus while it was loaded onto a rickety old barge and ferried across a narrow channel of water with us following in equally rickety old speedboats.
Copacabana is the main Bolivian town on Lake Titicaca and while it does boast a beach, it is a far cry from it's Brazilian namesake. The beach (like any lake) is mostly stones, is covered in hundreds of unused paddle boats (potentially they get more action in high season) and has a distinctive smell potentially relating to the sewerage system.
While the beach could definitely do with a facelift Jess and I had a couple of nice nights in the town. The accommodation we had there was excellent, bar the first lunch we had some good food (including the local Trout) and the Fiesta de la Virgen de Candelaria was being celebrated while we were there which meant there was a buzz in the air and the locals were out in force.
For the festival it seemed that every man, woman and child who could dance, play a trumpet or shake a tambourine had been conscripted into a marching band or dance troupe. The only locals who didn't seem to be involved were the street vendors who were doing there usual best to hawk llama jerseys to the tourists.
The next day we took a taxi to a town called Yampupata at the end of a nearby peninsula and walked back to Copacabana along the lake shore through a string of local farming villages. The walk was extremely peaceful – perhaps because everyone in villages was in town celebrating the festivals leaving their fields untended and only a few llamas and donkeys to keep Jess and I company. Each bay (and village) on the peninsular was separated by a hill and while climbing and descending these provided some amazing views, the fact that we were around 3,800 – 4,000 metres above sea level meant that Jess and I were exhausted by the time we made it the 20km back to town. However, it was probably the highlight of Lake Titicaca for us.
The following day we took one of the local ferries out to Isla de Sol for another two nights. The place is overly touristy but because it was low season it didn't feel overcrowded. Other than Jess and I, the main visitors seemed to be hordes of Argentinian hippies who were camping at the northern end of the island. Despite having tents they generally seemed woefully under prepared for the rainy season, seemingly having spent all their money on llama jerseys and brightly coloured Bolivian pants rather than a decent rain jacket. We saw a number of them drenched to the bone when boarding the ferry.
We actually had pretty good weather and while it rained most days in the mornings and evenings, we were able to trek around the island in the middle of the day and visit the ruins at the northern and southern tips of the island. It's a beautiful island, very peaceful and as you can basically camp anywhere on the island, I can see why the hippies think it's a good a place as any to kick back, relax and dance naked around totem poles. However, despite taking lots of photos, as short term box ticking tourists, Jess and I were a little underwhelmed, as despite being pretty, Isla de Sol didn't really impress to the same extent as some of the other things we have seen.
Our next destination is sure to overwhelm and with high expectations we boarded our next bus and left Bolivia behind, heading for Peru, Cuzco and Machu Picchu.