The boats for Isla del Sol all left from the jetty at around 8.30. After querying their prices and inspecting the quality of the boats we discovered they were all equally as s***ty, so we just picked one, the Andes Amazons.
We were among the first on board and selected a seat on the roof, but as soon as the boat started moving we realised it was going to be freezing so we made our way inside the stuffy cabin and got the last seats for the 2 hour slow going journey. There must be a rule against speed boats on Titicaca because they don't exist.
Isla del Sol (Sun Island) and the smaller Isla de la Luna (Moon Island) were believed to have been the birth places of the sun and moon by the Inca people, and were thus important sacred sites. These days a small population live on the islands making a living from agriculture, fishing and tourism.
The boat takes an hour an a half to reach Yumani at the south end of the island then another half hour to Challapampa at the north end. Like most of the other hundred or so tourists we would be visiting the ruins in the north before taking the 3 hour trail back to the south end.
In the town of Challapampa we stocked up on water and fruit, then paid our fee to see the museum (a single room with a few artefacts) and the northern ruins. The walk to the ruins at the northern end was quite picturesque. We passed some lovely bays cradled by terraced green hills with scattered gum trees and local livestock.
There was a pseudo guide, one of the locals who lead the group with the expectation of tips, but we couldn't understand him so we did our own thing. The Ruinas de Chinkana, meaning labyrinth, were just that, a maze of corridors, doorways, windows and tunnels. Nearby, the Mesa Ceremónica is believed to have been used for both human and animal sacrifices.
From here we began the hike south. The pathway isn't hugely strenuous but it is a little hilly which can be hard going at 4,000m above sea level. It follows the ridge line running the length of the island and has beautiful views of both sides. We found a few farmers grazing their livestock and some women and children selling handicrafts along the way. Of course there was a toll point at about the halfway mark for the use of the trail.
We finally found ourselves at the entrance to the town of Yumani. Another toll point covered the entrance to the town plus the nearby Ruinas de Pilkokaina. The town of Yumani stretches from the hilltop down the side of the hill to the waters edge via a steep thoroughfare of rocky steps. Walking down is much better than walking up!
We had noted a few recommended places to stay. Our first choice was about halfway down the hill but no one answered the door. Unfortunately our second choice was back up the hill but they were home and had a room albeit very basic and freezing cold.
Once settled we set off for an early dinner/late lunch. We had read lots of good reviews on a place called Las Velas run by some gourmet chefs back at the top of the hill. We arrived a little before 4 and it was closed, no one in sight, but fortunately while we were admiring the view a lady turned up and let us in.
The menu was all organic but fairly limited but they had pizza which sounded delicious. Luckily they had some cards on offer, which we used to kill time because it took over an hour to hit our table at which point we were ready to start gnawing off our arms. The cheesy, cheesy goodness really hit the spot.
We walked a long route back to the hostel, through some dirt tracks and past the local houses and livestock. For some reason we were hungry again 2 hours later so we had dinner at the restaurant of our hostel and had an early night.
In the morning we set off for the Ruins de Pilkokaina at the south end, said to have been built by an Incan Emperor. The weather had turned and it started to rain a little but only lightly. The ruin was protected by a young boy of about 8, who tried to tell us our ticket was only for entrance to the town and we needed to buy another one for the ruin, but he wasn't going to outsmart us!
This ruin was one of few we have come across with roof still intact. Built into the hillside it had dirt and grass covering its roof. The roof was constructed in dome shapes, with staggered stones leading to one large stone a the top. All the roofs were quite blackened though we were unsure whether this was a result of fires from the Inca days or from local inhabitants since. This site was also a bit of a maze of rooms.
We made it back to the jetty in Yumani right on 10.30 when the boats departed. There was still one boat yet to leave and we were about to buy a ticket when we noticed there were still people climbing onto the already dangerously overcrowded boat. We decided against the risk of sinking in the freezing waters of Lagos Titicaca and waited for the 3.30 boat instead, killing time by playing cards and soaking up the occasional sunshine.
Back in Copacabana we collected our bag from the hostel storage and went to Gringo Street for lunch/dinner. We were to meet the Bolivia Hop bus at 6.15 for the leg to La Paz. We were extremely lucky to spot the guide walking through town while waiting for our food because they were running early that day and were about to leave without us! He wasn't even kind enough to allow us time to finish our meals.