Off we set by bus from the highest capital city in the world, La Paz to visit the highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca. It was only a 4 hour journey, 1 hour of which was getting out of La Paz. The journey itself was as scenic as ever. 3 hours in and we had to get off the coach to cross a lake. We all jumped into a small motor boat while the coach was put on a barge with another van and taken across separately. No problems for us we reached the other side in 10 minutes. The coach on the other hand was not so lucky. On the other side they couldn't line the barge up with the off ramp. Then the van driver got over excited and started his engine and drove into the back of the coach. Fortunately no new damage that anyone could tell.
Eventually they got it off and we were on our way again. Our destination was Copacabana. This is a small town on the bank of Lake Titicaca. It is the original Copacabana. The Brazilian beach resort took its name from it. We booked into the hostel. As usual in Bolivia it's single glazed and has no heating. For such a high altitude, cold place you would think heating would be a must, but no.
The town itself is a hippy haven. It runs down hill to the lake shore. At the top is the old town of street sellers and market stalls. All very traditional. As it runs down it changes into restaurants and souvenir shops. At the bottom are the ferry boat operators. As usual in Bolivia everything is cheap. A main course of fresh trout etc is about £4.00.
There is a bit of a routine even on a trip like this. Some time spent sorting laundry. Then on the internet to sort out accommodation in our next stop. After that a visit to the bus company to reserve seats on the bus out. Now we can relax and enjoy ourselves. Lots of people just pitch up in towns with no hostel booked and wander around negotiating rates etc. A bit hit and miss and time consuming for us.
After a day in town we took a long walk along the lake shore then up on to a headland. Lovely views from on high. It was Saturday and the locals were having their day off at the 'beach'. Lots of taxis and mini buses were in town and large family groups were having BBQ's by the lake. Stood in the circle of buses the drivers and the local Police were sharing a beer or two !!! Those were the days.
The gringo trail means you never go long without bumping into people you have met before. On the trip to see the pile of Inca rubble in La Paz we met Gonz and Shelley. He is a Chilean who has lived in New Zealand for years. She is from Derbyshire but moved to NZ when she was 8 years old. A good laugh and here they were now in Copacabana. While we were sat at a waterfront bar chatting with them along came Patricia and Bruno who had been on the salt flats trip with us. Exchange of information is the name of the game. Where have you been, how did you get there, and what was it like?
Sunday and we are catching a boat to the Isle del Sol. There is also an Isle del Luna. Our plan is to go to the north of the island and hike across it to the south and stay the night, returning in the morning. We caught the 8.30 boat out. It wasn't too busy and we sat on top for most of the trip chatting with an Italian guy who lived in Clapham and a Hungarian girl who lived in Aberdeen. It seems they had been at University together a few years earlier in Aberdeen and just happened into each other in Bolivia. The gringo trail strikes again.
Once on the island we are met by a local park guide who chunters away in Spanish and sells us our park tickets. They are only £2 each. He then takes us to some Inca ruins. We make our excuses and head off on the trail to the south side. It's a well marked trail so no problems there. The hike takes around 3 hours. I have to say the island is one of the most beautiful places I have been. The views from the high trail are stunning. Lake Titicaca is huge and the waters are a beautiful blue. Half way along the trail we see in the distance a gate way. As we approach two locals ask to see our park tickets. They then tell us that those are the north side tickets and duly sell us two more tickets to continue on the trail. Ok, should have seen that coming.
On we hike. It really is a superb location. Eventually we reach the south side. From high peaks we are suddenly in rural Bolivia. People working the fields and donkeys being led along. The island has no pumped water supply despite being surrounded by a huge fresh water lake. It also has no heating. We found a hotel at the end of the trail and just outside the main town. It was very comfortable and had hot showers. You can get a room for £1.50 a night if you aren't too bothered about the room and bedding etc.
We had a cold beer on the hotel terrace overlooking the bay, just perfect. While our room was readied we headed off to the town. 400 yards from our hotel was another ticket checkpoint. How nice, we have a mid section ticket. Now we need to buy a south side ticket. The town is set up high. It is about 600 meters or so down to the waterfront. At this altitude going down is hard, coming up is a killer. It is again a mix of old and new.
On the cliff face are hostels and cafes with stunning views from their terraces. As we start to walk down we are met by groups of breathless local women carrying provisions and water bottles from the waterfront up to the town. They are interspersed by men driving teams of donkeys up with their backs laden with food and other provisions. It is a real step back in time. All the water is supplied this way then put into big roof tanks at the individual properties. This is no place for the old. It is hard work moving and very cold at night. Getting out of the path of 10 fully laden donkeys on a narrow path is not easy either. Bolivians like other races who live at altitude have much larger lungs than us. We can acclimatise but can never grow bigger lungs so we always struggle.
We had dinner at the hotel and then it was off to bed. Although not before we had watched the sun set and then marvelled again at the night sky. No heating in the room. Fortunately though the bed had 3 blankets and 2 duvets on it. It was so quiet we slept well.
Next morning we had a good breakfast. The only guests were us a French couple and an American family. Guess who made most noise?
Amyway the owner asked if we were headed back to Copacabana. Yes we said. It seems he had a mate who had a boat who could take us for the same price as the main boat companies. Ok we said.
9.30 and Rodrigo led us and the French couple down a barely visible path to a small cove where some of the boat operators moor. The 4 of us boarded a tour boat and had a private trip back to the mainland. Much better than sharing with 20 others.
We are now back at the hotel. Before I forget, you have to take Bolivian descriptions with a pinch of salt. This hotel said the rooms had heating. What that means is you can have one of the two calor gas heaters for 4 hours a night between 6 and 10pm. Fortunately they were stored outside our room so I made sure we got one each night.
Tomorrow we are heading for the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca to visit the 'Floating Islands'. So it's goodbye Bolivia. A poor country with outstanding scenery. Very cheap to stay in. The people do sometimes stare because they are still getting used to foreigners. No problem as we stare at them too. I wonder what the future holds for them. Oh I would have posted this but they turn the wifi off at 10pm and it's now 10.05pm so it will have to wait.