01.05.2012 - 03.05.2012 63 °F
It´s one of these names that embodies exoticism, dreamy distant lands that are to be visited perhaps one day, some day.
That, coupled with its main town Copacabana, well, the imagination just spins.
So, after the gorgeous Sucre, I got on the overnight bus, got to La Paz, hopped on another bus (16 hour journeys have become ¨short, a nothing, even a restful way to sleep to the rockings of the old (and in Bolivia´s case, very very old) bus turistico), and off I was to lake Titicaca.
The bus ride was Bolivian´s style, at some point we all had to get off, get shepherd into a small boat, no particular order, instructions or directions where given, and then us, and the bus on a slightly larger boat where moved onto the other side -- Fun.
I took a risk and bought a plate of corn and boiled potatoes off a woman in a bowler hat, saying politely ¨No¨ to the fried cheese and some other unidentifiable edibles on the plate.
And then we arrived to Copacabana.
Copacabana, Bolivia that is.
Nothing, I imagine, that compares to its sexy Brazilian cousin.
For being situated on such an incredibly gorgeous lake, the town is quite slumpy. Not so much dirty as completely lucking any coziness or cuteness.
Yes, the cathedral at the top is nice, but to get there, you have to pass on a narrow street filled with stalls of selling identical artesania crowding your space and your view.
At least every place serves excellent trout, grilled, with a choice of delicious spice ´a diablo.´
But, looking at the lake, bathing in beautiful sunset, and seeing a number of islands, it was clear: leave the misnomer of Copacabana, go to the islands.
In my hostel, I had met 3 fun Swiss (ok, of course one of them was German, had to be...), and after agreeing that the day after I will meet them at the top of the inca stairs, I was off to the Isla del Sol, the sun island in the middle of lake Titicaca.
Our 1:30 boat left punctually Boliviano time, an hour later.
A little scare when 30 minutes into the ride the engine stopped, but no worries, 20 pulls at the starter, and we were cruising as if no issues faced us at all.
Arriving at the Isla del Sol, the north side, you are faced with a decision, where to sleep.
Well, luckily every house is a welcoming opportunity, with steep pricing of $3 per night.
Dinners are $3 for the full course.
The boat to get there is $3.
Well, you get the island´s currency system.
I found a place, and set off for the ruins at about 4:30 pm.
I must have some great angel support or some kind of divinity looking out for me, because everytime I set off on one of these romantic walks by myself, i.e. glaring opportunity to get very lost, I get rescued.
This time the rescuers were 2 French guys. I met them as they were sprinting onto the high grasslands, escaping a cow looking animal but totally white and with small horns. Apparently this cow-ish thing didn´t fancy them.
So, we set off for the ruins, your run of the mill sun worships and of course the sacrifice table. Eeh, spoiled by the Machu Pichu, god, I am terrible, but I really felt, ¨Eh. Cool. But look, a beautiful hill, let´s go there...¨
So, the 3 of us (and then a Polish couple that we ran into) climbed the hill, as the sun was beginning its descent, and wow.
Isla del Sol. In all its magic.
Surrounded by the glazing waters, that perhaps because of the thinness of air (at 4,000 meters altitude) looked especially chrystal clear and perfectly reflected the peaks, the clouds and the sun´s lowering rays.
Turn to the left and you see green hills with grazing mules and lamas.
Turn to the right, and there are the snow peaked mountains touching the clouds with what looks like the end of the world behind them.
The sky filled with all shades of gold and red, but not just in one spot, a 360 degree view, shades of color everywhere around you.
And then, and then we saw 4 lamas.
Two of them were facing the sun, looking very much as if enjoying the sunset.
They stood there for a while, turning their curious heads to face the sun.
And then, one, as if touched by the romantic view of the evening, timidly approached the other, and ... kissed it, on the lips, the way we kiss.
I wonder if this was their first kiss....
An incredible view, we have a picture (assuming my 2 french amigos will forward it to me) to prove it.
Ah, the paradise of Isla del Sol.
Next day, the gods of directions again smiled upon me and I soon joined the Australians on the 3 hour walk to the South side of the island where I was to meet my Swiss-German friends at 12 at the top of the inca stairs.
We soon caught up with a local Quechua woman who was leading a family of donkeys to graze: father donkey, mother donkey and the little baby.
The thing about the locals on the Isla del Sol is unlike the rest of the Bolivians, especially the indigenous population, they actually admit your existence.
Moreover, they speak to you, greeting you in an extremely polite Spanish and even sending you off with a warm smile. A true rarity among their countrymen.
We took advantage of this and walked with the friendly woman and her donkey family. Clad in traditional skirts and hat, she would break out into a great full belly laugh whenever she liked our questions or was confused by them.
"What's the secret to your beautiful thick never greying hair?" I asked. She greeted the question with one of her belly laughs.
"Oh, I don't know. When I was little, I washed my hair with soap, now there is shampoo. But yes, my father is 80 and has no white in his hair."
"No children?" she asked.
"No. Not even a husband." "But I can travel to Isla del Sol." More belly laugher, this time surely out of confusion. She never even asked us where we were from, only what kind of animals we had.
Soon the baby donkey sprinted into the below greenery, hilariously nearly loosing his footing on the uneven stone road, and we said goodbye to our sweet matron, only to realize that her husband was walking the entire time behind us, without having said a word.
We walked more, discovering fantastic views of the lake, the bay and the green cliffs. Even the few clouds in the sky were scenic.
We passed a few simple huts, empty, the place seemed rather deserted but serene.
As we walked, more animals.
Family of little pigs, all light brown with darker spots -- pig dalmatians?
Tiny white baby lamas, baby sheep making that sound from kids animal audio books.
A cry of a donkey startled us. Poor thing kept shrieking for a good 5 minutes.
This was a world far from Boston that indeed seemed to be basking in the sun.