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Friday, 20 June 2008


17th - 19th June 2008

A little town on the shores of Lake Titicaca, a huge inland sea whose sapphire blue waters form the world´s highest navigable lake, at an altitude of 3,855 meters.

Just 158km from La Paz and 5 hours later we arrived in Copacabana, after one ferry crossing and a bus journey on a paved road – quite something after weeks of travelling on Bolivia´s wonderful dirt roads! After the usual game of hunt the hostel we took up residence at the Arco Iris, for the usual miniscule fee of a couple of pounds. It seemed to be newly refurbished and the bathroom was probably the cleanest we´d seen in a while. It was also very quiet, we seemed to be the only guests. All became clear shortly after unpacking…the place was still being refurbished and the builders suddenly made themselves known! The hostel owner assured us they would soon finish for the day. We agreed to stay, after all it was only for a night or so and we couldn´t be bothered to re-pack.

We set out to explore the town and made it no further than the café in our hostel before we ran headlong into Jose and Sheiba, our friends from Sucre and most of the rest of Bolivia. Small world, especially the gringo trail! We swapped tales of our respective journeys out of the jungle over a cup of mate (they´d chosen the fun way and opted for the 20 hour hellish bus ride to La Paz) before going in search of food. Dinner presented itself in the form of the most delicious meal at a lovely French restaurant a few doors down. We must admit it was the fire that drew us in, I think we were so hungry we would have eaten anywhere. Instead we feasted on the lake´s speciality – trout. Yum! Ady had grilled trout in garlic with al dente vegetables (quite a rarity in Bolivia) and Sam chose trout lasagna. As usual the portions were absolutely huge. Washed down by some fine French wine (again, pretty unheard of) it wasn´t long before we called it a night.

Did we say that Ady had finally succumbed to a miserable cold virus caught from the lovely Irish girls we were in Uyuni with. By this I mean the very worst flu like symptoms – sore throat, cold, blocked sinuses, aching teeth and the worst rattling "40-a-day" cough. We thought we´d got away with it, it was three weeks since we last saw them. Clearly, the longer the incubation period the worse the eventual symptoms. Now Sam was suffering too and was not a happy bunny. A sleepless night and many painkillers later, we nodded off around 6am, only to be rudely awoken an hour later by the sound of the f****** builders! Argh!!!

One of the main reasons to stay in Copacabana is the ease with which you can visit Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna, two of the islands of Lake Titicaca. Legend has is that Viracocha, the creator god had his children, Manco Kapac and Mama Ocllo, spring from the waters of the lake to found Cusco and the Inca dynasty. A sacred rock on the northwest of Isla del Sol is worshipped as their birthplace. A popular trip is to visit and stay overnight on the island. After much deliberating we bailed out of this idea and took a much shorter half day trip, arranged from the harbor with Titicaca tours for just 15BOB. The journey each way takes around 90 minutes. We were informed that a half day visit allows just one hour on the island, and you don´t get to visit Isla de la Luna at all. Enough to get a feel for the place though, we thought, and not enough time to catch hyperthermia! The boat ride was pleasant enough, until a guide introduced himself and his services. He insisted we needed a guide to walk between two points on the island – basically the landing point and the departure jetty, which was an hours walk away. His price was 25BOB per person, ontop of the 15 we had just paid. In real terms it was only a small amount but in Bolivia you can pay for a very nice meal or a night´s accommodation with this. We claimed poverty and said we wouldn´t use him. Already we had passed the departure jetty and could see the route between this and the arrival jetty. A small child could have walked unaided between them! In short we had a full blown slanging match on the boat in front of everyone. He wouldn´t give us a valid reason as to why we needed a guide and just re-iterated that without him we wouldn´t be allowed back onto the boat at the end of the walk!!

By the time we arrived we were both very riled and wished we´d stayed on the mainland. We spoke to a guy at the jetty collecting the arrival tax and understood from him that it wasn´t obligatory to take a guide. Visitors were free to explore as they wished. With that we set off at break neck speed in an effort to "follow" the official tour, and made our way over the terraces and past some incan ruins in just half an hour. The return boat arrived shortly afterwards and in the absence of the snotty guide we took the opportunity to jump aboard. Result! We may not have learned a great deal from our time on the island, but we felt victorious in the war against ripping off tourists.

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