Lake Titicaca and the Island of the Sun - 1998
From July 8th to August 4th, 1998, truk and
Katherine traveled through various areas of central,
(ISLAND OF THE SUN). On the morning of the 21st, we were on a bus to Bolivia. We got to Copacabana by 2 pm (due to problems from the three-day bus strike which just ended and a ridiculous wait at the border to get our passports stamped by both sides), just in time to miss the last boat to the Isla del Sol (The Island of the Sun). We checked into a hotel, ate some lunch, and wondered around town. Copacabana was a worse dump than Puno. The streets were torn up all over town in what appeared to be an attempt to fix water pipes, the only bank we could find open would only take dollars, and everything was uphill/downhill. We did have a nice meal that night at a place down on the beach, where they used reed boats as couches and carved-out tree trunks as chairs. Our hostel was cold as hell, though, and the town as dark as coal once the restaurants closed. Another Aguas Calientes.
There is not much to see in Copacabana - lots of stores where mostly women are selling goods (sweaters, hats gloves, purses, etc.). There are a number of hostels/hotels here, most with restaurants attached. We had lunch today at the Vacunita Restaurant. I don't think they had expected such a crowd because they ran out of several things, including chicken sandwiches. The service was very slow, and the guy (son, in this mother-son business) taking the orders and handling the checks seemed constantly confused and overwhelmed. After lunch, which was really at 4 pm, we walked down to the lake and around toward the docks. There is a naval station down there, which was kind of weird on a lake this small. Then, we headed back up the shoreline toward a soccer game and other kids playing and then beyond to where there are rock-docks for smaller rowboats.
On the 22nd, we finally were on our way to the island. The ride over was long, slow, and cramped, but he scenery off the lake made you not really notice or care. At the dock on the island, we were met by a kid named Andreas, who took us up the hill (which, at over 4,000 meters just about killed me) to his family's house. Kath and I spent most of the day wondering around the island without water. There weren't any stores or restaurants that we could find, and so we set out determined to find one. I think I know they call it the Island of the Sun: there isn't any shade. The sun is merciless, and the terrain is all up and down. We hiked halfway to the north side of the island and turned around. We napped back at the house and took notice of our accommodations. Our room was one of four, but the other three were vacant. The ceiling was very low, and there was no electricity or running water. Our hosts had made a toilet out of concrete with a hole in the bottom that seemed to drop waste under the house. Kath and I found a restaurant nearby and finally ate something. Then we came back to the house and had a second fish meal. Both were good.
After climbing arriving at the island and settling in the hostel, we opted for a walk and possible to find a restaurant. We traversed the island from east to west, and then headed north and ended up about halfway up the island in an inlet called Bahia Cha'lla. We thought that maybe the Hostel Posda del Inca there would have food, being the only place to stay on that side of the island - no. The senora was asleep when we got there and was not forthcoming with food, although she had a kitchen and supplies on hand. We turned around and began walking back. School let out during this time and we were like pied pipers with kids following us all around. One little boy, Juanito, must live the furthest away because he stayed with us until we reached his home. He asked if he could have my watch and when we reached his house, he wanted money - I guess for having been our guide. Left alone and less than halfway home, we continued on, trying to stay on the road. At one point, truk and I split up, taking two different paths, only to be headed off by a very angry dog who barked, growled and seemed to threatened to bite us. Some little girls, hearing the fuss, called out to truk - Senor go "tiss, tiss, tiss" and wiggle your fingers and maybe the dog will go away. Eventually he did, but I'm not sure if this method of warding off dogs is what did it. Finally back at the hotel, we collapsed from a long walk and lack of food.
Later, after dinner, we played gin by candlelight. I ran out of steam, though, and had to quit while I was down 50 or so points. The room was surprisingly warm for a winter night over 4,000 meters, and the sleep was good. We got up this morning in time to have a cup of tea, dress and head down the mountain. We waited for an hour for the boat to leave and then for 1.5 hours for the boat to get us back to Copacabana. Amazingly, we bought some of the last tickets on the 12:30 bus to La Paz.
The next morning, we saw the sun rise over the Isla del Luna (Island of the Moon). We got down to the docks in time to catch the boat back to Copacabana. There, we went straight up the hill to the bus leaving immediately for La Paz. The bus ride was uncomfortable and cramped (surprise!), and it was interrupted by a ridiculous crossing of Lake Titicaca where the passengers had to get off, buy a ticket on a mini-boat, be hassled by a lazy customs bureaucrat, get on the boat and go across the lake, while our bus was loaded on a "bus boat" and ferried across by one tiny outboard motor. I have never seen a more obvious place to put a bridge in all my life. The crossing was only about 500 yards.