Travel Journal

Copacabana and Isla Del Sol

(Thursday 21 April 2011) by Mike and Julie's sort of round the world trip
Day 248-9 4/12-13/11
The bus was a tourist class bus so it was comfortable and in a couple hours we got our first look at Lake Titicaca over green fields. Copacabana is on a piece of land separated by the Bolivian Mainland by the lake and bordered by Peru so the only way to access it without crossing the border is by ferry. We had to get out of the bus and pay for a boat ride while the bus was ferried across. I would not want to be in the bus if the ferry tipped over so I was happy to pay to cross separately.
Once across it didn’t take long to arrive at Copacabana and we were dropped off at the main plaza. I checked a couple of places before taking a hotel on the lake with a great view from my balcony, WiFi and breakfast for about twelve dollars. Sometimes you got to splurge! I arranged for a day trip to Isla Del Sol for the next day. I had hoped to get in early enough to catch a boat over today and stay on the island for the night and have the full day there before coming back to Copacabana but the cancelled morning bus made that next to impossible – not sure what the reason for the cancellation as the roads seemed okay with no repair work being done.
I wanted to see the sunset from Cerro Calvario, a high hill next to the city which looks down over the bay and the clerk said sunset was in fifteen minutes. But it was 5:30 and the sun was at least three hand spans above the horizon, it sets very quickly she assured me so I hurried up the hill. Halfway up when I was panting for breath, I checked and realized I had not brought my camera. I was not going back down and rushing back up so I slowly headed down. Sunset by the way was 6:45 so I’m not sure what the clerk was smoking.
There are many tourists here and therefore many touts and you are constantly being shown menus and asked if you need a hostel. I ate at a Mexican restaurant that night and while they take credit cards there is an additional charge so it’s better to pay cash and take the hit on your ATM charge.
We left the next morning at eight AM and after dropping some locals off arrived at the North end of the island. Because of the stops, we only had two and a half hours here instead of the stated three hours and the guidebook says it takes fifty minutes both ways to the ruins of Chincana so I was in a rush. But everything was working against me. I was stuck behind some hikers who complained for five minutes about the information desk not having maps. When it was my turn I asked where do I go and where do I pay, the clerk stepped to the map and started the Spanish spiel that I had already heard twice while waiting in line so I left. Seeing a sign for the museum which I knew sold combo tickets I got one and waited a few minutes while a guide spoke in Spanish in the museum before giving up on him and striking out on my own. Fortunately there was a crude map on the back of the ticket and I made my way as quickly as I could down the path passing llama as common as dogs in the US.
The island is beautiful and reminds me on the Greek islands. This is the Inca creation site and where legend has it that the sun was born and there certainly is a lot of sunshine here. The walk only takes about half an hour if you push it and don’t mind exploding a lung or two. As I approached the sacred stone I was disgusted with what I thought was a vendor displaying his goods on the rock but was somewhat relieved to find out it was a shaman offering benedictions for a small price instead. A little past that are the ruins with fantastic views down to a small beach and out over the ocean.
I got back in plenty of time for the boat and sat on the upper deck for a better view of the island and the Andes in the distance as we went to the South end of the Island. It is here that the Inca Steps lead up to Yumani. These are a real workout but the steep ones only go up a short way. Reaching the top, I then set out on a windy path that angle up the hill. We only had an hour here and I only got half way up to where I’m guessing Yumani was before I had to turn back. I would have been disappointed if I knew what Yumani was and really wanted to see it, but sometimes ignorance is bliss.
We arrived back at Copacabana around 5:30 and I contemplated my next move. I certainly wouldn’t mind staying an extra day and I should have time in my schedule and I definitely needed to get my laundry done and Bolivia is inexpensive. I settled for catching a 6 PM bus the following day which should allow me to see the city sites and do laundry.
The next morning I dropped my clothes off and bought my bus ticket. I stopped in to see the Moorish-style cathedral. I have no idea why they would have a Moorish anything in South America! It is beautiful though. No photos of the interior or the statue of Virgin de Candelaria though here are photos of the exterior, courtyard and doors.
Up another hill is the Horca Del Inca which is an astronomical observation point actually used before the Inca. I think I found it. I followed the path until it ended and there was no one to pay for my ticket except an old man at the beginning of the path who may have been too timid to ask for the money. The path ended in an area which had some stones that could have been used for celestial sightings . . . who knows. There were great views down on the city though.
The Tribunal del Inca is described as “much neglected” in the guidebook and located north of the cemetery. I saw the cemetery and followed the signs but could not find the entrance. There was a field that was fenced in with some huts inside but it didn’t look visit worthy and I gave up on the Tribunal.
I got a haircut so as not to buy a comb at the lavenderia that also doubled as a barber shop. I made sure to stay perfectly still when the barber pulled out a straight-edge razor to shave around the edges of my haircut. Collecting my clothes I hopped on the bus that would take me out of Bolivia and into Peru.

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