Copacabana y La Isla del Sol
We woke up this morning to take the boat out to the Isla del Sol, an island on Lake Titicaca. The day started out quite cloudy and cold as we climbed the boat (an upgraded barge with an outboard motor attached to it) for the 45 min ride to the north end of the island. Isla del Sol is believed to be the birth place of the Inca civilization, when the Inca god created the first Inca man and woman. We set off to visit the ruins after the barge dropped us at the small village. After a nice 30 min walk, we arrived at the ruins, an old Inca temple and enjoyed the stunning views of the lake and surrounding landscape. There was an 11km long trail that led along the ridge to the south end of the island where the boat was scheduled to pick us up again. We walked along the trail for 3 hours and ended up taking a break at a simple restaurant with an amazing view over the bay below. A short walk through the village down to the shore brought us to the designated pick-up point. The boat loaded up the other 40-50 tourists to take us back. It was here we met Maria (see Bolivia – pampas and jungle reports), who stayed behind with us on the boat when we had the option to visit the last Inca ruin: we had all had enough rocks. Through the Canadians aboard, we learned there was a 7:00 AM bus to La Paz which suited our plans much better then the bus we had found at 11:00, as it would put us in to La Paz at 10:30 am. As soon as we arrived back in the harbor in Copacabana we went to reserve seats on that bus. This was followed up by a visit to the local cathedral and a chance to light candles and simply send beloved wishes and hopes to all of those people at home. Please know that you are all with us at every moment and there is a burning light for you somewhere in South America.
Alex’s need to use the facilities awarded us yet another special point of the day’s activities: these toilets in the public market subsequently received the award for “nastiest toilet” in South America. Sorry no pictures of this pleasantry. That night we indulged in a wonderful dinner at the La Cupola of cheese fondue, wine and awesome potato salad for less than $20. This was a fulfilling day.
Entry into Bolivia
We weren't the only ones awake this morning at 6am. The group of French tourists who stayed in our hotel seemed to be on the same schedule that we were. So we all ate our rather big breakfast of toast and fried eggs and headed out - they to their waiting tour bus and the two of us to the local bus waiting down the street. We were not the only touris on the bus, though we were certainly outnumbered.
Halfway through our ride to La Paz, the bus stopped and everyone filed out, without much question. Ahead of us was a very large body of water (about 800m or 1/2 mile wide), that somehow we needed to cross. We followed the crowds, left our luggage stored in the bottom of the bus and then watched as our bus was loaded unto a very shabby looking barge. The rest of the passengers walked to the waiting boat and boarded. Okay so we followed.
We watched as our boat wabbled across the river. And as easily as we got off, we got back on. Not much explanation.
While waiting to cross we met two Americans who had been travelling and volunteering in Peru for the last several months. Quickly we shared "stuff got stolen stories in South America" and their story still through us for a loop. They had paid the extra money for seats in the sleeper section on a First Class bus. While sleeping, someone pulled their bags out from under their legs, taken everything of value and then replaced the bags. In a cabin where only 8 people sleep and surveillance cameras are obvious, it still can happen.
We arrived in La Paz and learned that the back up and traffic was from the weekly market, so the driver just dropped us off. We simply trusted the first cab we could see to get us safely to our hostel - The Adventure Brew Hostel. Top floor had its own brewhouse - so we were intrigued.
We arrived, checked in, Patrick signed up for the Most Dangerous Road bike ride and then it was off to the first thing on the list: visit the American Airlines office and get the new tickets printed. With a knot in my stomach and little hope that it would go smoothly, we easily found the office. Though a bit slow, the process was pain free and 20 minutes later we left the office with tickets in hand. Now we could go about figuring out what we were going to visit in Bolivia.
Fearing that we would not make it to the jungle because flights had been cnacelled for the last two weeks due to smoke, we were elated to see the sign "Booking flights to the jungle" hanging in the window of the first travel agency we saw on the busy tourist street. We walked in and the rest is history. In less than 40 minutes we had the next 10 days of our lives planned out, inlcudiung transport and overnight accommodations. There was little room for error or delay because we had crammed in as many activities as we could - we only had 2 weeks left in South America so we needed to make it count.
With $20 per day as the going rate for a tour in Bolivia (including a bed, 3 meals a day and transport) we signed up for as many as we could. It felt good to give up the planning to someone else. Pampas, the jungle, the Salt flats and transfer into Chile. Done.
Without really noticing, we realized we had been sitting next to two familiar faces - Nicola and David, two fellow travellers who had joined our tour in the Gallapagos. The circuit that most follow in South America is small, but this was bizarre. Secondly, as I visiting the ATM in order to pay for our "extravagance", I ran into another fellow traveller whom we had seen the day before on the boat returning to Copacabana. Intrigued by the jungle, she reserved a spot, booked a ticket and then it was just time to make a date for drinks tonight.
Before heading back to the hostel we finished the LP walking tour, that included a visit to the witch market, where one can buy llama embryos and all sorts of other "ingredients". We declined.