The other Copacabana

Copacabana Travel Blog

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After a morning of slight chaos - several other people at the Puno hostel were headed to Copacabana that morning and we had all been told to get on the bus at the bus office down the road, but actually ended up having to catch a taxi to the bus terminal where the bus was waiting for us - we reached the Peru-Bolivian border with no problems. Border crossing was quite simple; we all got off the bus to get our passports stamped, then walked a few hundred metres across the border into Bolivia, to get another stamp, then boarded the bus on that side. Our bags stayed on the bus, unchecked. I suppose they´re not too concerned about what people might be bringing into or taking out of their country, but I was a little surprised.

Copacabana is a very laid back lakeshore town that caters to tourists well without being overbearing: lots of hostels and hotels, restuarants and cafes and jewellery sellers on the street. I didn´t actually stray from the main road and the road leading down to the lake, where my hostal was, as I spent most of my time at Copacabana eating and watching the World Cup games with other travellers. 17 Bolivianos will get you a menu of bread and salad, soup, trout, dessert and a drink. I befriended some Irish and English travellers and we had a few drinks at the nearby bar, Nemo´s, in the evening (great pizza).

Lake Titicaca, Isla del Luna & Isla del Sol: The next morning I bought a ticket to Isla del Luna and Isla del Sol and hopped on the boat. It took around 2 hours to get to Isla del Luna, which was frankly a bit of a waste of time. We had an hour or so to wander around on the island, which houses the ruins of an old convent of some sort. Very peaceful but bare. Lake Titicaca, on the other hand, is absolutely beautiful. Hard to describe with words, but there´s something about the colour of the water - a sort of liquid shimmering blue and dazzling in the sun. It´s the highest navigable lake in the world, apparently, and huge - you can´t see the other side of the like.

Isla del Sol is the birthplace of the Inca legend, and is relatively big - it takes around 3 hours to hike from north to south. Our boat landed in the South at the town of Yumani. To get to the town from the shore, you have to hike up a million stairs (all this at altitude, and carrying my big backpack and daypack). The town itself is spread out and up on the hillside, and the main square is enclosed by a wall. I had lunch with some people from the boat at a little restuarant that I suspect was just the backyard of this enterprising family, but it was one of the best meals I´ve had so far. Fresh whole trout, potatoes and salad and a coke (all for around 25 bolivianos - that´s around AU$5). Unbeknownst to us, it was the second day of the festival of San Antonio, so there was a big parade of islanders in traditional Bolivian costume, not one but two marching bands and a lot of beer drinking and dancing. They all gathered in the main square - the two rival marching bands playing their own music at the same time (frankly it was kind of awful). It was fun to watch for a bit but as it seemed to be quite repetitive, I took leave and explored the southern part of the island.

It was too late to hike to the north and back, which was a pity because I think there are some important Inca ruins up there. I walked to a few lookout points where you had a great view of the island, the lake and the distant snow-capped mountains in Bolivia - stunning. The silence and peacefulness of the island was refreshing as well. Due to the festival, none of the several restaurants in Yumani were open, except one which was a hike and a half away up the hill. Eventually, all the tourists realised this was the only place serving food (as everyone was either attending the festival, drunk, or had no food due to the festival). The poor owners were overhwelmed by about 20 hungry tourists; when I arrived I was told the only thing on the menu was choclo soup (choclo being a type of corn) and cheese omelette. I figured if I didn´t eat here I would wander around the island starving till morning, so I stayed - and although we waited 2 whole hours to be served, the food was actually great. They know how to make a good omelette. I had to share my table with two Bolivian men who were surveyors or something of the kind, so it was a good time to practise my Spanish. Walking home was hazardous, as it was dark, and there were no street lights - the streets are basically uneven rock, so I had to move very slowly and watch out for the drunk Bolivians dragging their kids home. Almost comical.

The next morning I woke up early and hiked to the Inca ruins on the south part of the island, some 30 minutes away. It´s an Inca house, quite impressive as it´s still standing, minus the roof and maybe the upper floor, but the walls are three layers thick and the rooms ample in size. There was no one to collect money to enter the site, so also no one to explain what the house was for. After breakfast at the hostel, I joined all the other tourists on the shore (it was almost as hard going down the stairs as it was to go up them!) to catch the boat back to Copacabana. Then managed to have my last trout meal (not nearly as good as the other one) before catching a bus to La Paz.

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photo by: aliciaaa