Bolivia – Copacabana and Isla del Sol
We jumped on a 7am bus from Puno to end our time in Peru, with the destination of Copacabana Bolivia. Copacabana is just across the border and still on lake Titicaca. The bus was around 4 hours long, including a very easy border crossing where we got stamped out of Peru and then into Bolivia. It turns out the Bolivia is the only country in South America that Jess’ phone data doesn’t work so we had to follow an old fashioned paper map (straight out of our Lonely Planet guide - Big thanks to my dev team at work for this!), unfortunately the map had more street names than the physical roads themselves but we eventually found our desired budget hostel. £8 a night for a double room with ensuite, including obligatory holes in walls with random wires poking out.
We then headed to a cafe where Jess ordered a coca tea, spinach sandwich, then I ordered a hot chocolate, mushroom sandwich and finally we ordered a plate of nachos to share. This is where we learned about Bolivian time. It took 20 minutes for Jess’ tea to arrive, then our order arrived in the order we ordered it in 10 minutes intervals. (This was a recommendation from the Lonely Planet, yeah ‘Thanks’ to my dev team...). 2 sandwiches with cold chips and over an hour later we walked out of the cafe and left our first ever 2 star review on google…. Yeah that’s right, our culinary experiences are not to be messed with. The only positive about the cafe was it was next to a tour operator who we bought some ferry tickets from to the Isla del Sol for the next day!
We then had a walk around the town square, there seemed to be a celebration on with lots of people wearing traditional and colourful clothes in procession. Google maps let us believe the celebration was something to do with La Paz, not sure what, maybe La Paz won the bingo. We wandered down to the beachfront where the celebrations we continuing, lots of people on pedalos, in zorb like barrels on the lake and playing table football. The sun was just setting and the lake looked stunning, apart from all the litter strewn along the beachfront!
Copacabana seemed to have one main street with lots of restaurants on, all seemingly serving the same menu - Menu of the day (soup, trout, rice, veg), Pizza, Sandwiches, Mexican, Pasta and happy hour - it made it very difficult to choose! We ended up going for the only restaurant who boasted vegetarian food, I had a lentil burger (well, two lentil patties with chips, rice and veg) and Jess had aubergine milanese, with chips, rice and veg! Then bed!
An early rise to get our boat to Isla del Sol. Down at the docks we bumped into Carolyn and Leslie, a couple of ladies who were on our Salkantay trek! They went off to buy their boat tickets whilst I bought 2 delicious cookies off a local woman in our queue. After a long wait and some queue confusion we were syphoned onto a boat. 2 hours later we arrive at Isla del Luna…. Close to the island we bought the ticket for but not quite the right one. After some Spanglish and eavesdropping other parties talking English it turned out we have joined a tour boat where we have an hour on Isla del Luna then the boat will take us to Isla del Sol - we got to tick Luna off the list even though there wasn’t much going on on the island, just some ruins and about 25 families who inhabit it.
2 hours later we were on Isla del Sol, the biggest island in lake Titicaca. Not sure how many families inhabit this island but I’m sure lots more the 25! Jess insisted that we didn’t take the first hostel we came to, even though it looked perfectly respectable, so instead we had to hike up the many steps to the top of the island with our bags. En route we bumped into our fellow Salkantay trekkers again and joined them for a menu del dia - the options for mains were ‘fried chicken’ or ‘fried cheese’ - Bolivia is perhaps not going to be our healthiest venture! The view from the top of the Island was a beaut 360 degrees of the Lake, with Isla de la luna and Bolivia on one side, and Peru on the other. We treated ourselves to a posh looking hostel with only one obligatory hole with wires sticking out of it, and set off to explore the island. We headed north, knowing that we might not be able to get far as there is an ongoing dispute between the north and south of the island to do with tourism, meaning that tourists aren’t currently allowed in the north, and sure enough not far along the path we were stopped by a group of traditionally dressed ladies who made it clear we couldn’t go any further, so back we turned. Tourists can only visit about 20% of the island these days, but it’s a lovely 20% nonetheless. We walked to a good sunset spot, but the weather had other ideas and the clouds were rolling in so we retreated to a restaurant and tried some Bolivian wine - lovely! A massive thunderstorm started on the Peru side and moved over our heads, causing a power cut in the evening (no internet! No netflix! argh!), and torrential rain - this was supposed to be the Isla del Sol!
After a luxurious night sleep in our lovely comfy bed, with rain pounding down through the night, we awoke and immediately looked out the window. Still very grey, cloudy and drizzling. Whilst eating breakfast the drizzle seemed to turn to light snow, then heavier snow, then settling snow, then proper blizzard! Isla del Sol had transformed into Isla del Snow! We decided to get the early boat (they ran at 10am, 3pm and 4pm) and headed back down to the port… very carefully.
After the cold and wet boat ride back to Copacabana we checked back into our budget hotel, which had just been cleaned with what smelled like petrol… must be cheaper than cleaning products! A warm shower and some dry clothes later we headed to a cafe for some warm drinks and food. I did some work whilst Jess went and bought some books, a relaxing day.
For sunset we hiked up the big hill viewpoint, which at over 4000m, was literally breathtaking. It was quite cloudy so not a perfect sunset but lots of nice views and photos! We headed back down to another local restaurant for some unhealthy food and a couple of happy hour cocktails (made from the local Bolivian spirit - Singani), which made us sleep very well despite the petrol fumes!