Friday, March 1, 2013

Isla del Sol, Bolivia – The Island of the Sun

It was early in the day when our boat left the port town of Capacabana, Bolivia on the shores of Lake Titicaca to head out to the Isla del Sol. It was a cute little town, but we were just using it as a jumping off point to get to the Isla del Sol. We ended up on the same bus as people we met before, so a couple Swiss guys and a Mexican girl joined our multi-lingual group as we floated across the water.

Two hours later we pulled into the north end of the island, which we had heard was cheaper and more backpacker friendly. The south was more popular, but apparently full of resorts. We were looking forward to hanging out on the beach and relaxing on Lake Titicaca.
Disembarking on the north side of the island showed us how few people there really were on this end of the island. We could walk the entire town in about eight minutes.
When we got to the beach it became clear that most of the backpackers weren’t staying in hostels or homestays like we usually do. There were about fifty tents set up right on the beach. It didn’t take long before two really pushy salemen talked us into coming to their place.
They were about four and five year olds running over to us, smiling, waving their arms in circles and yelling, “habitaciones! Habitaciones!” They talked us into staying in a very basic room with cold showers.
Our first reaction to the place was one of a bit of disappointment. It was cold, and not the beach-hangout place we really wanted.
We were hungry, so went to a restaurant with the Swiss guys and asked for a menu. Instead, the host told us there was no menu. You could have whatever you wanted as long as it was BBQ trout. It ended up being pretty good.
The area was quite rural, with groups of pigs running around the tents. They started at one end, and cleaned the beach, eating all garbage and food that wasn’t nailed down. One of the pigs had a long rope hanging off from around its neck and a dog kept trying to bite the rope and play tug of war. The pigs would then rally to drive the dog off. The pigs showed intelligence in both the way that they swept the food away from the campers and the fact that pigs that were not being annoyed by the dogs helped drive the dog away.
The island was pretty quiet and reminded me of camping with the cub scouts as we went to a “restaurant” which was really just a living room where the family served tea and beer. We ended up playing cards into the night.
The next day the Swiss guys took off, but we decided to hang around one more day and be on the beach. The problem was, it was cold. It was a bit disappointing because we’d been looking forward to being on the beach for a long time and thought this was going to be our opportuntity. Instead, we were cold.
After breakfast we started thinking that we should have left, because there was little to do. Then we saw a to-go sandwich place making egg and avocado sandwiches and a board outlining hikes. A quick mindset change and we realized this isn’t a place with a cold beach. This is a great little island for hiking. After purchasing a travellers lunch we began exploring the island on foot. The high-altitude wasn’t too bad and we ended up hiking right along the water for the morning before having lunch.
We knew the west side of the island had some great ruins and a sunset viewpoint so we explored the east side in the morning. It was hot by the time we got back to our hostel, so hung out on a beach for a bit before eating another trout and heading west for sunset. We found some old pre-Inca ruins and a great lookout point for sunset.
The problem was that we were two hours from basecamp and had not brought a flashlight. Next thing you know I’m talking about how our eyes adjust at night and we’re hiking a semi-trecherous hill back through the woods.
Honestly, it was great. It was a clear night and soon, the stars began illuminating the path. We did well in the dark up until we got back to a semi-populated area. Then, lights in the distance began to ruin our night-vision and it became difficult to see again.
To top it off, some dog started barking at us, and we had to go right by it. It sounded like some sort of guard dog, but we just kept our cool, walked straight and calm and kept saying “shhhhh”, which I know the Bolivians use to calm horses, so I assumed it was similar with dogs. In the end, we made it through the dog’s territory and it left us alone.
We met some Canadians in La Paz who had told us about an excellent little beach town in Peru, so even though it was a bit of a way away, we woke up with the goal of making it to Mollendo.
Next stop, the Pacific Ocean. It will be good to see you again, old friend.
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