Tuesday 10th August
Tuesday was spent covering old ground in La Paz. We didn´t really see anything new and were just killing time awaiting the arrival of our freshly cleaned clothes (four days in the jungle meant they were particularly filthy).
We forgot to mention that when we left La Paz, there had been a few riots involving tear gas (these riots were usually preceeded by a marching brass band). We are happy to say that these particular conflicts were nowhere to be seen on our return. We booked our bus tickets to Copacabana through the agency in the hostel (40Bs each) for early the next morning. Despite being in a 16 bed dorm - next to the bar - we slept pretty well as most of the room was up early as well.
Wednesday 11th August
The bus trip to Copacabana had one highlight which was when we arrived at the shore of Lake Titicaca and had to be transported across a narrow part of it via motor boat, whilst the coach was floated across on a barge steered by, you guessed it, barge poles. Made for pretty interesting viewing.
Once in Copacabana we booked our tickets for the boat to take us to the legendary Isla del Sol, one of the suggested birth places of the Inca religion. We booked a single ticket for 20Bs each as we wanted to stay the night on the island. The boat left at 1.30pm, giving us enough time to have lunch and catch up with the lads from La Paz who we randomly bumped into walking down the street.
We spent the boat ride over sitting on the roofless top deck (not out of choice) where it was bitterly cold because of the wind. About an hour and a half later we reached Isla del Sol and were greeted by a dozen or so boys trying to hard sell us a hostel. Despite politely declining, one of them decided he would walk with us the entire way to the village of Yumani where he eventually showed us to our hostel, where we paid 30Bs a night each (about 3 pounds) and tipped the young lad some loose change for his persistance.
The walk up to the village of Yumani was, however, no easy feat. The port is at the foot of a huge hill and the village is at the top. The path is several hundred inca steps long (a 25 minute walk) and at high altitude with all of our bags this proved to be quite a challenge! Not long after starting the climb Jaz was clearly struggling and was out of breath, barely managing to pant the words `its impossible!´. After ruling out putting Jaz on a donkey/llama and a quick change around of bags - Liam was now carrying both rucksacks and one front pack - we resumed the climb, navigating the stoney path, Bolivian women and several llamas and donkeys. The whole way we were encouraged and offered help by our new found friend. Upon reaching the top we collapsed on our bags and the remainder of our breath was taken away by the magnificent views across Lake Titicaca.
Afer settling in and resting for half an hour or so (it really was that tiring) we set out to explore the island and its beauty. Our walk took us via more llamas to the very top of another hill, where we were greeted by the sight of dozens of apachetes. An apachete is a stone tower, an offering to Pachamama (Mother Earth). They are traditionally found at the highest point of the Inca Trail, but we have seen them at most high spots we have been to all over South America. We added our stones and made our way over to the biggest one of all at the very top of the adjoining hill. From here we watched the sun set over its Inca birthplace. A very special moment. We ate dinner at our hostel then did a bit of stargazing before going to bed.
The next morning we awoke later than planned and had to rush back down the Inca steps to catch the boat back to Copacabana at 10.30am. This time we were charged 30Bs for the boat that was a LOT more choppy than the previous day´s journey and left most of the passengers (Jaz included) looking a little peaky to say the least. It is a shame we didn´t actually get to see any of the ruins or temples on the Isla del Sol as they are all located on the North side of the island, a 4 hour walk from Yumani, but it was a very scenic place all the same and we could see why there was so much myth and mystery attached to it.
From Copacabana we embarked on the second leg of the day´s journey after buying our bus tickets to Arequipa, Peru, via Puno for 90Bs. The border of Bolivia/Peru was again very relaxed; we got off the bus, got stamped out of Bolivia and then walked the 100 yards of no mans land to the Peruvian border where we got stamped into Peru. We changed the remainder of our Bolivianos and some Reals into Peruvian Soles before getting back on the bus. After two hours or so we reached Puno where we were to change buses for Arequipa. After studying our ticket for this third leg, we realised that the cost for this journey (which was three times longer than the one we had just done) was only 30Bs, meaning we paid 60Bs for a two-hour bus ride. It seems we were ripped off. Advice to anyone wanting to get to Arequipa from Copacabana is to buy two separate tickets, one to Puno and then one from there to Arequipa.
We spent an hour waiting around in the bus station and eating `cheese´ empanadas (they contained no cheese) before getting on our second bus of the day. We shared this bus ride with what seemed like the entire Arequipa ballet school and their ridiculous amount of luggage. Surely all they need is a pair of ballet shoues and a tutu??
At around 10pm we finally pulled into Arequipa bus station and were nearly at the end of our epic day of travelling. We got a taxi from inside the station and the driver was really friendly and helpful which was a relief as we had been warned about scams, theft and kidnap involving Arequipeño taxi drivers! We checked in at Bothy Hostel, where the staff were quick to check if our ride from the bus station went smoothly. They seemed quite suprised when we informed them that it was fine.
Absolutely shattered from our day´s travels and starving after eating very little, we popped around the corner to a recommended Turkish restaurant called Fez where we had some amazing chicken donner kebabs (Liam had two) and tasted our very first Inca Kola (bubblegum flavoured fizzy pop). Exhausted, we climbed into our top bunks for a well deserved sleep.
Jaz and Liam xxx