Our real love affair with Lago Titicaca didn´t really start until we crossed the boarder into Copacabana, Bolivia. Copacabana itself is much prettier than Puno, and Isla del Sol is just amazing.
Our time in Copacabana was short, but we hiked up a mountain to a Christian monument to look out over the lake and try to watch sunset (one of our many clouded over attempts to watch sunset). Despite the clouds, the view was beautiful and it was nice to walk to up the mountain. We even got to see a wedding outside a crumbling pink church, where they had a collectivo van as their wedding car. Classy. But they looked very happy.
The next day we took a boat over to the north part of Isla del Sol, on the advise that the south was for tourists and the north was for hippies. Our friend had recommended a guest house to us, so upon arriving at the island we asked at the info desk were we could find ´Alfonzo´. To which, the man pointed to the mountain and told us ´es la ultima casa´, por supuesto (of course) we thought. Already happy with our decisions to leave most of our belongings on the mainland, we hiked up to the guesthouse. Huffing and puffing (altitude is a bitch), we arrived at Alfonzo's guest house, an unassuming place to crash, but very cheap, private rooms and full of inspiring people. To add to this our bedroom door opened up to uninterrupted views looking over the lake. All this for $2 each a night, can´t complain!!
That afternoon we spent exploring the north of the island, with a US hippy and a crazed Chilean, trying our hardest to avoid ticket booths so that we didn´t have to pay an entrance fee. It´s not that the Chilean was really crazed, but he just happened to be holding a knife (he was carving things while walking) and really liked running down hills - and wouldn´t pt the knife away in between - so for anyone else he just looked like a madman running with a knife, hahaha. We explored the island for about 5 hours, embracing the spirit of the region of trying to see pumas, condors, snakes and people in every island and rock we could see, before the sun started to set and we called it a day. After seeing the ruins we were glad that we had indeed avoided paying entrance fees.
The next day there was a festival on the island - which started at 5am. The brass band, that we had heard practicing all the day before, played in full gusto all day - sometimes during the time the other band was playing. We went to the main square to see everyone in their traditional costumes. Groups of cholitas sitting around in groups gossiping and sharing beers, giggling like school girls (It really surprised me how many of them were missing most of their teeth...). On the outskirts of the square men and women sat and drank and occasionally got up to dance. A very fun experience to watch.
Later that afternoon I was determined to go swimming. Bianca, Noah and I took to the beach, bottle of rum in hand. The day wasn´t exactly warm as it was and the water was colder. A few shots of rum later I decided it was now or never, stripped off my warm clothes and got into the sacred lake. I wouldn´t say I lasted more than 10 minutes. But the water felt amazing (despite the cold) and I felt a new surge of energy from the experience. Sharing a few precious ´Gracias Pachamama´moments with the sun and water before I retreated to the beach.
The whole time we were on Isla del Sol I had to keep reminding myself that it was in fact a freshwater lake and not the ocean. It is huge. HUGE. Islands off in the distance, no mainland in sight. An amazing sight to see and to think that people have been seeing a similar sight for thousands of years. No wonder they thought of the lake as sacred.
The next day we hopped on a boat back to the mainland, followed by a bus to La Paz - starting the next part of our adventure.