Pretty much everyone on the bus to Copacabana was a tourist. I do not know why it was that way but I have learned that it is an indicator that there are cheaper ways to travel. A few minutes after the border a man dressed as a policeman came on the bus. He was selling tickets to enter the “sanctuary” of Copacabana. “Gringo tax…” moaned the passengers. The tax was 1 BS (about 12 cents) but the folks on the bus took it personally.
Copacabana is a cute colonial style little village with magnificent surroundings and is very popular with the tourists. As a result it has the seedy kind feel that results from overcompetition for a seasonal market. As the bus stopped it was mobbed by the usual hostel and restaurant tauts. to Isla del Sol, the reason I was there in the first place. Boats left all the time for the island from the main ports but I didn’t want the hassle of choosing from competing boats or being with other tourists. I was to hike to a small village (who’s name I forget) about 17km away from Copacabana and take a boat from there. It was closer to the island and presumably cheaper.
It was a beautiful day, as it always is around Lake Titicaca, shining and crisp. I collected my backpack and made a beeline out of the city thankful that I could easily carry all I had and didn’t have to check bags at a hostel. As I walked away from the touristy center of town the houses began to look run down, rural, and then finally like a small town slum. An old woman sat in the middle of the dirt road and cleaned fish, throwing the stomache parts into the street where ominous dark birds competed with pigs for the piles of garbage.
I walked for about half an hour before I was joined by an Indian woman going my same direction. I would ask her questions about the area and she would misunderstand. “Wow. All the houses are built the same way!” I would say. “No, we don’t have those here” she would say. Just another classic example of a helpful Aymara speaking local who didn’t understand my Spanish.
The walk was ended up being about three hours but the altitude and the sun made it more difficult than I expected. We took a shortcut along an old Inca trail, all uphill. We stopped and shared water. I was going to take a picture of the view and just seeing the camera made her cringe. Traditional Bolivians really don’t like the idea of photos.
She was a trooper, carrying the ubiquitous bag that seems to be the only way of transporting anything. She probably made this walk every day. She looked like she was 50 but it was really impossible to tell. Peruvians and Bolivians either look under 15 or over 30, the age of youth disappears under large clothes, hard work and the unrelenting sun and wind. She could have been 30 for all I know.
She eventually reached where she lived and I carried on, overtaken by an American in the last five minutes. We hired a boat and a small boy rowed us out to the island.
The next two days I relaxed on the Island eating trout and drinking Coca Cola. It was heaven, and a cheap heaven at that. I wish there were more to say about it but it was essentially relaxing and calm. The views were simply incredible.
But soon it was time to move on and, planning my next moves, I took hitched a boat back to Copacabana with some Italian mountain climbers. One had a camera and took a photo of me.