Thursday, 12 January 2012

Heading to a hole


The nearest town to the Peruvian/Bolivian border is Copacabana, which gave its name to the beach in Brazil. The beach here isn't a place you would want to sunbathe, saying that the tourist part of town isn't really much either.

However, the accommodation was cheap (Bolivia is one of the poorest/cheapest countries in South America depending on whether you live here or you are just a tourist) and the beer was cold.

I spent 3 days hanging out here not doing much at all. On Sunday I got a morning boat to the Island of the Sun. it's the largest island on Lake Titicaca and according to Inca mythology it is the birthplace of the 1st Incas.

The boat ride took about 90 minutes and dropped me off on the southern end of the island below the small village of Yunani. To reach the village involved walking up an Inca staircase followed by a steep path. Thankfully 50m above the jetty was a hostel...result! It only took me 5 minutes of walking to reach it but by the time I got there I was knackered! I am okay walking around at 3800masl so long as its flat, the minute I start walking uphill I slow down and quite often come to a complete stop!

I spent the rest of the day chilling out on a grass terrace reading a book, looking at clouds, distant snow capped mountains and listening to the waters of the lake lap against the shore.

When the sun went down I got cold. I even ended up wearing my beanie (1st time in south America) and both of my fleeces. By 10pm I was huddled up under the covers and the several blankets did the trick of keeping me warm and cosy throughout the night.

In the morning I enjoyed an average coffee but with excellent views!

At 10:30 I was on a boat heading to Challapampa on the northern point of the island. This little community is popular with skank heads because it has a small sandy beach for free camping and evening drum circles.

The reason I came here was to walk the 5 miles or so back to the hostel.

The trail is well maintained and easy to follow. It climbs out of the village and heads upwards onto the ridge line. The arid nature contrasts sharply with the deep blue water of the lake. Along the trail the views were....awesome!

The trail went up, over and down three peaks and highest one reaching nearly 4000masl. In a few places it was quite steep and the steps were taken slowly. Five hours and 2.5 litres of water later I reached the village of Yunami squatting indecently on top of the ridge (if I had walked up here yesterday looking for a hostel I would have been disappointed and more than likely crippled).

The village really isn't all that and I kind of feel sorry for the donkeys who have to haul everything up here, their lives must have been easier before the tourist arrived!

Crossing over the ridge and passing through the village I started my descent down to the jetty and my hostel. The walk down was quite enjoyable (which is the complete opposite if you are walking the other way) and when I got to the bottom the cold beer was just what I needed. The 2nd one was pretty good as well.

The next day I got the boat back to Copacabana. I spent another two nights here and on Thursday I got on a bus.

I was heading to the small village of Sorata and there are two ways to get there:

a) get off the bus at Huarina and hope one of the passing minibuses has a spare seat

b) go all the way to La Paz and get a minibus back to Sorata.

I chose option B

The bus from Copacabana to La Paz took about 4 hours and included the dodgy ferry crossing across the straits of Tiqunia. It was easy going till we reached El Alto, which is the overspill from La Paz, here be traffic!

Getting of the bus somewhere in La Paz I got a taxi to where all the minibus to Sorata congregate.

I only had a 15 minute wait till the 12:30 departure and I managed to call shotgun and got a seat upfront. It only took 3.5 hours to travel to Sorata and because I was in the front I got to see all of the “wonderful overtaking manoeuvres” attempted by the driver...and some were successful. The final part of the journey was a 20km descent down through the clouds and into a steep and rugged valley along twisty roads with large drops inches off the “racing line”.

Arriving in Sorata at around 4pm I got a room in the Panchita hostel, on the main square (it has the most comfortable bed I’ve slept in since...I don't know when) and had a little bimble around the village. The walk around the village was easy because at 2600masl I was 1200m lower than I was in the morning. In fact I haven't been below 3400m since I departed Moquegua at the start of December.

On Saturday morning after a long leisurely breakfast of champions I bimbled around the square and came across a sound stage being constructed. Looks like there's a party in Sorata tonight.

Monday morning came around and I was on the 11am minibus to La Paz, once again I had a seat upfront and as the weather was sunny with some blue sky great views were had as the bus climbed out of the valley and onto the plateau.

Once in La Paz I got a taxi to my hostel which is above the “English pub” (What! Surprised?) and chilled out. I had booked the room for 5 nights just I case I had a sunny day or two for day tripping. As it turned out it was 2 days to's overcast and drizzling!

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