Ahhh Copacabana and the Lake Titicaca… I had already stayed there for a long time during my first stay in Bolivia, and now I spent another two weeks there! Certainly a small tourist town but a peaceful one, where life is good, where you eat well, where the locals are friendly… and Titicaca remains a mystical and inexplicably attractive place!
Ciao Peru, hola Bolivia
We left Peru on January 24th, after an exhausting journey. 2h30 bus between Puno and Desaguadero (border between the two countries), so far all is well… except that we had the bad idea to cross the border on a public holiday. Therefore Desaguadero was literally overcrowded, and the lines for the migrations were endless! All of this with an overwhelming heat…
Once finally passed, we had to wait a long time before our bus to La Paz left, and then followed an equally long journey… And this suffering from very painful menstruations for my part; a real agony!
Finally arrived in La Paz, we took a taxi to reach a hostel recommended by a friend. Unfortunately the reception was terrible and the comfort and hygiene really bad. That would do for one night as we were exhausted but we would change the next day for a hostel close by that was much more comfortable and pleasant.
We only stayed two days in La Paz, to spend some time with two friends of Ricaurte and sell our arts and crafts with them.
Some calm, at last
We left La Paz for Copacabana on the following Monday. After spending more than a month in Cuzco and then continuing in big cities (Arequipa, Puno, La Paz), we felt more than ever the need for some calm and for a small town where one can find everything in a few streets!
As soon as we arrived at our destination, and once our belongings left in the hostel, we left without waiting for a trip to the lake. I then introduced Ricaurte to the api (a hot drink made from corn, cinnamon and cloves) and the buñuelos (small fried pancake topped with honey). Not very healthy before going to bed but so good and comforting with this cold!
On the following day, we climbed the Cerro Calvario at the end of the afternoon; a mountain which overlooking the city, from where the view is breath-taking. We were spoiled by a flamboyant sunset; however it was unfortunately the first and last of all the time that would follow in Copacabana. In this rainy season, the sky would indeed be cloudy every evening, with thunderstorms threatening far away and heavy showers falling every night and morning.
Alas, one thing that had already shocked me a year and a half ago has become even worse this time: the pollution. The whole mountain is covered with rubbish on all sides, and I feel like the situation has gotten worse. And this is only the visible part on the surface… one can only imagine in what state the lake must be! Bolivians unfortunately have no awareness (or education) of pollution, use plastic at all costs, and throw it everywhere (over the bus windows, in the street, in nature)… a sad and disturbing observation.
… until the carnival started
A few quiet days then followed, where I went to sell our jewels (with success) every afternoon. When the weekend came, however, the city got suddenly overcrowded, as there were festivities for the launch of the carnival. Parades in costumes, marching bands, 5 large stages mounted on the same square… the city suddenly had nothing peaceful.
It would however be two days of good sales for us, before the city would get empty again on the following Monday. There was then only one day left and I would go to pick up my friend Mathilde in La Paz, who would spend a month and a half with us in Bolivia. The first friend to visit me since the start of my trip!
I then left on Wednesday morning to La Paz, did some shopping there and had lunch with Jazmin (a friend of La Paz with whom I had spent a lot of time during my first stay in 2018). I finally found Mathilde at midday.
Needless to say, how happy we were to be together after all this time; we were impatiently waiting for this moment. She also brought me a lot of small orders (yoga mat, water flask, essential oils etc.), which participated to the pleasure of seeing her.
We then spend two quiet days to give Mathilde some time to acclimatize (to the altitude – 3,800 m – and the jet lag – -5h -. We just went up to Cerro Calvario so that she could discover the panorama. No sunset, but a nice little French aperitif (wine and cheese, does that surprise you?!), which was a real pleasure after all this time away from France.
Isla del Sol
We left on Saturday morning to the Isla del Sol. We wanted to stay there for a night or two, so we left loaded with food (food is very expensive on the island) and the instruments. The boats to get there have not changed; they are still as slow as before! 1h30 to 2h to reach the island, although it is not so far…
We arrived at the south of the island, got off the boat, let the flow of tourists escape and went on our side to join the central village, where we would be able to leave our bags in a hostel. I had stayed in a rustic but inexpensive hostel the previous time, so we looked for this one. The conditions were still quite rudimentary but it would be fine for one or two nights. It is especially the view that matters, and this had not changed.
We had our picnic in the garden facing the lake, and then had a coffee on the terrace of the restaurant located just in front of the hostel, where several hummingbirds were having a great time. The owners’ stepson, a very friendly Chilean, welcomed us there nicely and offered us a beer. One beer followed another and then another…
We finally left only around 4 p.m. in the direction of a viewpoint located on the heights of the village. A granny from another community was knitting there. She told us that many travellers – especially Argentinians – tend to come to camp there, make campfires and leave their trash there. Therefore people from her community take turns to watch the place and sell their art and crafts.
We could not resist: a sweater each for Mathilde and Ricaurte, and a scarf for me, all made of baby alpaca wool… we were almost running out of money and and hoped that it was actually handmade as our seller was telling us, but we all left happy with our acquisitions!
We then headed to the southern tip of the island, which we had only crossed quickly in the morning, without really enjoying it because of our heavy bag. Llamas, alpacas, donkeys (the main means of transport on the island) and sheep punctuated the walk. It was the first time Mathilde was seeing lamas for the first time and was totally fan of them, but how not to be?!
The end of the day light made the landscapes even more beautiful. The rocks, the vegetation, the ruins on our way, everything was taking on a magnificent golden hue. We stayed for a moment on a point of view to enjoy the scenery, before going back to the village, as the cold could quickly be felt at this altitude.
Grandpa not happy
Once at the hostel, we warmed up around a small tea of coca and some bananas prepared with chocolate (the best recipe in the world), cooked with my little camping gas stove. The owner noticed it however, and got very angry, thinking that we were going to burn down his house (although we had already finished our cooking when he realized it).
We then wanted to go out for a digestive walk and see the almost full moon, but the same grandpa didn’t let us go out. He had already locked the house and forbade us to go out. The only thing left to do was then going to bed, but with the certainty that we wouldn’t spend one night more there. We were definitely not welcome!
The next morning, we went for a walk in the direction of a small beach located at the bottom of the village. The path that descended there was really nice, surrounded by fields of beans and flowering potatoes, and of course donkeys on all sides. The rocks on the way were taking some amazing turquoise colours.
We reached a pebble stone beach with no one around (except a mowed alpaca, with a sadly comical look). Some little rain started to fall but it fortunately didn’t last long. As soon as we had finished, we cooked chocolate with bananas again (our main diet of the weekend with avocado and cheese sandwiches for lunch!), and enjoyed the tranquillity of the place.
We got up at the end of the morning, had a picnic in the garden of the hostel – under the black eyes of the grandpa who was still as angry with us – and then left the place. We descended to the port where the boats were leaving for Copacabana. I tried to sell jewels there but without much success. We finally left with the boat at 4 p.m., heading to Copacabana.
One last rainy day in Copacabana and the next day we would leave for La Paz. It was time to change the atmosphere!
To be continued…
Bus Desaguadero – La Paz: 15 BOB
Bus La Paz – Copacabana: 20 BOB (About 3h30) + 2 BOB to cross the lake by boat (5 mn)
Copacabana boat – Isla del Sol: 20 BOB one way (to sleep on site), 30 BOB (non-negotiable) return
Hospedaje Yanacocha, La Paz: 70 BOB per night in room with double bed, shared bathroom. Small family and comfortable hostel, with hot water (rare) in the showers and located in a quiet street.
Eco Bamboo Hostal, La Paz: BOB 60 per night for one night in a room with two small beds. Very unpleasant welcome, ridiculously small kitchen, old soft and very uncomfortable mattresses, and very dirty toilets… not recommendable.
Hostal Celeste, Copacabana: 30 soles per night in a room with double bed, with shared bathroom. A hostel of unbeatable value for money. Kitchen, bathroom on each floor, comfortable bedroom, terrace with hand washing facilities, and lovely owner. Highly recommendable!
Api y buñuelos at the central mercado: 4 BOB api, 3 BOB 6 buñuelos. Hot, sweet, comforting, addictive… a must!
Trout at the central mercado: 20 BOB the plate for a HUGE fried trout (too much for one person), served with rice, potatoes and chuños. If you have a kitchen in your hostel, it is better to buy your fish early in the morning on Calle Oruro and prepare it yourself. Cheaper and even better!
Entrance Isla del Sol: 10 soles