Friday, 23 November 2012

Isla del Sol (Sun Island)

Isla del Sol, is one of those gems which hasn't been totally destroyed by tourism yet, perhaps because there is no form of transport other than walking or donkeys. We found this oasis of tranquillity (especially in the north) perfect for some chill time, beautiful walks and incredible sunsets. 

We arrived in Copacabana at around 12:30, remembering that Bolivia is an hour ahead of Peru. The bus arrived in the main plaza where it seems every bus, tourist and local, arrives and departs for all destinations. We new there was a boat to the northern town, Challapampa, which left at 1:30 (punto!) so we rushed up to the central market in Copacabana to grab some fruit and rolls in case there was limited food on the island.

We hurried down to the docks to purchase one way tickets to Challapamapa (north side of he island) for B25. Tickets for the southern town, Yumani, were B20 and left at the same time (only 2 times per day: 8.30am and 1.30pm). That said neither boat left until well after 2pm.... we're kind of used to this by now.

A look back at Copacabana as we set out for Isla del Sol

Our hostel (orange building), with the best view!
After eventually setting off, and enjoying a pleasant yet chilly ride on the roof of the boat, we arrived 10 minutes behind schedule at 4:10pm, and we were promptly met by a chirpy 11 year old who led us to a little gem of a hostel on a spit so we could see lake Titicaca on the both sides of our room. For reference it was the orange building furthest right of the bay the boat arrives in. The room was B45 for a twin room or B25 for one person. 

The ruins in the north of the island.

That afternoon we headed to the north of the island to check out the ruins, sacred rocks and the sunset. Entry into the Comunidad Challapampa reserve which is just north of the town was B10, this lasts for as many days as you are there and in our opinion was well worth it as the ruins are really cool. 

The entire walk took about an hour to get to the peak for sunset; give yourself at least an hour before sunset to see everything. The paths are kept very well and the sunset was incredible. (Hint: Bring a torch for the 45 minute way back in the dark).

The next morning we left early to trek down the island to the southern community Yumani. There are two main paths through the island; one which follows the (roughly) coast and one which runs along the ridge crest. Our objective was to walk to Yumani along the ridge to get some panoramic views and then walk back to the north along the coastal route.

In theory to walk along the ridge you have to walk all the way to the north of the island again which would have taken an extra 45 minutes, however, we learned there was a short-cut straight up from Challapampa which lead to the path on top of the mountains. Ask around for directions but basically in the south of Challapampa bay there is a small saddle which has a rough path, leading up the hill. If you keep on going straight up the path you cannot miss the very well kept path at the top, turn left and you are on your way to Yumani with spectacular views and pleasant walking to follow.

1.5 hours later we reached the second toll booth for the Comunidad Challa (B15), you receive tickets with a map as well which tends to only be accurate for each communities region that you buy the ticket from. Half an hour later we reached Comunidad Yumani, which in theory you have to pay B5 to enter but there was not anyone there to collect :-) that's a win.

Overall, the walk took us 2.5 hours, with generous breaks for food and photos.

The view from the cafe.
We wandered around Yumani, marvelling at the obscene number of Pizzerias, cafes and hostels none of which seemed to be open for Brunch at 11am! Eventually we found a cafe (and Pizzeria of course) which faced the west part of island, and served the best pancakes that we have had since Guatemala. And with a cracking view, which our young waiter/entertainer seemed very keen to explore with Luisa's binoculars. 

Our waiter was fascinated by the binoculars, especially using them the wrong way round (we was about 7).

After brunch it gets a bit tricky as we couldn’t find the path back as we got some dubious directions from the locals to the coastal route. Then again you really cant get lost too badly as the island really is pretty small. Basically we followed the coast a bit too literally and ended up wandering through some farmland until we joined the correct path about an hour into the trek back.

The last twenty minutes of the walk back were really stunning for the geologists in us but other than that it is not worth the 3 hours of energy...... oh wait A LlAMA SPAT ON LUISA!!!!!!!! That was definitely worth the 3 hours!
The spitting llama!
Our advise: stay in the north (less touristy) and walk to the south along the mountain route.

We arrived back in Challapamapa at 2:30 in time for nowhere to be open for lunch. We were beginning to see a pattern for low season. Eventually we found a restaurant which served a decent trout for B25 (pretty standard on the island).

After 2 hours rest then we headed north, bottle of wine in hand, to watch the sunset again. 

Setting up to watch the sunset in the north..again
After a great nights sleep we got the 8:30 boat to Copacabana arriving at 10am and bought tickets to La Paz for B30 using Titicaca Bolivia company again (where all the buses depart). Be aware that we could have got a local bus for much cheaper but both of us were pretty freaked out at some of the horror stories about express kidnapping of tourists going form Copa to La Paz.

I write this on our tourist bus which only left 15 minutes late! (possibly a Latin American record)... Over and out until La Paz.

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