Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun)

Started early today. Walked down to where the collectivos (minibus shared taxi) and buses leave. I ask two people for directions along the way, though I kinda know where it is anyway. They all point me in the right direction. I get there, and wait. No collectivos or buses here at the moment. After about 15 minutes, the old chap running the shop next to me asks me where I'm going. I say Yampupata. Oh, he says, no buses running today, it's Monday. Of course. No one else thought to mention this.

So, time to walk! It's 19km along to Yampupata, where I can catch a row-boat to the island, the walk takes 3.5 - 4 hours, past Titicachi village where I gave up yesterday. Along the way I meet an American and a German chap, and we walk together. We have half an hour of heavy rain and hail, but the weather is good for the rest of the day.

The view along the walk

At Yampupata we pay for a chap to row us across the Estrecho (strait) to the Island of the Sun (Isla del Sol), which takes about 20-30 minutes, landing at Pilko Kaina, which is a small Inca temple ruin. Lake Titicaca is enormous - covering 9000 sq km, at 3810m, and its waters are a deep sapphire colour. One cannot see the other side of the lake in several directions.

Our ferry comes in to the harbour

Cost is 15 Bol each (large beer costs 10-12). The chap struggles a bit against the wind, but somehow none of us manage to offer to help out! I trail my hand in the water - it is extremely clean, but rather cold. If I do venture in for a dip at any stage, it will be a very short one!

In the UK we pay gym memberships to be able to do this

On arrival, two girls insist I take their photo, then insist on money once I've given in!

Only a small step from this behaviour to Naomi Campbell...

We leave German chap at the keyside as he has big pack and wants to take his time (4 hours later when we boat back to Copacabana, we pass here and he hasn't moved!). We walk around the heavily-terraced hillside to Yumani, the main village on the island. The terraces are a throwback to Inca times, when every spot of land would be allocated to people to be used for agriculture.

Great camping according to LP!

The view back to the mainland, small lump on left is Isla Chelleca

Yumani is spread up a hill, and you start to hope that you won't get lost, as looking for somewhere may involve climbing 300 metres! The view from the village is beautiful. In one direction it is towards the Island of the Moon, and in the distance (barely visable today because of cloud cover), the spectacular Bolivian Cordillera Real (Royal).

Island of the Moon and Cordillera Real on the horizon.

This is the first occasion I've seen these mountains, after seeing plenty of references in books. In the other direction, if one climbs to the top of the village (and the backbone ridge of the Island), one can see across the Bahia Kona cove, Lake Titicaca, and possibly to Peru in the distance. Again, beautiful...

I love rainy season here!

So, lunch at Hostel las Islas, comprising of soup, then trout (of course), washed down with a completely unnecessary beer, and of course enjoying the view in the bright sunshine.

Just regular trout today, no exciting variations

After eating we immediately climb the steep hill above the town, just the ticket to get digestion going. I was hoping from the top we would be able to see the rest of the island, but as is always the way, we could just see the next hill, which is slightly higher (Cerro Santa Barbara at 4032m). My plan is to return to the island tomorrow or the day after, by boat direct from Copacabana this time, to the Northern end of the island, where there is a sacred stone related to the Inca creation myth. More on this later.

Looking down on Yumani, the island's largest village.

Down the steep Inca Staircase (Escalara del Inca) to the boats back. 10 Bolivianos each.

Stairs I love 'em

Made our boat with seconds to spare, and we drift back with no sense of urgency to Copacabana. At least we overtake the other, more heavily laden boat along the way. Result.

Eat my snail's trail!

Bolivian flag and chica

And back to hotel, where I enjoy a hot shower, made all the better by me being in a new room on the ground floor, less privacy but more powerful shower, and furthermore the knowledge that the power is out across the town, so all those electric showers won't be any use now! Ha!

Another lovely room. Bit pricey at $12

So I've got three more days here until I go to La Paz on the 15th on the 1pm touristy bus (drops you in town centre instead of middle of nowhere). I'm going back to the Island for at least one of those days, possibly two. La Paz for a day and a half (the quest for Sony EX headphones!), then flying to Brazil.

Over dinner I chat to an American girl who tells me that the power outages here are regular - Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and if you're checking out on those days then you can't pay with credit card as the machine is obviously not functioning!

The Inca Creation Myth, as lifted directly from LP
According to Inca legend, man and woman were created on Lake Titicaca, at Isla del Sol. From ancient times, it was said that the earth was cloaked in eternal darkness. Then, out of a sacred lake, known to the Incas as Collasuyu, the god Con Tiqui Viracocha emerged. He brought the first humans into existence on Isla del Sol. Next, Con Tiqui (also spelt Kon Tiki) created the Sun (Inti), the moon and the stars, bringing light to end the world's darkness. Out of rocks and boulders Con Tiqui fashioned more human beings, including pregnant women, who were sent off to populate the earth. One man, Manco Capac, and a woman, Mama Ocllo (his sister) were kept by Con Tiqui and taken to Cusco, where the Inca culture was born. As a result, Isla del Sol was regarded as one of the most sacred sites of the Incas. It also held significance for the pre-Inca Aymara culture, and this reverence continues today.

Ended the day at about 2:30am with what must have been the most violent thunderstorm I have ever seen in my life. Not strong wind, but lightning about every 5 seconds, and not just claps of thunder, but booms as if the strikes were happening five yards from my window! I was seriously wondering what I would do if the windows were blown out! Incredible...

No comments: