Hola Bolivia! We’d successfully made it through to the Bolivian border, despite a hair raising taxi ride down the side of Lake Titicaca. We’d arrived in Puno (Peru) to catch a short bus journey through to Cocacabana in Bolivia, but had arrived late and missed the connection. We were all keen to get through to Bolivia that night so Ashley and I managed to find a guy that was willing to take us in a taxi to the border for 120 Soles ($50USD). Splitting it 4 ways made it about as cheap as the bus fare, the driver certainly made sure it was faster than a bus journey too. We walked over the border around 5:15pm, 45mins before it closed, boarded a collectivo taxi and made the 15 minute journey through to Cocacobana – our first night in Bolivia.
Isla Del Sol
We were kicking things off in Bolivia on Lake Titicaca, an enormous lake that straddles both Peru and Bolivia. Isla Del Sol is a large island that sits on the Bolivian side of the lake and we’d decided to make its southern part, Yumani, our home for a couple of nights. Isla Del Sol is, like many others in Peru and Bolivia, steeped in Incan tradition and history. It’s the Inca creation site and birthplace of the sun. It’s where the first Inca’s made their debut and as a result proves to be hugely important to the Incan culture. The island is home to the scared Inca creation rock, where it is all said to have begun (see further down for photo’s of the rock). The island sits at around 4000m asl and is home to around 2,500 locals and probably about half that run pizza restaurants!
To get out to the island we took a 1.5hr boat trip (20 BOP = $3USD) and quickly found out why it had been named ‘Island of the Sun’, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Landing at Yumani we immediately faced an uphill struggle. The village sits on top of the island, looking out over the bay and lake, meaning we were in for a hike to reach decent accommodation. We trudged our way up to Inti Wasi lodge (15mins from the dock) and after taking one look at the view, from what would be our bed, we were handing over our cash and checking in.
The rest of the afternoon was spent walking around the southern part of the island. The altitude of 4000m+ took its toll as we tried to attack the steepest hill in the south to get to the mirador (lookout point). The effort was worth it as we got to see all of the southern part of the island and take a few snaps while we were there. The islands Incan ruins are spread throughout, with one site existing right on the southern tip. We went for a walk to find these ruins, but ended up perching ourselves on top of another hill that looked down upon them and out over the lake. The view was more than enough to satisfy our culture hunting appetite.
The Great Isla del Sol Walk (South – North – South)
The northern half of the island is home to the all-important Inca creation rock and Chincana ruins, as well as the other two main villages on the island Cha’llapampa and Cha’lla. To get to the north it’s a 2-3hr hike over the islands peaks and valleys. All tourists are stopped along the path to pay their entrance fee into the North (15BOP = $2USD). We set out early to beat the heat of the sun and arrived at the sacred rock in just under 2 hours. The walk over is pretty spectacular, with views out over the entire island on both sides and in the distance you can clearly see the Cordillera mountains. The sacred rock itself was a little underwhelming. It was just sitting there by itself with nothing to tell you anything about the history of it, let alone a sign to confirm that it was in fact the right rock that we were taking photos of! The ancient ruins of Chincana were more impressive with their tiered structure and views down into one of crystal clear bays. We capped off our visit to the northern tip with a hike up the northernmost peak, that allowed us to look back over the complex and the trail we’d walked earlier that morning.
The journey back to Yumani was hot, longer than expected and exhausting. We first passed through Cha’llapampa which was a dusty village with not much on offer (we were stoked we’d stayed in Yumani). There wasn’t a decent restaurant in sight so we opted for the do-it-yourself lunch option of snacks under some eucalyptus trees just outside of the village. The remainder of the track south took us through some very basic rural villages that really were working the land to make a living. It must have been tough work because it didn’t look like the soil had seen rain in months, pigs seemed to be the animal of choice! After hitting a final accent we crossed the north-south border and wandered back into Yumani and headed straight for the tienda to buy beer and Coke-zero! It was an awesome day out, a good bit of exercise and provided us with the most amazing views of the stunning island. All we had left to do was soak up an amazing sunset.
Las Velas – Isla Del Sol’s Mejor Restaurante
The trip to the island would not be complete without a plug to the restaurant that saw most of our food money go into it’s till – Las Velas. It was the sign-post that caught our eye when it said, ‘run by a gourmet chef’, this isn’t a claim made by too many local restaurant’s in South America. Our intrigue got the better of us and we followed the trio of signs that led us through the eucalyptus forest and out into a clearing on the edge of hill overlooking the west side of the island. The owner, waiter and chef greeted us – they were all the same person. He’d been living on the island for 8 years and running the restaurant for 4 years, after training as a chef in La Paz, Bolivia’s largest city.
The menu consisted of just a few dishes, including home-made pizza and over baked trucha (trout). We grabbed a couple of drinks and sat out on the terrace looking out over the lake, probably one of the best views we’d had in the 3 months of travelling. On the chefs recommendation, we ordered trucha. It’s safe to say we were absolutely stoked when it turned up on our plates, accompanied by a full plate of steamed vegetables and home-made bread to mop up the juices. It was the tastiest trout I’ve ever eaten, Cel was in heaven as she’d finally struck upon gourmet food! All the pleasure was only for the price of 40BOP ($6USD).
We never looked back, eating our final lunch and dinner at Las Velas – a pizza for lunch and another round of trout for dinner. It definitely capped off our time on the island in style.
Bolivia had kicked things off very, very well with Isla Del Sol. Our expectations were now high. We took the boat back to Cocacobana the next day and then a bus through to La Paz. Next up on the cards was a mountain bike ride down Death Road and a trip out into the Amazon jungle to mix it up with the mosquitos.