Sunday, 1 August 2010

The Bolivian Side of Lago Titicaca

After returning from the Rio Pirita trek, I had only 3 more days before my family’s arrival. Even if I had the powers to do something (I was very tired after the last trek), I didn’t have the time. So I just rested, walked around the markets I already fell in love with, and watched lots of World-Cup football (soccer). I met Iliya again, and we had a beer together. Dror hasn’t returned yet from Rurenabace. I already found a place for my family near the main market streets.
24.6.10, 18:00PM, Arriving to the airport (located in El-Alto), I found out the flight schedule was delayed by on hour. Arriving one hour earlier (for the first timing), I now had two hours to waste in a very small airport, and 4 month anxious to see my family (especially you, mom!). The meeting went well, surprisingly without tears… and we drove safely back to La Paz.

First time for my family over 3000masl, we planed 2 resting days, to see how everybody feels. Good thing we did, because some of us didn’t like the heights that much. We bought some warm jackets for the rest of the trip and some souvenirs (which is funny because my family always buys them on the last week, to avoid the weight) in the markets of La Paz.

27.6.10. We all leave La Paz (myself after almost 3 weeks), and are on our way to Copa…Copacabana! The bus takes us through the amazing Altiplano, so flat, yet so high! Snowy mountains surround it from the South-East (Cordillerra-Real), the Peruvian mountains from the North-West and Lago Titicaca in the middle. 60 minutes after leaving La Paz, and on the shores of Lago Titicaca, the bus stops. There’s a canal and we all must cross it on boats (The bus on a very small ferry, and the passengers on regular boats).

Copacabana is a small touristic town, with very little things to do. We decide not to stay and continue strait on towards Isla Del Sol (The Island of the Sun). Two hours more on a boat and we were on Isla del Sol. Yumani is the southern town on the island, getting off the boat, people were approaching us with tickets and announcing that everybody must pay (5$B) in order to enter the island. We, and everyone else, didn’t. Once on shore, groups of children started offering us deals for hostels, we locate an empty spot on the grass, leave our stuff and I (the only Spanish speaking person) start checking our options.

My mother (Orly) & Inbal (sister), were not feeling so good (Titicaca is 3800masl), and so we decided to take the closest hostel we could find. Hostel JJacha Inti is just above the marine. We asked for 2 rooms of 3, and got one triple & one room with a bed and 2 mattresses on the floor. We agreed and said it was fine as long as they would bring bed sheets for the mattresses. We were also offered to eat at the hostel, and so we did.
Not so satisfied with our dinner (way too expensive, way too small), we asked again for the sheets for the unmade mattresses, we got an offer for another double room instead (making it three rooms) of the mattresses. We agreed (where were we to go now?). We didn’t want anyone sleeping alone, and so we carried the mattress of the lonely room into the double room (on the floor). The double room had no bathroom (but was charged the same).
The next morning we got to see a beautiful sunrise over the Cordillerra-Real & Lago Titicaca. We left our stuff in the rooms, and went with purpose of getting as fast as we can to the north side of the island. No ‘’public’’ boats leave northward early in the morning (first one leaves at 10:00AM, and its an hour’s sail). Unwillingly, we had no option but to take the ‘’private’’ (and expansive) boat. Lots of boats (and tourists) were going to Copacabana though…
In wide difference from the southern shore of the island, the north shore is flat, has sand, and you could cross the small town of ‘Challapampa’ without forgetting what’s it like with oxygen in your lungs. As we start walking (after a small breakfast), we cross next to the museum and a strange person stops us rudely.
10$B please - he says in Spanish.
Why? – We ask in Hebrew.
To enter the Museum and archeological sites – he answers in his language.
We understand the deal and walk away. He then tries running after us, but understands eventually that he is loosing his next ‘’costumers’’. Being harassed already by three different people on the way (for the same payment), we decide to pay and get it over with (that happened to be the last ‘road-block’).
Inbal doesn’t feel so good with the heights, and she and my mother decide to return to Yumani, without the pleasure of climbing across the island. Only the boys left now. We finish our way up the coast to see the remains, and start our way up the island’s main ‘’mountain’’. The views and the walk are both breathtaking. We go slow, and manage to enjoy it all. The trail seems ancient, but is very comfortable to walk on.

When approaching Yumani, we see a ‘gate’, made of two poles and a sign stretched between them. The sign gladly explains that we have to pay 5$B to pass into Yumani. 2 large ‘Cholas’ block the way and are happy to collect. All the other tourists make some noises, but eventually pay up. I walk first (of the four of us), answer ‘No, Gracias’ pleasantly, and pass though them – with an angry face, they leave us all alone.

Arriving back to the hostel, we found out that our third ‘unused’ room (the one with the bathroom though…), was given, without consulting us, to a group of Americans (who were promised sheets as well…). Angry (we wanted the bathroom, and the agreement was that it is ours), we went to eat dinner somewhere else. Watching from the restaurant, we saw the owner of our hostel offering the same room to an elderly looking tourist. Later that evening, the Americans and the elder were fighting over that same room.

The next morning, we woke up, early again, with intentions of leaving these bloodsucking islanders behind us. This morning, the dock was empty. We had to hire a ‘private’ boat service, again.

From that day on, Isla Del Sol was named ‘Isla del SHOD’ (robbery in Hebrew). And Yumani shall be called ‘Your-Money’.

We decided to leave Copacabana the same day as well, and for that matter, Bolivia in general. In the Bolivian side of the border they charged me 40$B for ‘overstaying’ 2 days in their country (my family got 90 days on their visa and stayed a week, I was there 32 days, but had clearance for 30). What can I say, Bolivians do know how to say goodbye.

Tips for the Bolivian Side of Lago Titicaca:
- The Peruvian side is better.
- The Peruvian side is better.If you do stay a night on Isla Del Sol, stay away from JJacha Inti hostel.

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