We arrived at Copacabana on the Bolivian side of the shores of lake Titicaca (worlds largest high altitude lake) and immediately set our sights on an overnight stay on Isla del Sol, reputed as the birthplace of the sun in Inca mythology.
We packed both warm and cold weather gear (nights can get cold at 3900m altitude) and enough food and water for 2 days. Although we were reliably informed that both were available on the island.
The boat trip to Isla del Sol from Cobacobana left at 8.30am and takes a leisurely 1 & a half hours. Tales of rough boat journeys proved to be ill founded as the lake was like a millpond. We arrived at Yumani on the south of the island and proceeded to carry our backpacks up the steep path towards the top of the island where we understood the area for camping was.
Aside from the heat (the island lived up to its name) and the slow going due to the thinness of air, what struck us most was the sheer amount of hostels for visitors on the way up the hill. At the top, we asked a couple of locals where we could camp and were pointed in the vague direction of a clear peace of lightly grassed land next to a wooded area. There was two other tents there and the occupants, who was packing up confirmed that we could pitch our tent.
Once the tent was assembled, we set off with a day pack with the intention of hiking the length 10km of the island and visiting some of the historical sites to the north. About 2km into our walk we encountered a couple of locals navigating their donkeys along the narrow path.
We managed to squeeze past them and continued for a short while before reaching a boom gate across the track, where we were stopped by a local who, politely but firmly advised that we could not pass to the north of the island, due to ongoing disputes between the rival villages on the island.
This was, to say the least, a bit of a dampener. We had previously been advised of the restrictions but had been informed that they no longer existed. With our hiking plans now dashed, we decided instead to explore the south of the island, to walk down the cliff paths to one or two coves (all beaches are pebble rather than sand), and to relax with a cool drink at one of the many restaurants in the south of the island overlooking the beautiful lake and mountains beyond.
Jon ventured up to a mirador and stumbled upon a local woman hand weaving llama wool sweaters but with the sun beating down on him, decided against a purchase.
We walked to the far south tip of the island before making dinner whilst watching the magnificent sunset to the west. After a few games of cards we settled down in the tent for an almost unbroken silent night’s sleep (no dogs to be heard of for a change).
The following morning the sun woke Jon early whilst Vanessa completed a solid 12 hours uninterrupted sleep. After breakfast we packed up the tent and ambled back down the hill to meet our 10.30am boat for an equally tranquil journey back across the lake to the mainland.
Our summary of Isla del Sol is that although the island is indeed beautiful and the local people very welcoming, as long as the North of the island remains closed to visitors (we are informed this may be for a year or two), there is little reason to spend more than a day there. Let’s hope that this changes sooner rather than later.