Isla del sol and Copacabana on the way from Bolivia to Peru

Note: This post is from my travel in June, 2013

Copacabana is the main Bolivian town on the shore of Lake Titicaca. It’s a quite a touristic town, very small but filled with restaurants, small shops and backpackers. Copacabana has a cool subtropical highland climate which I was very happy about, since I came from the cold mountains in Bolivia and had freezed my ass of for weeks. It was so sweet to feel the warming sun and sit without jacket there :)

I traveled during early morning and arrived in Copacabana by bus and a small ferry boat, took about 4-5 hours. I went down to the harbour to get the tickets for the first boat to cross over to Isla del Sol which leaves at 8. I costed 25 bolivianos. Then I hunted down a nice place to where to eat breakfast. :)

 

Where I enjoyed my first meal in Copacabana

Where I enjoyed my first meal in Copacabana

Easy to get boat tickets over to Isla del Sol

Easy to get boat tickets over to Isla del Sol for 25 bolivianos

 

Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) is the largest island in Lake Titicaca. It’s an ancient holy site of the Inca, mostly known because the Incas believed that the God of the Sun was born here. Inca legend says that Viracocha, the bearded God who created the universe, emerged from the waters of Lake Titicaca and created the sun at this location.

On the boat over I started talking to a girl from Spain, Maider and a man from England, Anthony, and since we were all three traveling alone, we joined forces :) We decided to walk south to north, and take back the boat from the other side the next day.

The boat over to Copacabana was easy, it took about 1,5 hours, but when we arrived.. buff! Apparently all the houses and the society is on top of the island, there’s nothing by the lake except for the bridge. And there are quite stiff inca-steps to walk up with all your backpack at altitude! It’s recommended to leave your backpack in your hostel in Copacabana, but I just went straight from La Paz, so I thought… How hard can it be? Haha. Well… hard!

The place we stayed in Yumani during that night costed like 15 bolivians or something, and it was with breakfast included. But it was freezing inside and there was not a how shower (anywhere on the island, almost).

The house were we slept, with the familys kids playing in front

The house were we slept, with the familys kids playing in front (and my backpack!:)

View over some archeological sites from our house

View over some archeological sites from our house

We went out for a walk around to see some of the archeological sites in the area. There are over 80 ruins on the island. Most of these date to the Inca period circa the 15th century AD. We saw a few that were close by and then we climbed up to the highest top of the island to see the sunset. It was absolutely fantastic! All the people from around gathered there to watch it together.

Anthony enjoying the island and the sunset!

Anthony and Maider enjoying the island and the sunset from yet another ruin!

The beautiful sunset!!

The beautiful sunset!!

And me :)

And me :)

We also encountered two llamas having some fun and enjoying themselves, for a veery long time. I took plenty of photos, I just found the situation so funny, and they made this particularly funny sounds… Yes, I have it on video also… Haha. And it was a fantaastic location! :)

Beautiful scenery...

Beautiful scenery…

Beautiful llamas...

Beautiful llamas…

They are reaally enjoying themselves...

They are reaally enjoying themselves…

We then wen’t around ”in town” to find a place where we could eat dinner.The life in the island is tranquil, there is no noise, no motorized traffic and no rubbish on the streets, only animals and nature.

After the sunset it got really dark, and there were no lights on the streets! We survived not falling thanks to our head torches. We found a great little house who served dinner to us, we were the only guests, and I was so happy about having candle lights – its so cozy and totally missing from every other restaurant in south america, haha. The dinner was about 35 bolivianos and totally worth it. Then we went back to our cold beds to catch the sunrise early.

Our view while we ate breakfast :)

Our view while we ate breakfast :) (and the other swedish traveleres we met who were stupid)

We had breakfast outside our home to a view over the Lake Titicaca. Beautiful.
Geographically the terrain is harsh, it’s rocky and not so much growth, but it’s has beautiful views from wherever you are since you are above on a hill.

There are about 800 families on the whole island, and their main economic activity is farming, fishing and some tourism. Archaeologists have discovered evidence that people lived on the island as far back as the third millennium before christ!

Wherever you go on the island, you find a new archeological site. And there is no one else but you there. It’s free to walk and sit wherever you want. I walked around imagining how it was like over a thousands years ago.

So cute with all the colorful fabrics :)

So cute with all the colorful fabrics :)

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Enjoying ourselves in our ruin house ;)

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Me and Anthony :)

Actually, at the most famous place on the island, there were a couple of ”guides” there, one was about 6 years old and the other about 10. They explained the story about the mythology and the archeology and you can give them a small tip to show our appreciation. Actually, without them, we would not have seen what it was that was ”so famous” about that.. haha.

We watched the The Rock of the Puma, or Titi Kharka, after which the lake is named, which is a large formation of a rock that looks like a Puma (sort of… but the guide showed us ;)

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The Puma….. Its there somewhere, I swear!

Then there was a Inca table that was used for human sacrifices..

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And us chilling at the Inca table :) No sacrifices here!

And the most important, the Footsteps of the Sun – there are like some ”supernatural” marks in a rock, where it is said that it was there the God of the Sun took his first steps.

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The ”magical” footsteps of the sun…

Well. Maybe that wasn’t to much to brag about, the archeological sites and the scenery around is much nicer! :)

While getting closer to the north of the island, I noticed there’s like a special harmony there, you can feel it all over your body. I felt so good there, good vibrations, I don’t know what it was…. but it was something special about this place. I could have easily spent a week or so there just doing nothing, just feeling and breathing and being happy.

 

Panoramic over the walk

Panoramic over the walk

Beautiful lake!

Beautiful lake!

Terraces and blue sky

Terraces and blue sky

Walking around the island!

Walking around the island!

Some pigs and other animals by the beach :)

Some pigs and other animals by the beach :)

There are many agricultural terraces and llamas, donkeys, and then the island is surrounded with all this water, sometimes there are rocks, sometimes there’s beach, and on the other side of the water you can catch the glimps of the  big snowy mountain. There are so many contrasts! Then here in the north of the island, we also got on lower grounds and it was getting hotter, and there was a beach and some people from the villages around :)

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Farmers working

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Woman and her son by the beach

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Fantastic views!

When we arrived at Cha’llapampa, the town from where the boat leaves in the northern end of the island, we still had some time before the boat left back to Copacabana. We went to the Museo de Oro which shows different treasures that have been discovered underwater around the island. Then we bought some snacks and food.

During our walk around the island we had to pay some small fees because we were trespassing from the south to the norht of the island or something like that, also the museum was like 10 bs. But other than that, just beautiful silence and harmony.
We laughed at one guy who had got there with his big suitcase with wheels. Really not the best place where to bring that! Not at all in Bolivia I would say…. ;)

We took the boat back (and they let me steer a while:) and once back in Copacabana we enjoyed ourselves in the last hours of sun, just sitting outside a bar/restaurant, before splitting to different places.We all had buses leaving at 18,  I was on my way to Cusco in Peru again, Anthony to Arequipa in Peru and Maider to La Paz in Bolivia. I’m so glad I found these two, had such a nice time with them.

Stearing the boat back ;)

Stearing the boat back ;)

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Enjoying food and nice company in the sun!

I went with Huancayo tours from Copacabana to Cusco, a good company with nice buses and first class. :)

On the bus I met a guy named Sebastian who soon had been traveling for a year around the world and had visited like 55 countries!!…. And I will only visit like 6 countries in a year.. haha. He must have had a crazy schedule!

Well… That was that!

Don’t miss Isla del Sol if you are going between Bolivia and Peru!! :)

 

 

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Day 3 & 4

Day 3.

Lovely pancake in the morning!!!

Lovely pancake in the morning!!! Perfect start of the day :)


Lovely breakfast once again – a sort of moisty pancake filled with apple and chocolate sause… woooooow. Good start of our third day – the longest trekking day!

We all trekked together in a group, starting with 1 hour of uphill trekking where we visited an archaeological site, Pacaymayo, believed to have been an Inca military fortress used to overlook the valley or a place where the running messengers swapped places.

Pacaymayo - maybe an Inca military fortress .. day 3

Pacaymayo – maybe an Inca military fortress .. day 3

On our way to the top..

On our way to the top of this day..

Finally at the highest point of this day..  just have to walk downstairs now.. day 3

Finally at the highest point of this day.. :) A little chilly!

Matilda, Mia and me above the clouds!

Matilda, Mia and me above the clouds!

Walking down the last big hill!

Walking down the last big hill!

Group picture day 3 :)

Group picture day 3 :)

It was a beautiful day where we passed by a few mountain lakes and archeological sites, Sayacmarca and Phuyupatamarca.

We had lunch on the top of a mountain that was surrounded by clouds, so we couldn’t see what was expecting next.. But walking into the other valley we noticed a change in the climate – more humid and also warmer like a jungle.

Phuyupatamarca, meaning "place of the clouds", because most of the year is surround by big and thick clouds (not so much this day though)

Phuyupatamarca, meaning ”place of the clouds”, because most of the year is surround by big and thick clouds (not so much this day though)

Phuyupatamarca on the other side

Phuyupatamarca on the other side

Our guide is telling us about Sayacmarca, meaning "Inaccessible Town", a name that describes the position of the ruins perfectly as they are protected on three sides by a precipice.

Our guide is telling us about Sayacmarca, meaning ”Inaccessible Town”, a name that describes the position of the ruins perfectly as they are protected on three sides by a precipice.

We have reached the urubamba river that passes by Aguas calientes.. Meaning that we are really close to machu picchu now!

We have reached the urubamba river that passes by Aguas calientes.. Meaning that we are really close to machu picchu now!

Having a break, soon reaching our last camping place just a couple of hours from Machu Picchu :)

Having a break, soon reaching our last camping place just a couple of hours from Machu Picchu :)

We reached our last camping place, “Wiñayhuayna High Jungle camp” above a river valley in late noon and had a small nap before dinner. A couple of hours after sunset we heard the last group arrive, it must be hard to trek in the dark! So glad that we are quite fast ;)

We had our last dinner together, and still as good quality as before – and they even baked a CAKE for us for desert!! I really don’t know how they can do that with this portable gas kitchen thing… so impressed. After dinner we had a small celebration with our portiers, the cook and the guide,  they presented themselves with name and age (the youngest was 36 I think and the oldest 58!).. so cute.. one of them even shed a few tears as we said goodbye. We tipped them and said thank you.

All our portiers, the guide and the cook! So sweet!

All our portiers, the guide and the cook! So sweet!

They have really been amazing… I feel so bad that they work so hard for us, they carry so much on their backs, and don’t even have good backpacks. They are not supposed to carry more then 20 kg, but I think some of them carries a lot more! And they are so quick! They always pass us by running on the trek, because we leave before them, they pack up all the camping equipment, then catch us up, reaches the camp long ahead of us to raise the tents and prepare the food for our arrival… And they have so bad shoes too, and bad backpacks. So impressed.

Also I feel bad that we barely talk to them, they are sort of afraid of us and treat us as we were king and queens.. I wonder how much they earn. I don’t think it’s that much.. I hope it’s more then our tipping! In our pre-meeting the woman from Bamba Experience (the agency) told us that the average tipping is 50 soles total per person but it turned out to be around 140 soles.. Every porter got about a total of 80 soles (30USD), the cook a total of160 soles (60 USD) and 50 soles (20 USD) each to the guide..

Then we had an early night – next morning we were going to wake up 2.50!!


Day 4

We woke up and directly packed our bags and left the camp at 3am to get to the checkpoint-gate before the other groups. The gate reach the Sun Gate with a view over Machu Picchu opens at 5.30 and we were there like 3.15 – the first group in line. There are only seats (benches) for the first three groups, the rest have to stand. Our guide is ALWAYS the first there with his group, haha. When the second group arrives he applauses and says “congratulations to the second place!” haha.

Waiting in line (the first ones) for the last check point to reach Machu Picchu

Waiting in line (the first ones) for the last check point to reach Machu Picchu

Morning day 4, walking the last hour in the dark before reaching the sun gate at sunrise..

Morning day 4, walking the last hour in the dark before reaching the sun gate at sunrise..

After a couple of cold waiting hours in the dark, we finally got our passports and passes checked and we started to trek in the dark. About one hour later, after the gringo-killer-steps, we reached Inti-Punku, the sun gate, just when the sun had gotten up, and we gout our first view over the amazing inca city Machu Picchu. It is situated on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley. Then we had about one more hour before actually reaching Machu Picchu. On our way we passed by a  few other day-trekkers – really fresh with really nice hair and clothes like boots and jeans.. haha.. and all out of breath.. they had only been walking for like 30 minutes, and we have actually been doing it for 4 days… felt quite good actually. Totally worth it.

I mean, the goal was to reach Machu Picchu of course, but I noticed that that itself didn’t matter “that” much anymore– the thing itself was the trek, all the amazing things I’ve experienced along the way.

Our group hiking :) Lucys picture

Our group hiking :) Lucys picture

On the inka trail - reaching Machu Picchu in a couple of minutes!

On the inka trail – reaching Machu Picchu in a couple of minutes!

When we reached Machu Picchu we had to leave our bags in the baggage storage and we also finally had normal bathrooms with a regular toilet instead of a whole in the floor :) Then we entered again and had a guided tour in this enormous and magnificent archeological city. But we were all tired, we had been awake since before 3am and while having the tour we almost fall asleep haha.

Machu Picchu was built around 1450 but abandoned about a century later. Most archeologist belive that it was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti. Also they think that it’s a sacred religious site because it’s built on and around mountains that hold high religious importance in the Inca culture.

What’s important with this site is that it wasn’t found by the Spanish conquistors, so it has remained intact. It was rediscovered at 1911 by an American historian (Hiram Bingham). It is often referred as the “Lost City of the Incas”. It has been reconstructed and restored to give an idea about how it originally looked liked. It was declared an UNESCO world heritage site in 1983 and in 2007 Machu Picchu was voted in a worldwide internet poll to become one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Another classical picture of Machu Picchu

The classical picture of Machu Picchu

Lamas going for a walk in Machu Picchu.

Lamas going for a walk in Machu Picchu.

The house of gards on the top there

The house of gards on the top there


After the guided tour we had a few hours to walk around by ourselves. I picked a big stone with a great view over Machu Picchu and
I sat there meditating for one hour, before it started to get to hot.

I took a few more walks around Machu Picchu. The site is roughly divided into an urban sector and an agricultural sector, as well as the upper town and the lower town. The temples are part of the upper town, the warehouses the lower. There are about 200 buildings on wide pararell terraces.

Meditating with this wonderful view in front of me... breath taking

Meditating with this wonderful view in front of me… breath taking

Sweet lama at Machu Picchu

Sweet lama at Machu Picchu

The residential part of Macchu Picchu

The residential part of Macchu Picchu

Extensive terraces were used for agriculture , and there are stone stairways set in the walls allowed access to the different levels across the site.

Extensive terraces were used for agriculture , and there are stone stairways set in the walls allowed access to the different levels across the site. Also view over the nobel houses.

Let's say I shouted "I'm the queen of the world" when I jumped.

Let’s say I shouted ”I’m the queen of the world” when I jumped.

Around 12.30 I met up with the group at 12 and took the bus down to Aguas Calientes, where we had lunch. While eating it started raining – wow, we have really been lucky with the weather! We waited out the rain and then took the train back to Ollantaytambo, where a bus from the agency where supposed to pick us up, but they didn’t… so we went with another company and weren’t back in Cuzco until around 21.

Great experience!

P.S I used everything in my backpack, so it was worth to bring everything with me!

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Day 1 & 2

So… time to tell you about the Inca Trail!
It’s 4 days of trekking and about 50 kilometres through the andes. Around 70% of the path is hand-built stone about a thousand years ago. It’s the only trek that take you along the original Inca trail, so you litterally walk in the footsteps of the ancient Incas and also enter Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate instead of the regular entrance of the visitors.

To be honest, I thought this was the only way to visit Machu Picchu at first.. but there are plenty of other treks that goes there and you can also do a day-visit to Machu Picchu. This trek is the most expensive of them all, in our group we all paid different fees, something between 500-650 USD. I paid 500, but it didn’t include any portiers that carries my stuff or hiking poles as it did to some of the others in the group.

Ok so..

Day 1
I got picked up 5.30 in the morning, then we picked up the rest of the group in their hostal, and then we went to Ollantaytambo  where we had a 15 soles breakfast haha. After that we were supposed to leave to Piscacucho/Km 82, but we didn’t have enough portiers. We only had 2, and we needed at least 7. Usually there are portiers waiting here in ollantaytambo… but they didn’t this Saturday morning. The guide told us that sometimes they have been out partying and that they don’t show up in the morning… So we stayed there a couple of hours waiting for porters to show up, but they didn’t..
We started to get slightly irritated since we had booked this over 6 months ago, but they couldn’t book porters even a couple of days before?? Then the guide said that we should go to Km 82 and start preparing lunch (the cook was with us : ) and that they had localized some portieres from Cuzco that would go there directly. So… that meant we actually could have slept until 12 instead of 4… but well well.

We had a delicious lunch, we were all really surprised of the quality of the food, we had a soup as first and pasta as a second, with bread and tea and everything.. and we even had our own table and chairs!!! Amazing.

Lunch at Km 82.. look at all the food and pots they are bringing with them! Crazy and heavy!

Preparing the lunch at Km 82.. look at all the food and pots they are bringing! Crazy and heavy! But the food was delicious!

We didn’t start our trek until 14, instead of around 8 in the morning… so we were a little behind. When we got to the first check point, the guards weren’t’ even there, they where having lunch… so we had to wait another 30 minutes before they got there. Haha. But the guide told us we still would reach the camp in time before darkness – and we actually did just in time!  In the info it said it would take around 6 hours to trek this part, but we did it in around 4 hours, but of course we didn’t have  the lunch break or anything.

The first group picture exactly at the starting point of the Inka Trail!

The first group picture exactly at the starting point of the Inka Trail!

We had to cross the river just in the beginning of the Inka Trail.

We had to cross the river just in the beginning of the Inka Trail.

We passed by a few archeological sites along the way and stunning and really beautiful views. Still it was actually really heavy… I started to think like “why the heck am I doing this for?” And this is what they say, ”and easy start”… we had a little uphill and we were all exhausted afterwords… and the second day is supposed to be the hardest day with over a kilometer just uphill.. this was like 200 metres or less.. haha. We asked the guide if it was going to be this stiff too, and he just laughed and said it was going to be a LOT more stiffer.. haha.

I noticed I’m the one that has the biggest and heaviest backpack  (4 girls have their things carried by portiers, but another couple also carries their stuff, still they have really good light equipment plus they share some stuff)… I didn’t know how I was going to be able to make it tomorrow.. the guide even said I was going to have it really hard and asked if I didn’t want to pay a portier to carry my stuff… but nope. :p

First archeological site

First archeological site we passed by

Our glad portiers passed by us :) Behind you see a snowy mountain

Our glad portiers that passed by us :) One is having a backpack but the other only has an aguayo (the blanket)

The whole group first day of the trek!

The whole group first day of the trek!

When we got to the camp (Called Wayllabamba) I was surprised that it was in a village, I thought it was going to be in the middle of nowhere, so did the rest of the group to, but no… it was a camping site with water, toilets and even a small and expensive store… I think 2 L of water was like 9 soles (I had purification tablets with me, best thing!). Once again we had a greaaaat meal, wow, so surprised. Vegetable soup first and then for second we had rice, fried potato, fish and vegetables.. sooo good… I really thought that I was going to eat like powder soups or something.. but not at all – it’s better then in restaurants!

Having our first course at our first camping site :)

Having our first meal at our first camping site :)

After dinner we all went to bed – dead. It was really cold too, I slept with my union suit, fleece jacket and poncho in my sleeping bag.. and we were only at 2980m altitude….

Day 2
We woke up at 5 in the morning to have breakfast at 5.30 (omelett, cereal, porridge, bread, coffe, tea, hot chocolate…mmmm!) and leave the camp at 6 in the morning.

Getting lighter over the campsite

Getting lighter over the campsite


Today is the most challenging day along the trail! There is around 5 hours of vertical hike to reach the Dead Woman’s pass at a altitude of 4,215 meters. In the beginning of the day our guide pointed the Dead Woman’s Pass out for us, and it seemed soooo damn far away. It didn’t feel possible to reach there even in one day… but apparently it is.
And after we had around a 3 km hike down on stone steps before reaching our camp at Pacaymayo at the high of 3660 metres.. This I did with my around 10 kilos backpack…

The guide is showing us what's ahead of us, you see up there in the V of the mountain, there's like a boob and a womans face.. we have to go up there and then down on the other side..

The guide is showing us what’s ahead of us, you see up there in the V of the mountain, a little bit to the right there’s like a boob and a womans face.. that’s where we are going today and then down on the other side..

Some colorful portiers with quite good equipment passed us by

Some colorful portiers with quite good equipment passed us by

Second day on my way up to dead womans pass!

Second day on my way up to dead womans pass!

It was damn hard, but, easier than I thought it was going to be!  Today we didn’t hike together, but in our own pace. And I found a trick: listen to music! When I don’t hear myself being out of breath then I don’t feel tired either. Also, I listened to regueton which has a great rhythm for walking up hill. I felt happy dancing/trekking/singing and I had a really good pace. I really started to enjoy this –the breath taking hills and the breath taking views… to be this sweaty, tired and happy at the same time. . The guide praised me plenty of times for having a good rhythm even if I was having a big backpack too. I felt great! The way back down took around 2-3 hours.. I think it’s heavier to go downstairs that upstairs, not for the lungs bot for the knees..

Found some llamas along the way

Found some llamas along the way

The beautiful Inca Trail

The beautiful Inca Trail

Finally at the top - made it! Really cold up there though

Finally at the top – made it! Really cold up there though



When we arrived we packed up our things in our tents and had yet another great lunch of course. The afternoon was free and we were all so tired that we went to take a nap first… and then it started to rain. So we were kind of stuck in our own tents, I did a few bracelets and then the rain was over and it was time for dinner. Potato-soup, chard-pie, pasta, chicken curry (for me battered colliflowers) and salad… amazing.

Lunch day 2, saffran rice, mush potatoes, some beef thing with carrots and sweet potatoes filled with cheese.. and I had my own vegetable burger things.. loooovely

Lunch day 2, saffran rice, mush potatoes, some beef thing with carrots and sweet potatoes filled with cheese.. and I had my own vegetable burger things.. loooovely