Sunday market in Copacabana and the blessing of new cars.

Herding the livestock at dusk.

Sunset swim and a bottle of rum.

Local boat from the northern village of the island to the mainland once a day

Isle del Sol (Island of the Sun)

Below: According to the Incas, this rock is the birthplace of the sun, with accompanying footprints!

Inca ruins …

A local crop called abba drying.

Good luck with that entrance!

Rayms chilling in a reed boat.

Llama llama llama!

Left and below: More llamas!

Boat from the mainland’s
northern peninsula to Isle del Sol.
The rural scene around Copacubana.

Looking good Han! Walking to the peninsula of the mainland to get a boat to Isle del Sol, Lake Titicaca.

A Bolivian woman and her load, the guy on the bike just happily rode on by after a casual chat.
The giant bags of popped wheat at the street markets.
Buses also cross part of the lake on route to Copacubana.

July ’09


Overlooking the vast expanse of Lake Titicaca’s water, I have to remind myself that I am finally on Isle del Sol (Island of the Sun). It has been a lifelong dream of mine to travel this historically rich area where the ancient Inca civilization began. Said to have been born here, this southern island has been under the watchful eye of Pachamama, mother earth. According to Inca mythology, The Sacred Rock at Challa’pampa, a village on the north of the island, was the first place the sun ever touched. To the east of the this land mass, the northern Cordillera Real in Peru line the horizon with snow-capped peaks. To the west, the barren purple-brown hills of Bolivia greet the morning’s sun.

At 3800 meters above sea level, what should have been a three to four hour walk, took us five and a half hours. Our party of three acclimatised rather well, when I compare us to the other gringos (tourists) who have suffered terrible headaches, dizzyness, nauseousness, etc. for consecutive days. Most people who visit the Isle del Sol, and its neighbouring Isle del Luna – Island of the Moon, catch a ferry from Copacubana on the mainland to the island’s southern village, Yumani. But, as we preferred to take the road less travelled, we walked to the northern peninsular on the mainland and arranged to be rowed the short distance to the island’s southern point. Here, there is an old Inca Palace, part of the ruins which are visited on the island. Our bargaining skills as South Africans came in handy and we were soon in a small wooden boat used by local fisherman. The chilly wind being blown in from the Cordillera Real made the journey longer than expected. We still had another hours walk up to the village on the old Inca trail. We passed terraced fields, typical of Inca cultivation, still used by locals today. It was early evening when we walked the trail along with shepard girls and boys bringing their stock home for the night. The many sheep, donkeys and llamas strewn between us added a rural charm which was most welcoming. We dined on quinua (local crop) soup and trout fresh from the lake. Our moonlit walk back to our humble accommodation overlooking the lights of Bolivia and Peru on either side respectively, was well worth the freezing air we suffered. Comfortable warm beds was all we required, a nice change from our previous nights accommodation.

After a hearty breakfast on top of the village’s ridge, we set off for the day’s walk to the north of the island. Over hills, along more Inca roads and through scenery blessed by Pachamama, we made our way to the ruins on the northern point of the island. We were saturated with awe by the time we came to the small fishing village. Arranging transport back to mainland proved a challenge as we had done the island backwards, compared to the other grinogs (tourists). There was only one boat leaving the following morning, three times as much for non-locals. Our night proved to be as entertaining as any other. A cold, quick swim was followed by rum and coke on the beach, watching the cattle being herded back along the shore. And to heat up we made our way to a local hole-in-the-wall restaurant for more soup and trout. The daily set menus where real value for money.

Once back on the mainland after an hour and a half’s boat ride, we said farewell to Bolivia over one last meal of fresh trout.