Les Trois Escargots

A growing family of snails.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Isla del Sol

The Incas believed that the sun and the moon first rose from a Sacred Rock on the Isla del Sol in the middle of Lake Titicaca. This belief made it the centre of the most important pilgrimage in the Inca empire and, though the Incas have long gone, we decided that we should see for ourselves the Island of the Sun.

We left Copacabana (see Albane´s blog entry below) with full rucsacs and bodies weakened by too may four course, 30p lunches in La Paz. We walked a dirt track north accompanied for some of the way by Javier, a Bolivian agricultural advisor (as he said), and he told us that he had never seen the sea. We told him about the Atlantic coastline of Europe and surprised him by saying that it was easier (and cheaper) to come to Bolivia by plane than by boat. He left us at the bottom of a steep Inca paved road which took us to the village of Titicacha where we sat and watched the local football derby with fried egg sandwiches. The bumpy pitch reduced all players to the same skill level and it was a miracle that the Yellows managed a last minute winner. The referee blew for full time as the bus arrived - public transport taking precedent over the normal 90 minutes.

We overpaid a man with a boat for the trip to the island and arrived in the early afternoon on a terraced island seemingly deserted. But we didn´t mind and sat on a small hill watching the blue stretch to the horizon and trying to make sense of the serpent-like currents etched on the water´s surface. As the sun set, we pitched the tent amongst scrub, rocks and sheep tracks. To the east, we could see the ice and snow of the Illampu massif warm in the orange light and to the west, the sun flickering and changing the water from blue to purple to black.

The next morning, it seemed only right to welcome the sun rise and Albane did a series of sun salutations, a yoga sequence, to cement our places in the island´s fabric. We headed north after breakfast and spent the day walking the coastline (as we were now thinking of it). We saw Aymaran couples, withered by the sun, walking their sheep and pigs to the marshy bays where grass managed to grow; white and black caracaras, a type of hawk, wheeling over the ridges; the red star flowers of squatting cactii; and views of islets scattered around the main island. In the late afternoon, we reached the Sacred Rock, a remarkably unispiring piece of red sandstone, and the guardian pointed out two impressions in the bare rock called the Footprints of the Sun. It was a stunning day´s walking and it ended in a chilly northerly on a bay where we pitched the tent. An inanely grinning man turned up with a young boy as darkness fell and his odd behaviour left us spooked. Neither of us slept well.

At 5am the next morning, a storm broke and long rumbles of thunder, like burning fuses strung across the sky, deterred us from an early start. But the rain was short-lived and we were on the track with the locals by eight. Kids on their way to school in white labatory coats smiled "Hola!" and we were passed by old women driving their donkeys. It was pleasant walking, the water always in view, and by midday we had reached the main village and boat dock. After the usual scrum to sell us tickets on boats that would leave "pronto", we settled down for a few hours´wait evntually leaving on the locals´boat and chugging our way south in the late afternoon sun, under the towering bluff of El Cavalrio and into Copacabana where we toasted the sunset from a bar with cold Negra beer, a sweetened stout.


Post a Comment

<< Home