Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Puno, Peru and Isla Del Sol, Bolivia 1-3 Dec 2011

The stop at Puno is for only one purpose, to do my Bolivia Visa. Puno is the border town of Peru by Lake Titicaca. I had all my papers ready to visit the Bolivian Embassy. Photocopy of Bus ticket to Bolivia, print out of Bank statement, photocopy of passport, photocopy of yellow fever certification, print out of my itinerary, print out of hotel which I planned to stay in Copacabana, a passport size photo, and the application form filled up. I hope it’s all what they need for my visa. I was the first person at the embassy, the man just asked me where I am from and how long do I want to stay in Bolivia, he checked all my papers and then said ok come back at 2pm. :-) I guess that is pretty much an OK. I was really happy.

I had a stroll around Puno market and town, there is nothing much. Back to the hostel, there is internet. I just spent the morning updating my blog. I wanted to go to Urus Island in the morning, the only tourist attraction in Puno, but I need to return to the embassy to collect my passport so I could only go in the afternoon. The hostel has a tour that leaves at 2:45pm, thought it is a bit late but I have no choice.
Everything went well, my visa was ready on time, it was a 30 days visa in Bolivia, and I don’t have to pay anything. I am all set to see Bolivia. While walking back to the hostel, in front of the church there was a dance performance. A group of students from a local Art school was performing some traditional dance and modern dance. It is always interesting to watch their costume and dance and listen to their traditional music. The sky starts to turn cloudy by 2pm, I rushed back to the hostel to cancel my trip to Urus because no point going if it starts to rain. I was more enjoying the performance then going to Urus. By late afternoon, the temperature drop to freezing cold. It got worse when the wind blows. I rushed back to the hostel and hide under my blanket. Thank goodness I didn’t go to Urus Island I thought, it would have been so cold that I couldn’t enjoy the trip.

I am ready to leave Puno to Bolivia, my bus leave 7:30am. It was a 3 hours bus ride to Copacabana, a town next to Lake Titicaca on the Bolivian side. The border crossing was smooth, the bus assistant gave us a briefing of what we have to do at the border. At Peru side we first go to the Police post to get a stamp out on our white card. Those who lost their white card have to pay S15 for the penalty. Once we get the stamp from the Police post, we then go next door to the Peruvian custom to stamp out on our passport. Then we walked 100m across to the Bolivian custom. At the Bolivian custom I showed them my visa and they stamped on my passport. That’s it! Then we get back in the bus to continue to Copacabana.

I wanted to visit the Sun Island or Isla Del Sol. Isla Del Sol is located in Lake Titicaca, the biggest island in the lake. From Copacabana we can take a 2 hours speedboat to the south of the island. The island is not very far but the boat is slow. There are only 2 schedules per day, one at 8:30am and one at 2:30pm. I had my lunch “Fried Fish with rice” or local called it “Trucha Frita” famous dish b the lake and then I bought my ticket to the island. I planned to stay at the south island where there are more hostels. While waiting for the boat to leave, I saw 2 familiar guys walking to the boat, Antoine and Anthony whom I met in the train coming back from Machupicchu. I knew there were going to the island too but I thought they will take the morning boat instead. Well, seems like they didn’t make it for the morning boat and now we are on the same boat. I was happy to bump into them, they then decided to find a hostel in the south as well. :-)
The Inka steps
We arrived at the south island, we only saw a few houses and hostel from the shore. Where are the villages?  Before I came I read about the Inka steps that goes 200m uphill. Everyone said to leave the big bags at Copacabana but I was too lazy to repack my bag, so now I have to deal with it. Climbing the killer steps with my 16kg backpack + 5kg in front to look for a hostel…. :-( bad idea! Luckily Antoine helps me with my small bag. But it was still very tough, as Lake Titicaca is at 3800m, at this altitude even without a bag it’s hard. I took many stops along the way, I felt like my body is going to break and I am going to die soon. The freaking hostel is at the top of the hill! At the end I finally made it, Antoine and Anthony were already there checking out the price and rooms. The view is awesome! We have a balcony overseeing the lake and the Glacier Mountains. We tried to bargain for a cheaper price but the lady didn’t want to reduce. We went checking another hostel higher on the hill, they were willing to give us for B5 less but at the end we all preferred to stay at this one because it was newer.

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the south island, we met a bunch of kids which show us the way to see the sunset, and unfortunately it was cloudy. We asked the kids about the route to the north, how we can escape the fees. The kids told us we could trek on the route close to the sea and villages without paying the fees.  Sounds like a plan! At night we went for dinner around 8pm but we were having tough time looking for a restaurant that opens. We almost finished by buying some biscuits from the shops till the lady from the shop show us a small restaurant behind her shop which is still serving food. Phew!

The next day, we woke up at 5am to see the sunrise, it was still cold and dark. We found a spot next to the ponnys pit to squad and wait for the sunrise. It was a clear day, no cloud and we watched the sky slowly light up with the beam of the sun. It was awesome! One of the most beautiful sunrise I’ve ever seen. After the sunrise, we went back to bed, today we planned to trek to the north island and back to Copacabana with the afternoon speedboat. We left around 9:30pm after a wonderful breakfast at the balcony.

The trek was easy, as the view kept us busy, we walked by the hill, by the beach, through a couple of villages and finally arrived at the north island around 12:30. We managed to escape the fees. At the north island we enquired about the boat ride back, as it could be pretty rush for us to walked back to catch the 4pm boat. We have to pay B25 for the boat ride back to the south island, pick up our bag and then head to Copacabana, sounds like a deal! So we spent the last 30 minutes visiting the museum. The museum display some art effect which they discover in the lake from the Inka. Too bad we didn’t have enough time to visit the ruins but it was still a great day.
Antoine, Anthony and me
Now back to the south island for the final climb up the Inka steps to get our bags from the hostel. I swear I will never climb his steps again! :-( We left to Copacabana and took the 6:30pm bus to La Paz.

Hostel The Point  - S25 for quad dorm room with private bathroom, breakfast and WIFI available.
Hostel Las Islas– B30 for triple share with shared bathroom.

Taxi from Terminal to Hostel – S3
Speedboat from Copacabana to south of Isla Del Sol – B10
Speedboat from north of Isla Del Sol to south of Isla Del Sol then to Copacabana – B25

Entrance fee to Copacabana town – B1
Entrance fee to south of Isla Del Sol – B5
Museum in Isla Del Sol – B5

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