Its 2012 and two things are approaching: Christmas time and the Peruvian boarder. But before either of them gets here I must explore the enchanted waters of Lake Titicaca. While Peru is only an hour from here and Christmas is still a couple days away, the highest navigable lake in the world is right in front of me.
I’m in Copacabana, the biggest and most popular town on the Bolivian shores of Titicaca. It’s summer time otherwise known as ‘Invierno Boliviano’ or Bolivian Winter- a rainy season between December and March. This combined with the altitude make for a wet and chilly situation.
There are certain must-sees here. The main is Isla del Sol- Island of the Sun. Birth place of the Sun God and once home to the very first Incas. It was their first home before spreading across the continent. Machu Picchu was but a dream at this point.
We’re heading there- the place that birthed the Sun God- but it’s a good two hours by boat and the ‘Bolivian Winter’ is showing us who’s boss. The plan is to hike from north to south but with this rain I don’t see that happening. Then as if by some magical higher power that controls the sun, we arrive to a beautiful day and it might even be hot. There are ruins to see, hills to climb and panoramas to take in. Its times like these I second guess my lack of faith in powers that be.
Its three hours of vistas impossible to ignore. Every now and again there’s a Bolivian stationed along the path to collect a tariff – sometimes the best things in life aren’t free. But we’re all millionaires in Bolivia so it’s is a non-issue. What is an issue are the hiked prices and poor accommodation once we reach the south. We negotiate our night’s accommodation down and thus feel slightly less cheated when taking a freezing cold shower in already cold conditions.
Day two only involves getting back to the mainland before 6pm. The German couple have a bus to Peru at this time and ideally don’t want to miss it. But when an unchartered boat we take seemingly hijacks us, reaching the only goal for the day starts becoming less and less of a reality. A two hour trip takes closer to five and our captain(s) who start off sober become increasingly inebriated as the trip wears on. The boat zig zags across the lake as if it itself were drunk.
Then a riddle from the German seeing his bus ride drift further and further away, “What costs 20 bolivianos and we’re not paying it?” At this point the four of us are considering not parting with the money we had promised to our initially sober captain.
It’s crazy how this situation has gone from ok to completely out of control in no time at all. One moment we are watching two Bolivians mix their liquor with juice and the next we are saving them from falling overboard. No amount of deliberation is making things any clearer to the intoxicated navigators- they are unable to grasp our strong desire to get to where we’re going. Three hours have passed, six o’clock is fast approaching and Copacabana is nowhere to be seen.
We point to a small, barely established settlement that quite possibly doesn’t even have a road running through it. This is our new destination- “we want to go there please”. Who am I kidding, there are no ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’ at this point. We wade through the water to get to the shore- bags with valuables like cameras and passports held high above our heads. Our moods have deteriorated and now we have to hike. The main road is 20 minutes away and then we must hitchhike.
Our group is in two minds about whether or not these guys deserve the money we promised them. At the end of the day, what are we paying them for? An awkward, dangerous, extended boat ride and a possibly missed bus? The Germans are adamant we pay them nothing and so we have a drunk Bolivian, now in undies, begging and following us inland as we find the route to civilization.
This brings us to the end of the story, and can you believe it- it’s a happy one! The Germans waved down a truck which only had room for two so off they went. They caught their bus just in time. In fact they may have had to chase it down before they got on. The rest of us eventually got a lift in a fire truck before the heavens opened.