The birth of the sun


  • La Paz – Copacabana
  • Copacabana – Isla Del Sol
  • Isla Del Sol – Copacabana

For the next week, I had booked the Bamba Express ‘Quick Inca Ways’ tour. This included my buses from La Paz to Cuzco, as well as a homestay and Andean explorer bus. It was therefore, perfect to check off my must-do’s around Lake Titicaca and the Bolivia-Peru border. I was picked up at Wild Rover at 7.45am and taken to my bus towards Copacabana, a lakeside port town on the Bolivian side of Lago (lake) Titicaca.

After about 3 hours of driving, I had flashbacks to Madagascar, for a very specific reason. We had to cross a river to reach the rest of the road we were on. That included both us and the bus. All the passengers hopped off and in to a little wooden speedboat type thing whilst we watched the bus drive on to a raft. Yes you heard me correctly, a big coach on a rickety wooden raft! Now, this doesn’t surprise me so much because at least this raft had an engine, unlike the 4-man power and large sticks used to get our giant truck across a similar situation in Madagascar. It’s always fun to re-cap those kind of hilarious moments when Coxy was there!

An hour later, we pulled in to the bus station in Copacabana. It was lunchtime and I’d missed breakfast, but I didn’t especially have time to eat because the ferry across to Isla Del Sol left in an hour (the whole reason I had come to Copacabana). I powered it uphill to my hostel, checked in and dumped my bags before powering it back down again to the harbour. For 60 Bolivianos, I had a return ticket and guided tour of Isla Del Sol for the afternoon.

The “ferry” (think boat similar to Paraty boat trip with 10 x the people on board!) across took longer than expected and was very slow. I ended up falling asleep because I had to sit under cover and it was stiflingly hot. We moored up on the island at 3pm and one of the crew told me the boat left at 4pm. Well, I wasn’t happy with that since I’d paid for a guide! So I joined the group and hoped for the best that there’d be a boat going back a little later on too.

Here is what I learnt (in Spanish, with some helpful translations from my new friend Eduardo):

  • The Inca’s lived on Isla Del Sol for less than 100 years yet they built the Sol Temple that is there today and are widely believed to have founded the island;
  • The name (island of the sun) came about because the Tiwanaku (the original inhabitants of the island) believed the sun was born there, and the moon from Isla de la Luna across the water;
  • The sun temple was used to sacrifice people to the God’s but is today used to sacrifice a lama on the June solstice;
  • There was a freshwater spring (still in use today) channelled and tapped by the Incas, with their motto written around it – “Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Don’t be lazy.”.

At 4.30pm, we made our way down to another harbour to pick up a ferry heading back to Copacabana. We’d timed our trip to Isla Del Sol perfectly as we could see rain clouds forming over the island as we rode back across the water. When we moored up, I said goodbye to Eduardo as he had a bus to La Paz, and went in search of food (remember I’d not had breakfast or lunch!).

The main road leading from the Plaza 25 de Mayo to the harbour was full of Casa de cambio’s (money exchange), restaurants, banks, souvenir shops etc. After strolling this street up and down, I settled on a local restaurant offering 3 courses for 20 Bolivianos (~£2.30). Not only this but the main course was trout and I hadn’t eaten fish in God knows how long! Money very well spent and a great first meal of the day.

I made my way back towards my hostel, stopping only to pick up a small souvenir bracelet, because it had started to rain. The rain soon became relentless, accompanied by storms, but I had little care because I had booked a private room for the night. This was by accident however I thoroughly cherished the privacy and double bed to chill out in for the evening. It was the perfect place to plan my forward journey and watch a film before getting an early night.

The next morning, after a very refreshing sleep, I had some breakfast at the hostel; just the typical South American bread and jam that I am quickly becoming tired of. The rain was still coming down so I took my time to shower, pack up, and sort myself out before checking out. Since my bus wasn’t until 1pm and I had some Bolivianos left, I wondered back along the main streets in search of some coffee. Actually, I ended up eating a second breakfast (with a smoothie, tea, omelette and yet more bread) and just figured I’d skip lunch.

Timings all worked out perfectly in the end as I picked up my bags just as the rain stopped and head down to the bus station. It was time to cross the border and begin my Peruvian adventures!

So, 148 days in to ‘life from a bag’ and Inca culture is becoming a real feature of my daily life now. All in the build up to Machu Picchu! But first, I’m spending a little more time on Lake Titicaca, to get to really know what it’s all about.

Gabby x


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