Our early morning tourist bus to Copacabana was highlighted by an unexpected water crossing. Our bus driver kicked us off the bus and pointed for us to head over to a small dock where we had to pay and extra 15 cents to cross by a small ferry while our bus got tugged over on a large platform. We were lucky to get a seat near the front as they packed the boat with people with some of them having to stand in the back where the engine was issuing a strong and putrid gas odor. We buried our noses in scarves and sweaters and just prayed for the short ride to end.
We were arriving in Copacabana at the end of a long weekend so there were lots of rooms available and were able to negotiate a great rate and nice hotel in the center of town. We headed down to the waterfront about 100 meters away to try out some famous Lake Titicaca trout. There were about 20 stalls lining the waterfront all serving a whole trout with rice, potatoes and salad for about $2. It was absolutely excellent and very fresh. We decided to take a stroll by the water during which we passed quite a few Bolivians smiling and laughing and very very drunk. A few minutes later a small parade passed us by with even more 'happy' Bolivians. Even the women, who are usually so reserved, were dancing and singing.
We had wanted to hike in the morning to a small town about 17km from Copa where we could rent a small boat to take us to Isla del Sol but were advised against it by quite a few people because the cost had risen dramatically. We got some great advice from a travel agent to take the boat to the north of the island and walk to the south point where we could catch a small local ferry he next morning to the small town of Yamaputo and hike back from there. We were both glad the next day as our ferry passed the southern port of the island, we looked out and saw the high terraced hill we would have had to climb if we'd gone with our first plan. We only had about 20 people on our boat so we beat the other fully packed boats to the dock. We quickly headed over to see the small museum before heading onto the path to see some Tiwanaku ruins. The path took a sharp V shaped turn and we headed along it to reach the southern end of the island. About a 3 hour walk over rolling hills of the island. Walking uphill in altitude was killer but on the whole the walk wasn't too painful and the scenery was definitely worth it. We were 10 minutes from the end when we decided to head down to a small village to see another museum. Big mistake. The museum wasn't nearly worth the 75 degree uphill slog we had to endure. But we made it and wound our way through the town in search of lodging. We found a great place and tossed our small day-packs on the bed before heading out to a nearby restaurant for dinner of quinoa soup and trout (the only things on the menu) and a gorgeous sunset. It grew cold quickly as soon as the sun went down.
We got up early to make it down to local ferry but all we found were men offering to transport us for close to $10. A ridiculous price in Bolivia. We gave up and hopped on a 10:30am ferry back to the mainland. There's really not much to do in Copacabana. It's a tiny place for relaxing and, I suppose, trout. Surprisingly they have a huge cathedral which is looks amazingly out of place. It's beautiful inside and out and just sooo big. We had our last dinner together at a nearby restaurant and ordered a bottle some Bolivian wine, La Conception, which was surprisingly good. Rachid was off to Cuzco the next day while I needed to wait in Copacabana for Di and Bob to show up to celebrate Bob's birthday! They arrived the in afternoon the next day. Within 5 minutes we also ran into a guy we all new named Lorenzo and a Canadian guy, Ian, that I have been running into in every town I've been in for the past 3 weeks. We all met up that night for Bob's birthday dinner and afterward we headed to a pub with a pool table and crappy 80's videos to keep us amused.
I spent the next morning lazily having beverages and chatting with Ian while we waited for our bus to Puno which is on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. I can't believe I'm leaving Bolivia! We were at the border within about 20 minutes and in Puno within 4 hours. We walked around for about an hour looking for a hostel but couldn't find a really good one for a good price. We finally settled on one and headed out for dinner and a few hours of Internet before bed. We were up very early due to a noisy family getting themselves out of bed. We were going to walk to the port but Ian had never taken a bicycle rickshaw before. We negotiated a good price and were off. There were dozens of people heading to the port, all booked onto all day tours to see the floating islands. We bought a cheap ticket at the port but had to wait till there were enough people. We lingered over coffee and at 8:30, people streamed in our boat and we were finally underway.
The islands was like nothing I could have expected. They are build of reeds which need to be replenished often. When you walk on the tiny island you feet sink an inch of two in the soft reeds. You almost feel like you need snowshoes. On the first island, women tried heartily to sell us their crafts. There were some big reed boats docked nearby and a guy asked if we wanted to take the boat the next island where our original motor boat would catch up with us. Ian and I and a Canadian couple were about to head off when all the other tourists saw us and piled on as well. It was a great ride and surprisingly comfortable. The next island had a giant reed bird that you could climb and see the islands from up high. I was starving so Ian and I shared a freshly made trout prepared by a local woman before heading off. The third island was covered with children wandering around or playing games. I took a ridiculous number of pictures of kids before it was finally time to get back on the boat for Puno.
Back to the mainland, Ian and I walked across a long stone bridge and immediately found a little minibus heading out towards an old stem ship. Ian's a boat fanatic. Oh those P.E.I.ers. It was cool to see how they were restoring it but my enthusiasm couldn't possible match Ian's. The guide was a really great guy, obviously very proud of the work they were doing on the boat. We caught a minibus right back into the center of town and had probably the best lunch I've had in almost a month. Salad, soup, entree and fruit salad for dessert. I enjoyed Bolivian food for the most part but I was reminded, while I sat there, just what I'd been missing. We headed over to buy bus tickets at a nearby travel agency but she seemed to smirk when she gave me the price. Ian and I looked at each other and quickly realized that we should just head over to the bus station to fend for ourselves. We hurried back to the hotel, grabbed our bags out of storage and hailed a cab to the station. We were right. I found a bus to Arequipa leaving in 10 minutes for less than half of what the travel agent had offered me. I think Ian found a good deal but I couldn't be sure. We quickly said good bye, traded books and split up. My bus lingered around for about 20 more minutes while people on the bus yelled and stamped their feet for the bus to get moving. One week to get through the rest Peru. The race begins.