06 August 2011

Border run to Bolivia: day four

The last day of July dawned bright and clear in Copacabana and, after breakfast at our hotel, we headed out again on to glistening Lake Titicaca. We only had the morning to sightsee so, instead of taking one of the regular full-day tourist tours, we had our own private motor boat and guide. The boat was small and there was a bit of a swell running, so we bounced and splashed our way out to Isla del Sol, the legendary island of the sun.

According to our guide, this rocky hilly island was the birthplace of Inca civilisation. The sun and the moon were born in this lake, and the first Inca, Manco Capac, emerged from a sacred rock on this island. Our guide also told us a myth which included a 40-day downpour resulting in a flood that killed off almost everything, except a man and a woman, who went on to beget the Inca nation. Now where have I heard that story before?

On reaching the island, we visited the ruins of the Pilcocaina Inca Palace, or Temple of the Sun. It is a simple building, with several interconnecting rooms. Our guide showed us one room where, at sunrise on the day of the mid-summer solstice, the sun’s rays shine exactly in one window in the front wall and straight through the window in the wall behind – proof, he said, of the astronomical knowledge of the Incas. He also explained that the three-stepped window frames represented heaven, earth and hell – in Inca symbology, the condor is used to represent heaven, the puma earth and the snake hell. The three-stepped concept also features in the Inca version of the ten commandments: their three are: you should not lie, you should not steal, and you should not be lazy!

From the Inca temple, we climbed up a ragged path, and hiked two kilometres along a ridge-top track – part of the original Inca Trail – then down again to the tiny village of Yumani. The views were awesome – across the sparkling lake to the snow-capped mountains of the Royal Range of the Andes. At Yumani we tasted the crystal clear waters of the sacred spring before boarding our motor boat for the thwacking ride back to Copacabana.

We had time for a quick bite of lunch at the Hotel Rosario del Lago, before boarding our bus back to Puno. The border crossing back in to Peru was trouble-free and I now have another 90 days to enjoy this colourful country. We had about 4½ hours to kill in Puno, so caught a taxi to the Plaza de Armas (every town and city in Latin America has one!) and wandered the streets. We shopped a little – I got another t-shirt and Kiri found an alpaca overnight bag in the colours she’d been seeking – then hung out in a warm cafĂ©, listening to and watching music videos from the 70s and 80s – real music!

Upstairs at the front on Tour Peru's double-decker, and the church in the Plaza de Armas, Puno
Our overnight bus to Cusco departed at 8.30pm and was more comfortable than I had expected. The semi-cama seats reclined further back than an (economy class) airplane seat and I was soon asleep, dreaming sweet dreams of my superb weekend.

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