Iguazú Falls

Adding to our list of “world’s best” or “world’s biggest” we have now visited Iguazú Falls – one of the World’s biggest waterfalls. On top of that it is currently experiencing flood levels last seen more than 20 years ago! Exceptionally heavy rain upstream in Brazil has caused the flow to increase from the usual 1500 cumecs (cubic metres of water per second) to a peak of 19000 cumecs. Normal flood levels are only 6500 cumecs! Aside from the havoc this is causing upstream with many families having to be evacuated and livelihoods lost to the flood waters, it also means that part of the park is closed to visitors due to pathways being underwater. A few days ago the only part open on the Argentinian side was the lower trail. When we went the upper trail was open as was the “Grand Adventure” experience. The pathway out to see the Devil’s Throat is underwater and the embarkation point to get he shuttle boat out to Isla Grande San Martin was 12 metres below the surface meaning that it was not possible to visit the island!

Looking across at the Argentinian side of Iguazú Falls from the Brazilian side

We arrived in Puerto Iguazu on Wednesday following a rather long bus journey across northern Argentina from Salta (19 hour bus to Posadas, a one hour wait and then a five and a half hour bus to Puerto Iguazu). We got to Puerto Iguazu in the late afternoon and had initially planned to head straight to the falls the next day. Upon checking in to our hostel and hearing the news about the water levels we decided that we would hold back a day to see if any more of the park reopened as levels receded. We enjoyed a day relaxing around town on Thursday – having a lie-in, sorting some washing, reading in the garden whilst watching hummingbirds feed and visiting “Tres Fronteras”. This is the point on the edge of town at the confluence of the rivers Iguazú and Paraná. Each of the three river banks is a different country – Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. While stood there you could see how orange the river coming down from Iguazú Falls was and one of the roads back from the viewpoint into town was closed as it was underwater – the river is definitely very high!

Friday was a (relatively) early start to get to breakfast for 0730. This would enable us to be ready to head out around 0800 – when the hostel receives and email from the national park informing them which parts of the park would be open today. This information would allow us to decide whether we would be heading to the Argentinian or Brazilian side of the falls. As it turned out our expectations of what would be open were correct and so we set off to the bus station, via the bakery to buy a picnic lunch, to get a bus to the national park on the Argentinian side.

With our lunch safely in our bag we boarded the 0840 bus headed to the waterfalls. Once inside the park we enquired about which trips were still running and decided on the “Gran Aventura” – 6km through the rainforest in a 4×4 truck, 6km up the river in a speedboat, a look around the falls in the speedboat, back downstream to where we boarded and then back to the visitor centre in the truck. This trip usually finishes up by the falls but the pontoon they use was still underwater. The trip in the truck was nothing special – the guide talked about some of the plants and tree species we saw along the way bit for both of us the boat trip was why we were doing it. We were provided with dry bags each to put all our stuff in and were advised that we put our shoes in there too. We did and, at the end of the trip, were glad we followed the advice.

The boat trip up to the falls was relatively uneventful with a few stops at little waterfalls on the way. Up at the main falls our first stop was at the entrance to the Devil’s Throat. We couldn’t go very far in because there was so much spray that you couldn’t see very far – we stopped at the first fall on the right hand side (as we were facing upstream) to take in the sheer size and power of these falls, especially at the current flood level, and to take some photos. The driver had to work hard to keep the boat under control as the water was so fast and choppy this close to the falls. We then dropped back and headed up the other side of Isla Grande San Martin to get some photos before we were advised to put our cameras in our dry bags and to hold on tight – it was time for the driver to have some fun! His objective now was to ensure that none of the passengers had a scrap of dry clothing by the time we headed back downstream and I am certain that he achieved his objective 100%! The spray from the falls did a good job in soaking us but the driver was an expert in getting just the right amount of water coming over the sides to soak us to the skin. We were both wearing waterproofs but the water was coming in at the neck and soaking us inside the coats!! The driver also seemed to have fun as we set off downstream at full throttle, jumping over little waves and weaving in and out of the little inlets. After arriving back at the pontoon we put our shoes back on and went to get the truck back to the start. We didn’t have the best luck as our truck broke down only a few hundred metres into the 6km journey so we had to wait for a replacement before continuing. Our route back to the start was the same as our route down and the guide didn’t add anything to what we were told on the way down. We were dropped at the middle of the park and decided that know would be a good time to tuck into our picnic before we tackle the upper and lower trails in the afternoon.

Our first challenge after lunch was to work out where the upper trail started. After a couple of false starts we eventually found the correct trail and were on our way. The upper trail is only 650m long but takes about an hour to do – mainly because you spend so much time taking photos! It takes you along walkways constructed over the water and sometimes over the lip of the falls themselves. It was amazing to see, and to hear, such a force of nature in action. As we walked along the trail more and more falls would appear out of the mist. At one stage the mist lifted and you were able to see all the falls as far as the Devil’s Throat.

The lower trail is just over 1km long and takes about two hours, again because of photos. This trail takes you along a set of pathways at halfway between river level and the top of the falls (the upper trail is at the same level as the top of the falls). You start of by seeing some smaller falls which are separate from the main falls before working your way around to the main set. There were a few viewpoints where the spray from the falls was sufficient to soak you to the skin in only a couple of seconds. We did one such viewpoint just as we were almost dry following the boat trip. Well, I say “we”, but Lindsay was smart enough to stay dry. I, in the other hand, was more than happy to go to the end of the viewing platform in order to pose for the necessary photos! This was almost the end of the lower trail so I was glad to head out of the forest and into the sunshine to commence round two of the drying process! We then headed for the train station and waited for a train to take us back to the park entrance to get the bus back to Puerto Iguazu.

With our things almost dry from the previous day, on Saturday we headed across to the Brazilian side of the falls. 70% of the falls are on the Argentinian side of the border, which we saw up close the previous day, but the Brazilian side offers a fantastic panoramic view of the Argentinian falls as well as a close up view of the falls on this side of the border. We took a bus from the bus station in Puerto Iguazu that goes directly to the park on the other side of the border. After a brief stop at the border to get our exit and entry stamps it wasn’t long before we arrived at the park entrance. The park entrance is about 12km from the falls and we had to get a bus there, which is included in the entrance ticket. The bus dropped us at the top of he trail to the falls and as we descended the trail we were treated to glimpses of the falls across the river through the trees. Eventually we came to a clearing and could see the Argentinian side of the falls in all their glory. We continued along the trail, stopping at the numerous viewpoints to get photos, until we arrived at the Devil’s Throat walkway. This walkway, like the upper trail on the other side of the boder, is only a few feet above the water. This was above a pool which separates the upper and lower falls. As a consequence of the high river level there was a lot of spray and it didn’t take long before we were again soaked. Next up was a viewing platform right at the bottom of the upper fall. The spray here was so intense that I was completely soaked through from top to toe, including my boots, in less than a couple of seconds! Lindsay was again sensible and offered to take the photos! We then took an elevator which took us up to the top of the upper falls. The sun came out just at the right time to display a fantastic rainbow as we stood taking in the majestic view of all of the falls. The Brazilian side didn’t take as long to do – only two hours versus the seven we spent on the Argentinian side the day before – so it wasn’t long before we were on the bus heading back across the border to Puerto Iguazu.

Seeing these falls has been amazing and we were glad that we took the time to see them from both sides as they each offer a different experience. Even though the island and the Devil’s Throat walkway on the Argentinian side were both closed we were pleased that we had the opportunity to go when we did. It is not very often that the falls have this much flow so we feel that we were able to experience something that not many other people have been able to.

A plethora of automobiles

Yesterday (Thursday 20th June) we made the journey from Tupiza, in southern Bolivia, to Salta, in northern Argentina. Based on the number of people we have met who have made this journey we expected it to be relatively straight forward. However, we were very much mistaken!

On Wednesday we had walked from our hostel in Tupiza to the bus station in order to book our tickets to the border town of Villazon. Despite the number of people shouting “Villazon, Villazon, Villazon, Villazooooon” – apparently offering to sell tickets to Villazon, the majority of the little offices we went to said that they didn’t offer that route and we should try the office next door. We eventually managed to find an office that said they had a bus going on Thursday morning (which was when we wanted to travel), but on further questioning about the type of bus the lady in the office pointed to the minibus behind us! Seeing as we didn’t seem to have any other option, we paid B$15 each (about £1.50 each) for the 90 minute journey.
Thursday morning we arrived at the bus station 45 minutes early for our minibus and sat and watched the chaos going on all around us. In Bolivia, buses are used to transport goods and parcels as well as passengers and this was the same for our minibus to Villazon. Our big rucksacks were put on the roof with other passengers’ luggage and a variety of goods and packages. We left Tupiza about 15 minutes schedule with a full minibus. The journey down to the border town of Villazon is on tarmaced roads, which was a bit of a relief after doing 1200km on dirt roads for our recent trip to the Salar de Uyuni. On the way to Villazon we stopped a number of times at small communities where passengers were dropped off and more goods collected.

Arriving at Villazon we were immediately hounded by ‘helpers’ offering to help us get bus tickets or to show us how to get across the border. They were quite insistent and had to be told ‘no, graçias’ a number of times before they got the message and left us alone. We then found a bench to sit on and enjoy our egg sandwiches, which we had made the night before, before we attempted cross the border. With no idea which direction the border was in we decided to take a taxi, for what turned out to be only be a two minute journey! At the border the process for crossing into Argentina wasn’t clear, so we looked our heads into the first official-looking building (it had ‘migration’ written outside) only to be told that we were in the wrong place – this was for people arriving in Bolivia. Fortunately we were pointed in the right direction!

Joining the back of the queue to which we had been pointed, we were immediately approached by an official who ushered us straight to the front. We have ko idea why we were able to jump the queue but we followed him and were swiftly given our exit stamps for Bolivia. The next challenge was to work out how to officially enter Argentina as there were ko signs indicating where to go. Our tactic of standing still and looking highly confused paid off and, again, we were pointed in the right direction. Getting our entry stamps for Argentina was a very easy process – there were no forms or declarations to complete, we just handed over our passports and then were given them back a minute late complete with entry stamp! Seeing as our tactic of standing still and looking confused worked so well last time, we tried he same approach again and were quickly pointed in the direction of the customs desk where another official had a very quick look in our big rucksacks before he stepped aside and ushered us into Argentina! Our next destination was the bus terminal and, having no idea where it is, we squeezed the two of us and all of our bags into the back of a Fiat Uno taxi. This journey was slightly further (all of 3 minutes!) and as soon as we were out of the taxi we were again surrounded by ‘helpers’. Ignoring them and forcing our way through we entered the small terminal and quickly found a bus to Salta, which was due to leave in two minutes. Immediately after paying, a member of staff ran out off the office, our tickets in his Hans and shouting for us to follow. With our big rucksacks we weren’t particularly quick, but we did our best. The bus was already pulling away as we got outside so the guy with our tickets had to flag it down for us to get on! We threw our big bags into he hold and climbed aboard. The bus pulled away as we were finding our seats and then we settled in for the log journey ahead. It takes seven hours to get to Salta and we had just realised that we would have to change buses in San Salvador de Juyjuy.

About an hour into the journey the bus stopped at a police checkpoint. We all had to get off the bus, claim our bags from the hold and queue up inside the checkpoint building. After searching the bus the policemen came back into the building and searched our bags. I have no idea what they were looking for but they seemed particularly interested in smelling beauty products and shampoos! Our bags went back in the hold, we climbed aboard and the bus continued its journey to San Salvador de Juyjuy.

The closer we got to San Salvador, the more concerned we became about the time of our connecting bus to Salta. The bus we were on was due to arrive at 1830 and our connection leave at 1915. At 1900 we were still on the highway approaching San Salvador. We eventually pulled in at 1910 and the conductor disappeared to ensure our bags were the first ones out of the hold. He then showed us to our next bus and we joined the queue at 1913 – two minutes before the bus was due to leave. At this point we hadn’t eaten anything since our egg sandwiches in Villazon at 1130 and so were getting a bit hungry. I disappeared into the terminal, while Lindsay waited with our bags, and I re-emerged 90 seconds later with a packet of crisps and a bar of chocolate just as we were boarding the bus!

The journey to Salta took two hours and we whiled away he time watching an Argentine film called ‘Vuidas’ (Widows). It was an odd film but it ended just as we were pulling into the bus station in Salta – perfect timing!

At gone 9pm, more than 10 hours after leaving Tupiza (there is a one hour time difference between Bolivia and Argentina), we had reached Salta, but our journey was not yet complete – we still had to find somewhere to stay. We had sent a number of emails to Salta hostels when we were in Tupiza, but non of them got back to us with a confirmed booking. We had the addresses for a number of hostels written down and planned to work our way through them until we were successful. As it worked out, the first hostel we visited (Hostel par Siempre) had space in a dorm for the night. We readily accepted, dropped our bags in the room and set out in search for some proper food for dinner!

Our journey had encountered one minibus, two buses, three taxis, one border crossing and had taken more than ten hours!

Volcanoes, flamingos and the world’s largest salt flats

We have spent the last four days on a trip to visit the Salar de Uyuni – the world’s largest salt flats at over 12000 sq km. The trip included amazing scenery, winds so strong that it was difficult to stand up, sun so strong that you burn in ten minutes, snow drifts that caused our Toyota Land Cruiser to get stuck and temperatures down to -20 centigrade at night in buildings that have no heating! Last, but not least, we saw a huge array of animals including llamas, vicuñas, ostriches, andean condors, vizcachas, flamingos and lots of unidentified birds.

Our transport loaded up and ready to go!

We left Tupiza on a tour with La Torre tours on Saturday, with warnings of very cold temperatures and snow that might cause us an issue. We piled in to our Toyota Land Cruiser with José, our driver, Ana, our cook, and Cynthia and Rejanna, two French travellers, and set off. Immediately after leaving Tupiza we were treated to scenery that wouldn’t be out of place in an old western movie as we climbed higher and higher into the mountains. The first time we got out of the car to take photos we were shocked at just how strong the wind was – little were we to know that we hadn’t seen anything yet! The landscape was shaped by the rain and wind causing erosion of the relatively soft, red rock. From here we continued onwards and upwards, observing a broken down Land Cruiser and lots of llamas, en route to our lunch stop. Getting out of the car at lunch caused us to almost be blown over in the strong wind that was whipping up anything in its path, causing mini dust storms that made it difficult to keep your eyes open. The food at lunch was very tasty and plentiful, but we were all glad to get on the road again, in the warm protection of our car. The afternoon continued in much the same fashion as the morning had been, ticking down the distance until we got to the entrance of the national park we would be spending the next two days in. During the afternoon we were fortunate enough to see ostriches before we climbed past the snow line, above which we were to spend the majority of the afternoon. We stopped at a long-abandoned town which was used by the Spanish during colonial times in order to reap the rewards of a nearby silver mine. The entire town was covered by snow so I can’t imagine it was a comfortable place to live all those years ago. From here we continued to climb and it wasn’t long before we it our first occurance of our car getting stuck in the snow. I should point out that only the first three kilometers, as we left Tupiza, was metalled road and we had been on dirt tracks since! After numerous attempts reversing back down the slope for a run-up our driver asked us to all get out in order to make the car lighter. He had a few more attempts at the run-up, getting a few more metres up the hill with each attempt. We all had to help clear a path by clearing as much snow as possible. Adding to the mix that we were over 4500 metres made a challenging task that much harder as we all fought for breath. We eventually made it up the slope and piled back in to the car to catch our breath and attempt to warm up. By this time we had caused a bit of a queue, with two other cars waiting behind us. Only a few minutes later we were stuck again, this time unable to go forwards or backwards. We all got out again and helped push our car backwards, which was no mean feat seeing as we were almost 5000m above sea level, so that it was able to reverse down the slope. As our driver tried to get to the top of the slope, one of the other cars waiting behind us managed to make it up by going ‘off-road’ (even more off-road than we already were!). Our driver managed to make it across to the new tracks and finally reached the top. We now let the other cars clear a path for us through the snow as we all felt that we had done enough route clearing! From here to our accommodation for the night the journey was relatively uneventful – we entered the national park, paying our B$150 each to do so, and then witnessed one of the cars ahead of us take a descent too fast and fail to make the bend at the bottom. Fortunately for them there was plenty of run-off space, once they had bounced across the small pile of dirt that marked the edge of the road. After checking that they were all OK and their car was able to continue we drove the final ten minutes to our accommodation at 4200m. After unloading the bags from the car, and choosing a bed each in our dorm room, it was time to enjoy a much-needed warm drink. By now the temperature was below freezing and it was continuing to plummet. By the time we were eating dinner at 8pm, the temperature was already in the region of -10 centigrade and we were in a building that had plastic sheeting for windows, corrugated tin for a roof and no heating… it was going to be a cold night! After a dinner of soup followed by meatballs and mash it wasn’t long before we were all tucked up in bed trying to get warm enough to feel our feet again!

Sunday started before dawn, when the local church broadcast its sermon over loudspeakers at 0430! We stared to rouse properly not long after 0600, as our room filled with the dawn sunlight. A delayed pack-up (due to the cold) led to a breakfast of bread, jam and hot drinks and we were on our way not long after 0800. Not long into our journey we stopped by a pen containing hundreds of llamas where we were able to take photos. We continued then past a few lagoons and mineral mines to a thermal bath. It felt surreal walking past snow as we climbed into the hot pool, where the water is around 35 centigrade! Due to the combination of altitude and hot water you weren’t able to spend long in the pool before you started to feel light headed. It was with some trepidation that we set of towards Laguna Verde, as we had heard reports that the snow might make the track impassable. As it turned out the road was impassable, so we just drove alongside the normal track – which was fine! Laguna Verde is a lake normally azul in colour and lies in front of the 5916m Licancabur volcano. As we are now in the middle of winter here the lake was mostly frozen and not its usual colour. Despite this, it was still a stunning vista. After taking plenty of photos we headed back to the thermal bath where Ana had been busy preparing our lunch. After lunch we visited an area containing lots of geysers. You had to be careful where you walked as there was no safety fencing – just a sign saying “Pelligro!” (Danger!). Our next stop was our hostel, where we unloaded our car and left Ana to prepare dinner while we went to visit Laguna Colorada. It is difficult to put into words how beautiful this lake is, especially in the late afternoon sun which we were fortunate enough to see it in. The lake has a natural red colour and is surrounded by snow-capped mountains. In the lake were hundreds of flamingos that were happy to pose for us and there were llamas walking along the lake shore in front of us. We stayed at the lake until he sun went down behind the mountain, dropping the lake into shadow. As soon as the sun had gone, the temperature immediately started to drop quickly. Back at the hostel we had our now customary got drink and biscuits, followed by our dinner. Because we were the first group to reach the hostel in the afternoon we had the pick of the tables in the dining corridor – we went for the one next to the log burner! It was lit before our dinner and was rekindled once during the evening. Despite this, we still got very cold and, after a few card games while the burner was still giving off heat, we called it a night. I was warm-ish when I climbed into bed but quickly became cold. The sleeping bag I had hired for the trip would be small for a child, and only came up to my waist. I slept in thermal trousers, thermal top, t-shirt, fleecy jumper, down gilet, two pairs of socks, the sleeping bag, my silk sleeping bag liner, a sheet, three blankets and a thin quilt, my fleece hat and was still freezing cold. During the the night the temperate dropped to -20 centigrade – no wonder we were so cold!

Waking up (I say waking up, but I was so cold that sleep only came in short visits) the condensation on the inside of our dorm window was frozen solid. A bottle of drinking water left in the car overnight had also frozen solid. Needless to say we were slow getting or of bed! After packing up and a breakfast of pancakes we set off just after 0800 again. Our first stop was Arbol de Piedra – a collection of volcanic rocks which had been shaped by the weather over many years. One of the rocks looked highly unbalanced and we had fun posing for photos whilst pretending to hold the rock up! We then drove past four lagunas, including Laguna Hedienda. At this lake we were able to get to within a few metres of the flamingos as they carried on with their day. We were able to get some beautiful photos – you just had to be careful of the overpowering smell of sulphur! Our lunch stop was at some more volcanic rocks at the foot of a still-active volcano – Ollague. Looking at the top you were able to see a constant column of steam being let out. This volcano sits on the border between Bolivia and Chile. The afternoon was mostly spent driving onwards towards the Salar and our hostel for night, with only a brief stop at a shop in San Juan where we were able to stock up on wine for the evening. One more hour driving and we reached our hostel on he edge of the Salar. Everything in the hostel is made out of salt – the bricks, the tables, the chairs, the beds. Even the floor was covered in salt crystals! Electricity at the hostel is provided by a generator that only rums between 1900 and 2200. After dropping our bags in our dorm room and and sorting ourselves out we made our way to the dining room where we were able to play cards, drink our hot drinks and watch the sunset over the Salar. Dinner of soup and vegetable lasagne was swiftly followed by a couple of bottles of Bolivian wine and a few more card games until the generator was switched off and the lights went out – signalling that it was time for bed.

The last day of the tour started earlier than the previous days (apart from being women up on day two by the sermon over loudspeaker) with a planned departure time of 0600. There were two main factors which helped us to achieve this: firstly, we were having breakfast out on the Salar and, secondly, it was much, much warmer than the previous two mornings (primarily due to the lower altitude of only 3600m). After loading our car up in the dark we set out across the Salar towards Isla Incahuasi – the only island in the middle of the Salar. As we were getting closer to the island we stopped to watch the sunrise on the far side of the Salar. With the sun getting ever higher in the sky we continued on to the island, which is covered with hundreds of cacti and the island itself largely formed from coral. After a brief wander across the island, suffering with the cold out in the Salar, it was time for breakfast on another salt table. Ana had somehow managed to prepare a delicious cake on the two burner gas stove last night, which went down very well! After breakfast we continued out into the middle of the Salar, where it was time to take advantage of the vast emptiness and make lots of photos playing with perspective, such as climbing into wine bottles and Lindsay sitting on a spoon that I was about to eat (we’ll be putting up photo evidence shortly). We then paid a visit to the original salt hotel, in the middle of the Salar. It has now been closed down for environmental reasons as it polluted the Salar. Today it houses a museum but we didn’t go in. As we drove across the Salar, its expanse is very difficult to comprehend as the salt stretches to the horizon in most directions! As we reached the edge of the Salar we went through a salt mine, where salt was put into lots of little piles (about 75cm high). The piles are left to dry in the sun for a day before the salt is collected by trucks for processing. We stopped in Colchani, a small town on the edge of the Salar, for a visit to the tourist market and lunch before continuing the final 30 minutes to Uyuni which was the official end point for our tour. We, however, were doing a full loop back to Tupiza so we dropped Cynthia and Rejanna in town so that they could organise their onward travel to La Paz and then set off for Tupiza. It is only 208km from Uyuni to Tupuza but the journey takes approximately five hours due to the road being a dirt track. The only mark on the map along this road is a small mining town called Atocha. We also passed the place which saw the end of Butch Cassidy, the sun dance kid, approx 40km from Tupiza. Apart from that we enjoyed a further variety of countryside and mountain views, including lots more llamas, all the way back to our hostel in Tupiza. Just as we reached the edge of Tupiza we came across our first Bolivian blockade. We have no idea what it was about so José turned around and we went a cross-country route into town!

After four days in the same clothes and no shower we are now off to shower, put on some fresh clothes and head out for dinner.

Copacabana

We arrived in Copacabana on Tuesday 28th May, after catching a bus from Puno. It’s a relatively small town with only 50,000 residents at 3800m altitude – definitely the smallest town we had visited so far. We got off the bus in the main square – quite unusual, as usually the bus stations are a 15 min bus journey out of town. Driving into town, the first thing I noticed was it was such a pretty town nestled in the hillside over looking Lake Titicaca. Unlike towns in Peru, most of the houses / buildings appeared to be completed. In Peru so many buildings were part completed, although it looked as if people still lived in them unfinished. It was also incredibly chilled – very few cars, hardly any were tooting (which we had got very used to in Peru, the noise was almost constant at times), and everyone seemed relaxed going about their own business – nobody looked in a hurry! This was a place I instantly loved and knew we were going to want to stay longer than the two nights we booked! It was the type of place I had hoped we would find travelling.

The view across Copacabana bay from our hostel

It was also the first time we properly used our backpacks, as everything was so close, we had no excuse but to walk to our hostel with them on! It was 2 blocks north of the square up a very steep hill. La Cupula was tucked in the hillside overlooking the lake – it even had hammocks and deckchairs in the gardens.

After dropping our stuff the first challenge was to find a working cash machine. The first one we found had 3 tourists sitting outside – who we had learnt had put one of their cards into the machine, only for there to be a power cut and their card got stuck inside. They did later get it back, they just had to wait for the power to return and the bank to open! The next few we found were also off due to the power cut, and we were starting to think it may have been a good idea to get some bolivianos before crossing the border! Finally we found one that was working on another square, obviously on a different power network.

Over the next few days we enjoyed the slower pace of Copacabana and the chance to relax! On the first day we climbed Cerro Calvario (the hill behind the town) passing the 14 stations of the Cross. People used to walk up here as part of a pilgrimage. The path was steep, but we had fantastic views across to Isla Del Sol and the town itself. We did the walk with a friend we had agreed to meet in Copacabana, someone we had done the Inca Trail with – it was great to see her and catch up. The three of us sat and watched the sun set over the lake, so beautiful and very peaceful. Our friend introduced us to a great restaurant in the town called Mauraz – and we ended up returning again and again during our stay in Copacabana – the food and the company was great! They also did the most amazing waffles with honey for breakfast!

We spent a lot of time relaxing in the hostel hammocks and recharging our batteries, after a busy few weeks in Peru. But on our third day we did venture across to the Isla Del Sol, which in Inca history is thought to be the birthplace of the sun. We took supplies for breakfast on the boat (UHT chocolate milkshakes and cereal biscuits) and began the 2 hour boat journey to the island. You could only book the boat, not a guided tour of the island, so we were going to explore on our own. When we arrived, we found a map of the island and with the help of some other english speaking tourists we worked out where we needed to start the walk! We walked with a Canadian couple and between us we navigated the route ok! You had to pass through 3 pay stations, as you had to pay for passing through the 3 main villages on the island. You also had to pass several check points to show your ticket, these were the most confusing, as they didn´t look like checkpoints! The walk itself was beautiful – but definitely challenging. At 4000m the uphill climbs were steep and we were walking in the midday sun – but luckily we had supplies of crisps and biscuits to munch on the way – as we walked through lunch. As usual I was thinking about food! Along the walk we could see the beautiful snow capped bolivian mountains (approx 6000m high!) and the lake looked crystal clear! After about 3-4 hours we had navigated from the northern town of Cha´llapampa to the southern port of Yumani on the island. We had walked quite fast and still only had about 45 mins to spare before our boat left for the mainland! I´m sure some people must miss the boat back!

Copacabana was a bit like a ski resort, due to the altitude it was very cold at night and you needed a lot of layers. In the daytime it was hot in the sunshine, but there was still a cool breeze, so you needed factor 50 suncream and a few warm layers! After 4 nights and 5 days we had to say goodbye to Copacabana, it had definitely been my favourite place so far! We headed off at 1pm for La Paz, only 3 hours away by bus, a much bigger city to explore, home to 1 million people!