Titikaka in Peru, Titikaka in Bolivia, Isla del Sol with the fees collectors and stress in the capital La Paz
With sunrise above the largest high altitude lake Titikaka we get to the city of Puno. We load the bikes, have small breakfast and start pedaling. Sun is shining, a light wind blows from our back, clouds like from a fairy tale are flying on the sky and with average speed 20km/h we pass lamas and donkeys, neat fields and interesting rocks growing from the earth.
After 55km we pause in Ilave for lunch and juice and after another 25 we meet in a village Juli another cyclist – Hugh from UK (Cuzco). He’s got problem with the front derailleur for the last three days and after the visit at a bicycle mechanic it’s even worse. Jan takes out his tools and directly on the crowded street (there is a funeral assemblage passing by) sets the limits and in less than 10minutes everything works perfectly again (I have a handy mechanic :)). At the square we meet another cyclist – Ana from Australia who’s been traveling more than 4 years and after a half an hour refreshment pause we decide to continue together. After 10km we are lucky and the guard at a school lets us in and he even opens one class room, where we can stay for the night… cooking dinner together, talking till night – simply a great evening with great company.
We get up early and leave before the classes start. Ana has got a flat tire after a while and Jan uses this stop to true his wheel. We reach the border around noon and crossing is fast and without problems (at the Bolivian side we first get only 30 days, but later he gives us 90). Copacabana is a touristic town and we stay in the first nice hostel, leave our stuff, do a fast laundry and go for a 2USD dinner, shop some small things, walk a little bit, watch sunset and relax…
We say goodbyes to Hugh and Ana who continue to La Paz and we are seated before 9am on the roof of a boat which takes us to the sun island (Isla del Sol). A local guide (free!?) awaits us there and we need to buy tickets to the museum (10bolivianos) which should be valid for everything.
Most of the land on the island are fields in terraces – traditional agricultural method of Incas. The climate on the island is ideal and the best corn in whole Bolivia is grown here. On the hill we see the saint rock Titikarka (rock of puma). It was the most saint and energetic place in whole pre-Inca civilization. Nearby are ruins of labyrinth where the most beautiful virgins were preparing chicha (alcohol used for ceremonies). The guide shows us how the Inca path to south of the island continues – there the boat will wait for us in 3 hours and he asks for a “voluntary” support of 20Bs for his guiding – we give 10.
The views from the saint path of Incas are beautiful but we cannot stop much to not miss the boat. In the middle is a gate where two locals from another community charge 15Bs for using the Inca trail. We discuss 10minutes with them, why this fact isn’t mentioned at the beginning when we bought ticket “for everything” and that it is kind of robbery when there are no other options now (the boat from the north left and to go to south you have to pay). At the end we don’t pay, but they think that Slovaks are not good people. Our feelings are mixed about this, but principally it is stupid to charge every hour something.
At the last village the situation repeats. We are a little sorry about the old guy there, because he’s the third one on the way and everybody complains here. We are already short on time to catch the boat so we pay and run. Everybody on board is pissed off from this sucking money from tourists on every corner – at the end it is not that much, but the way how they charge it is irritating. Short before sunset we get back, eat menu in restaurant but the portion is so small that I prepare more pancakes in the hotel.
Next day begins with 13km of uphill which ends with beautiful views – snowy mountains on horizon and great Titikaka under us. Ferry takes us to the other side of a canal, Jan repairs flat tire and I chat with local photographers. They say it’s only 4km uphill and then pura bajada… we start to pedal and after half an hour really comes a downhill, but only for 500m and then again up, flat, up, down, up … Destroyed we get to Huajata where sisters in a medical center allow us to stay there and they present us with bread, banana and orange. We build the tent under a 99-years old tree from Canada. Only disadvantage of this place are terrible toilets with shit all around and inside even without doors. We cook outside on the stairs and next to us some parasite worms “swim” in a glass – they use it to scary children to not eat much sweets.
In the morning they say us that a child was born here (20m from us). We go to see it – small violet creature. We wish luck and health to it and parents and get on the road. It’s quite warm when the sun shines and wind is with us. In some moment an yellow van passes and stops – the Belgium couple who gave us ride at Machu Picchu. We pause with sprite and cookies and they explain us how to buy a car in Chile. We say goodbyes – maybe we’ll meet in La Paz.
The dry fields change, there are more houses and after a while even people on the streets. On the first market we buy bananas and watermelon as a first food-aid and continue uphill towards the capital. We reach El Alto (really high :)), where the traffic is crazy and everywhere are crowds of people. It takes us almost an hour to go through this not that nice part and then a looong downhill on a highway where cyclists are officially prohibited down to the center of La Paz which is large how far we can see.
Without problems we find the casa de ciclistas where are: one Canadian, Colombian, three Belgians, American and two Germans. We shop in a huge supermarket and after a year we have bread with pate and pepper – yummy. We spend the time chatting with other until Cristian – the owner – comes and takes us to his girlfriend Luisa’s place because there are already too many people here. She is really nice and we get a tasty risotto with meat, get our own room and take a hot shower. In the morning we go with them to the center, visit Cristian’s office at the university – he is a physicist (and it’s visible:)), he runs marathons, likes to bicycle … he is a right guy.
We spend the day in the casa where is all our luggage, I repair and sew our things and Jan studies maps and routes. In the afternoon we meet Hugh and Ana who will tgo omorrow for a national park in north of Chile. The brief description of it caught our attention and we’ll also consider this option. Later at the cathedral we meet also the Belgian couple. In the evening my personal bicycle mechanic together with Ron tighten the bearings in my wheel and Cristian makes a new wheel – this is how it looks like in the casas. We get to Luisa late and just go to sleep.
We pack all our stuff in the morning and because some people left we’ll move to the casa – all this movings from one place to another are really time consuming. For 6 hours we walk the streets of La Paz and buy Christmas presents, bicycle chains, bus tickets for tomorrow (yes, we decided to go to north of Chile too), fast shopping and full of stress because we are an hour late we prepare harula with meat for dinner – they like it and forgive us the waiting :). Till late night we talk with new cyclists in the casa – Alex from Austria who travels to north and gives us some information about south.
After big breakfast we run to the post office and send 5.99kg heavy packet with all the presents, shop food for next days, pack things, load bicycles and the stress continues while pedaling in the heavy traffic uphill to the bus terminal (I have the feeling that I’ll collapse in every second). At the end we get there on time and nicely put the bikes into the bus.
Finally, we sit and aren’t in hurry anywhere … La Paz was very productive stop but really mentally tiring! This is why we are looking forward to the next days without people in the “wilderness” …