Climbing and Fun on The Island of the Sun - And the World's First Donkey Shower!
By Jane McLellan
Last updated: 20th September 2011
The stunning blue water of Lake Titicaca straddles Bolivia and Peru. It’s located in the Andean Mountain region and is one of the highest lakes in the world as well as the largest freshwater lake in South America. The Bolivian side is beautifully tranquil, mystical and absolutely massive!
One of the most popular islands to visit on Lake Titicaca is Isla del Sol. The lake was once home to the Inca Empire and evidence of the ancient Inca ruins can be found on the island.
Isla del Sol (The Island of the Sun) is gorgeous. I arrived in the afternoon, jumped off the boat and immediately realised that all the accommodation was located on a single, very steep hill. There are no vehicles on the island so I had a choice of hiking or borrowing a donkey. I felt sorry for the donkeys, so struggled on with my backpack and followed the trail of tourists up the steep flight of stairs (called the Inca Stairway), along a 1.5km path to the top. We all struggled in the heat and altitude, and took it in turns to collapse in a heap and rest for a while. When we made it to the top, we all agreed that the pain and sweat was worth it. The view was incredible, the lake stretched out into the horizon, and I could see both sides of the island.
We dumped our bags and found the perfect place to watch the sun go down. The colours of the sunset were stunning, the best I’ve ever seen. By the time it was dark, we were all starving. We had a look at the menu at a few restaurants and soon realised that all the menus on the island were identical, offering two options – chicken or trout! After a satisfying and well-deserved meal, we hit the sack and I had the best night’s sleep in a long, long time.
The next morning, we woke up early to make the most of the day and decided to explore the island by hiking along the popular 11km trail that leads from one end of the island to the other. The scenery was spectacular, especially the snow-capped mountains on the mainland that we could make out in the distance. The lake looked like an endless ocean. We passed through untouched traditional villages, walked over white sandy beaches and spotted herds of llamas, sheep and donkeys. The climb wasn’t too high but the altitude and the sunshine made things a little difficult, however, each time we reached the top of a hill (completely breathless) we were rewarded with the most incredible panoramas.
After about three hours, we made it to the first Inca ruins. My favourite was the Chincana labyrinth complex. We took so many gorgeous photos and then turned around to head back, only to realise that we now had an 11km return journey in front of us, in the sweltering heat. There was a second path that led around the island so we decided go that way for a change of scenery. Captivated by the breathtaking scenery, we soon forgot about the journey ahead of us. After about 5km we made it to a beautiful, small, secluded beach. One of the locals came up to us and offered to take us back on his boat for 10 Bolivianos (£1). We very quickly agreed and boarded the boat, and in no time at all we were back at our village, Yumani.
By the time I got back to my hostel I was hot, sweaty, caked in dirt and very excited at the prospect of having a cold shower. I practically danced to the bathroom, turned on the taps, and nearly cried when no water came out. We tried to explain to the hostel manager what the problem was, but he didn’t understand, so my friend led him to our bathroom. He then told us that the water wasn’t working… which we had already established! We attempted to ask in Spanish when it would be back on and he said in one hour. An hour slowly ticked by and we still had no water. Each time we asked him what was happening with the water, he would just reply that we had to wait another hour. I was getting more than a little annoyed and impatient. After a while, I decided to try a DIY shower with a bottle of mineral water. I was just about to go to my bathroom when my mate Eric shouted, “Hey Jane, your water has arrived” and beckoned me over. There were about ten donkeys on the hill carrying water and I then understood that this is how the hostel gets its water. Within ten minutes I was happily scrubbing away in one of the most satisfying, refreshing showers of my life. But, I couldn’t stop thinking about those poor donkeys so after that long wait, I made it a super quick one!
In the evening, the four of us had a nice dinner (again choosing between chicken or trout). We played cards and then got an early night before getting the first boat back in the morning. My little island adventure was a really fun one and I was sorry when it was time to pack up and leave, but I bet those poor donkeys were glad to see the back of me!