From Puno I took a 3 hour bus ride along the shore of Lake Titicaca to get to Copacabana. This is the original Copacabana (whose name was later pinched by the Brazilians for the famous beach), the name apparently having been taken from “view of the lake” in Aymara. Aymara is the local language that pre-dates the Incas, who used and spread the use of Quechua around much of Peru. Aymara is still used by many communities up on the Altiplano (the Incas not having managed to completely instill Quechua). I’ve come across Quechua in lots of other parts of Peru. I’m told the two are very different, so the speakers of the two languages have to use Spanish as a common language.
Getting to Copacabana involved a very hectic border crossing into Bolivia. You had to go to two different offices on the Peruvian side, then run the gauntlet of hundreds of tat sellers (whilst watching out for the pickpockets we’d been warned about) to cross the couple of hundred metres to the Bolivian customs. One advantage of going through this faff was that, unbeknown to me before I left home, whilst you’re allowed to spend 90 days in Peru without a visa, after 59 days they start stinging you with an 18% tax on hotel rooms. Heading to Bolivia for a few days meant I’d get a new immigration card on returning to Peru, so no tax for me….. (it would’ve been complicated as it would’ve kicked in for the part of the trip Ritu and I booked as a package. They’re the most expensive hotels of the trip, and as I don’t know how much the tour company actually paid, I had a fear that the hotels might try to charge me 18% of the unrealistically extortionate official rack rate, and for the whole room…. I doubt I’d get away with paying half by producing a seriously jetlagged Ritu and pointing out that only half the occupants of the room had been in the country for more than 5 minutes…. luckily Copacabana has solved the problem!)
Copacabana is indeed much prettier than Puno. On my dad’s recommendation, I stayed at a small hostel run by a German artist on the outskirts of town. I didn’t do much while I was there. I walked up to the top of Cerrio Calvario on the edge of town a few times. I never managed to correctly count all the Stations of the Cross though. They start off neatly spaced at the bottom but then you get big gaps followed by clusters of them. The hill’s not very high but the path is quite steep, so it was a good way of checking if the acclimatisation was working. The smaller hill to one side is Cerro Santa Barbara, so of course I felt obliged to go up that one as well (it was only an extra 5 minutes from the path half way up Cerro Calvario, so no great hardship); the second photo is taken from the top of Cerro St Mum (as I decided to call it!).
From Copacabana you can go to the Island of the Sun, which is very important in terms of the Incas (they came up with a creation myth that involved the original incas coming from here) though to be honest the actual achaeological stuff wasn’t very impressive at all in comparison with all the earlier stuff I’ve seen on my travels…. Oh well….. The boat ride there was painfully slow. A one armed pygmy could’ve rowed faster than the tourist boats….. We got dropped off at the North end of the island and did a 3 hour walk down to the South end, where we got picked up. It was quite picturesque, and the final bit was interesting – down a narrow steep slippery stone staircase with donkeys busily hurrying up and down with deliveries to the cafes at the top of the hill….