A day on la Isla del Sol

So… I’m still here!

Moving to Auckland and settling in a new city turned out to take a lot more of my time than I had expected. The plan was to work a lot, which I’m doing, and to blog a lot. Well, I’m halfway there, I guess!

I’ve started discovering bits of New Zealand and I’ll start sharing photos very soon. In the meantime, I’m going back to Bolivia for a last little taste of its high-altitude landscapes with photos of the beautiful Isla del Sol.

The island is on Lake Titicaca, itself on the border of Peru and Bolivia. What I’d always hear it called was ‘the highest navigable lake in the world’. It’s got a good ring to it but doesn’t give you much of a feel for it, even when you see it – a lake is a lake is a lake, etc. Until you make it onto Isla del Sol for a short day’s walk, fearless at the thought of yet another hike, and discover that hiking isn’t that easy when the altitude is around 3,800m.

The name of the island – Island of the Sun – comes from the Inca belief that the Sun God was born there. He would have emerged from the darkness after a great flood, and shortly thereafter created the first two Incas on the island. The legends are confused and confusing, and vary in precision, but there’s no doubt about one thing: there is something different about the island.

There is a calmness, a sacredness to it when you walk through it. It became even more apparent for me at night. I spent a couple hours sat facing the sunset, watching as the sky darkened more and more, until the rain came over the island and wouldn’t stop all night.

It felt like a place where the elements won; it reminded me of some of the feelings I’d had in Patagonia, but with the added bonus of spiritual mystery.

There is very little to do on the island aside from walking. It’s inhabited by families who mostly farm, although like everywhere else in Bolivia, tourism provides more and more income. I barely even saw the two main villages, rather choosing to directly walk the length of the island from Challapampa to Yumani.

On the way, me and my friends passed ruins of old settlements. People lived on the island from as long ago as 2200 BC. And as we walked, spotting farmers leading their sheep, nodding to girls in traditional outfits, I thought… On here, nothing much has changed.

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