I set my alarm early the next morning for Sibyll and I so we wouldn’t miss the sunrise on Isla del Sol. I climbed a nearby hill to get the best vista possible, and hunkered down in a circle of rocks I found at the top. This is one of those moments where I feel my writing doesn’t do the moment justice. I’ll try though.
To the east lay a range of mountains beyond Laguna Titicaca, barely visible in the predawn light. A few wispy clouds hung in the deep blue sky, and all around me lay the black shadows and contours of the island. As the sun rose, the clouds changed from grey to orange, adding more colour to the tapestry. And then, a twinge of bright yellow burst out between two of the snow-clad mountains. Light raced down the mountains to my right, chasing away the shadows. A sunbeam pierced my eyes, instantly too bright for my expanded pupils. I stared down the sun, eyes tearing up, elation surging through my body, pure happiness taking over every other emotion. Is it any wonder I never tire of this experience? And just like that, daylight, warmth, colour.
As it turned out, Sibyll and I had camped right by the most significant archeological ruins of the island. We only had to walk for fifteen minutes before we reached them, way ahead of all the inevitable tourists and guides. We had the whole place to ourselves for the two hours we explored. For the last week or so, I had been reading The History of the Incas, so it was really interesting to see the places I had been reading about. The birthplace of the Inca’s and the Sun. I excitedly ran through all of the rooms and hallways/tunnels of Chinkana – The Labyrinth – imagining how it must have been five hundred years ago, when the Inca’s actually lived there. Age poured out of the rocks, all of it overlooking the most striking bay I have ever seen. Above the complex is Altar Nativo, sacrificial altar complete with grooves in the rocks to channel the blood into chambers below. Nearby loomed a large boulder, Roca Sagrada, birthplace of the Sun, with a big chunk of rock missing from the side facing the Alter. What a truly amazing place!
Sibyll and I continued our trekking, stopping in the village of Challapampa for coffee and breakfast, and proceeded on coastal footpaths all the way back to Yumani. On the way, we passed through several fishing villages with picture perfect beaches and children playing futball in the fields.
When we arrived at the docks of Yumani, we inquired about getting across the channel by rowboat, but we were told that this wasn’t possible. We would have had to arrange it from the other side where we came from, the morning before. We opted to take the tourist transport right back to Copacabana. While we were waiting on the end of a pier for our boat to arrived, a traditional straw trireme cruised by, four paddlers dipping their oars into the clear waters of the lake to the beat of a drum. Presumably, they were taking the tourists on a scenic ride around the island. Hard on their heels was a “modern” luxury vessel on its way back to Copacabana, spewing black smoke into the air as it lumbered by. Give me the ride on the straw boat, any day!
When our boat arrived, there was a bit of a mad dash by everyone to board, to get the best seats. By the time it was Sibyll and my turn to board, the boat was basically full. I turned to the captain, flashed him my most winning smile, and asked him if we could sit on the prow of the boat instead of inside. “No problemo!” As long as we came inside before we arrived in Copacabana, so he wouldn’t get in trouble from the port authorities. Sibyll and I climbed around the side of the boat and smugly made ourselves comfortable, legs dangling over the edge. I turned on some tunes, and we had a most excellent two-hour ride back to town, basking in the sunshine, singing along to oldies, reflecting on our experiences on Isla Del Sol.