The Isla del Sol Traverse
A walk across the Island of the Sun
We were up on time and caught the continental breakfast in the hotel lobby before meeting up with Martin to head for the Island. We walked to the shoreline where there are were a half dozen boats waiting for sufficient passengers to make the one hour run to the island. The boats were all of the same design, a lower closed cabin that can seat 25 to 30 and seating for about 20 on the roof of the lower cabin. Every other passenger made a run for the upper level, I put my pack on a seat in the lower cabin and found a good leaning spot at the stern near the pilot. I put my money on some cold touristas heading for the cabin below about 4.73 minutes into the crossing
The boatman was waiting for enough folks to sign on for the ride and after about a half hour, the he had enough folks to justify the his efforts. We were off and once clear of the Bolivian navy checkpoint, (yes, Bolivia has a navy . . . they are a little testy about that), the driver gave the outboard the gas and we started across the open water to the island in the distance. The water was smooth as there was no wind and but for the lack of speed, it would have been a good ski. The boats are just basic transportation so the trip across takes the better part of an hour. The only exciting part is when the boat cuts through a gap in the rocks at the Yampupata Strait before making landfall at Yumani, the port on the southern point of the island.
We landed at the Yumani dock and Martin handed our packs off to a young lady on the dock who was charged with carrying the two packs to the hostel we would return to that night. But we did not get off at Yumani as we were headed for the northern tip of the island and the village of Challapampa. The boat motored on for another half hour before coming to rest dockside in the northern village. We climbed to the dock and followed Martin through the small fishing village to the wide beach behind the mud brick homes. We were now off on a long march up across the far hill, onto the spine of the island, to the island's Inca ruins and then down the length of the island to Yumani, about five or six miles distant. We climbed the first hill and passed by the school yard before following the well beaten trail on up through the pampas or terraces that have been built across just about every part of the island.
Our first destination was the Rock of the Puma, where Martin stopped to give us a short talk on the significance of the rock and its place in Inca culture. We took a break behind the rock for lunch and then went to the nearby ruins of Chincana. This reconstructed ruin is reminiscent of multi level Hopi homes in the American Southwest and Martin filled us in on the history of the structure before we headed off toward Yumani, about five miles distant. The trail runs down the spine of the island and though it is never steep, the 4000 meter elevation of the Lake makes the route a little more challenging than it would be at a lower elevation. We made a steady pace and after a good two hours walk along the dry treeless ridge, we arrived back in Yumani at the southern tip of the island. The walk gives a birds eye view of the other fishing villages that are nestled in coves along the western coast of the island and a feel for the amount of agriculture practiced over the millennia on this island as there are terraces from tip to tip.
The hostel we stayed at is owned by Martin and his wife and had a half dozen rooms or so, some with attached bath. Martin showed us to a nice place on the second floor and we dropped our gear before heading back downstairs to the common area to buy a coke and some cookies. Dinner would follow in an hour and Martin's cook did a nice job, we were full and ready to call it a night after a full day of trekking.