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Island of the Sun

Sunday, January 1st 2006

I spent a few days in La Paz recovering from my ride. The weather was pretty miserable, with frequent heavy thunderstorms. I took refuge from one in a cafe, where I met an extremely drunk Bolivian businessman who turned out to have gone to the same university in London as I had. But conversation was difficult - half the time I was not sure whether he was speaking english or spanish.

As the end of December neared, I had less than five weeks left before my flight home, and I still had two countries left to see. So I headed north again, back to Lake Titicaca. It was quite strange to arrive at Copacabana again - I normally try to avoid backtracking while travelling. But I wasn't staying here this time - I jumped straight on a boat to Isla del Sol. It was a sunny day, for once, and the boat journey across the lake was a lot of fun.

Isla del Sol is, according to Inca legend, where the world began. The Sun formed right here, and the Inca people followed. Ancient Inca sights dot the island, and it has an atmosphere of mystery about it. Getting off the boat, I met Lisa and Ryan, who I'd previously met 2000 miles further south at Chile Chico on the shores of Lago General Carrera, the second-largest lake in South America after the one we were now standing on an island in the middle of. They were heading back from the island to the mainland. After saying goodbye to them, a young boy convinced me to stay in his parents' hostel, and we set off up the hill to the village of Yumani, on top of the island. Despite my acclimatisation I was still destroyed by the time we reached the top of the spectacular Inca staircase that leads from the shore to Yumani, and the barefooted child was perplexed every time I asked him to wait a few seconds.

The island proved to be far quieter than I had expected it to be, and my new year was a quiet one. After recovering from my exertions I went for a walk along the spine of the island, and then as night fell I watched some thunderstorms brewing. When I went out for my evening meal, everywhere was almost empty, apart from one restaurant in which I met a French couple, who apparently recognised me from San Pedro. We seemed to be the only people out, and I got the feeling they'd had an argument, because they were definitely not in a jovial mood. After a meal in which there were many awkward pauses in the conversation, they left, and I went to a nearby bar. But that was empty as well, so I walked back along the dark track to the place I was staying.

The thunderstorms were now spectacular, and I watched them from my balcony. Midnight came and went with a couple of small firecrackers let off nearby but no great celebration. Great flashes of forked lightning lit up the clouds, and as it began to rain I decided to head for bed. It was 12.15am, and the new year had begun.

The next day I did more walking around the island. I wrote some postcards while sat on the very peak of the island, just under 4000m above sea level. It was a grey day, but warm enough that it didn't feel like it could be January. I tried to think of some worthy new years resolutions but my main aspiration was to spend as much of the year as possible travelling.

During the afternoon I got a boat back to Copacabana, which strangely was incredibly busy. I had extreme trouble finding a room for the night, with everywhere being completely full. I had one insulting offer of a filthy mattress in a store room, another more friendly offer of a sofa if I couldn't find anywhere else, and then finally after some negotiation I got a triple room to myself, for which I paid the price of a double room. Much relieved, I slept well, and in the morning I got up early to go to Peru.

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