Thursday, July 28, 2011

Copacabana & Isla Del Sol

You know that feeling when suddenly realise that the exams are just around the corner, you haven’t lifted a finger, there’s just a week left and you know that you’ll need to cram like hell? Well, that‘s pretty similar to the travelling conundrum I face right now. Where to next? What do I prioritize? What do I miss out on? Machu Picchu? Cuzco? Lima? I’ve been on the road now for more than a year and I have approximately 3 weeks left - allowing a day or two for a blockade in the interim - so now I need to choose where I go to next very carefully. In doing so, I immediately fuck up. Royally. Drawn to Copacabana because it sounds exotic and is found on the shores of Lake Titicaca - the highest altitude lake in the world - I figure on spending two nights there drinking in the ambience and character of this lake front bohemia.
But of course Copacabana is nothing of the sort. It’s one giant travel agency masquerading as a city and is populated almost exclusively by herds of shaggy, gap-year westerners who, having seemingly tired of seeking Nirvana in India or wherever, have set up camp in droves on the streets of Copacabana selling pointlessly tatty trinkets. Vile, vile place. The Lonely Planet describes it as “a little tourist-ready” when the truth is that the place has whored itself so completely to tourism that it’s difficult to believe that this place existed prior to the gringo trail. Even sunset is shit there, as if it too has smoked a big fat one and disappears limply below the horizon. It is against the law, it seems, to sell anything but rainbow trout freshly caught from Lake Titicaca in the innumerable lakefront restaurants who practically try to lasso you into their establishments. Oh, and the trout is shit too.
But I have, at least, the consolation of knowing that Copacabana is merely the gateway to the fabled Isla Del Sol, birthplace of the Inca civilization. I’m excited about visiting the island because I assume it’ll have many ruins to visit and it means that I won’t be in Copacabana anymore. It’s two and a half hours from the city in a boat and I’ve decided to spend one full day there as I have so little time left overall. And wouldn’t you know it - beautiful setting apart - Isla Del Sol is an island trekking exercise in monotony. A walk along the island’s 7km length involves passing through several “toll booths” where a fee must be paid for no other purpose than using a well-trodden trail which does nothing but lead to the next toll booth where you‘ll need to pay again. Truly, a walk down the M50 at midnight would have been just as enlightening. The ‘ruins’, such as they are, are about as impressive as a visit to Paddy Flanagan’s cow shed - there are a couple of dilapidated old buildings but nothing which marks them out as classically Incaesque. There’s a sacred rock at the northern end of the island where the Inca creation legend began but the truth is that I walked right past it without noticing, only recognising it later from a leaflet I was given at one of the toll booths. And that was it - my first Inca experience and most probably my last as I’m giving Machu Picchu a miss. Next up Peru. Tick, tick, tick, tick.

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