Hiking across Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca.

Take two, maybe three days for Isla del Sol our travel friends had suggested. We had exactly four hours, if you don’t include the time on the ferry from Copacabana to the island.  With seven days until our flight from Santa Cruz del Sierra, in Bolivia, time was running out.

A day trip is easy, said the manager of our guest house. And it’s easy to walk across the island. Once you’ve climbed to the top it’s all flat.

That didn’t sound too onerous. I can do that, I thought. The ferry dropped us at the small village of Challapampa at the northern end of Isla del Sol, where we bought some delicious chicken rolls for our lunch and the first of the four passes required to walk across the island, to the village of Yumani.


John had the presence of mind to snap this shot of our drop-off point, the small village of  Challapampa. I, however, had my eye on the hill we had to climb.

It was a long and dry slog straight up for an hour, from the lake shore to the view point. We started at 3,800 metres. That’s high. Very high. But we’re acclimatised, or so I told myself. And we took it easy. No sprinting uphill at that elevation!

At the top, or more correctly at what I thought was the top ,the views were magnificent. The blues of the lake were stark against the harsh landscape. Eking out a living here must be a challenge.


View looking north, across Lake Titicaca towards Puno in Peru.

There was no time to dally if we wanted to walk across the island.  It was already past midday. The ferry would be leaving at 3:30.  We’d been warned it wouldn’t wait.

When we purchased the second of the four passes required to walk across the island I asked the ticket seller, Is this the way?

Yes, he said. Up the mountain.

Up? Up the Mountain? It was supposed to be flat, easy walking for the rest of the day.

Maybe a sensible person would have taken the lead from the 90% of our travel companions who lingered at the mirador (viewpoint). They had time to stroll around the Inca ruins, this island is said to be the birthplace of the Inca Sun-God, and to wander leisurely back to Challapampa. That done, they spent the afternoon on the ferry as it wound its way to the village of Yumani at the southern end of the island—where we were planning to catch it.


No time to stroll around these Inca ruins. We had a boat to catch!

Yes, that would have been the reasonable, even sensible thing to do. Perhaps my brain was already addled from too much exertion in the thin air.

We can do it, I said to John.

He’s always up for a challenge and once those few words were out of my mouth he  was never going to say: it’s a bit much don’t you think. Ten  minutes into the walk, which was supposed to be flat but instead climbed up and around and down and then up and up and up the mountain(!), there was a little voice in my head which was saying exactly that. Not that I paid it any attention.

Later, an hour later, when there was no point in turning back because the ferry would already be on its way to our planned meeting point, the voice in my head was a whole lot louder. Yep it was shouting at me: You’ve bitten off too much this time!

The elevation of 3800 metres was now 4200. What’s a mere  four hundred metres? you might be wondering. I can tell you, rather a lot when the air is thin, when exertion is not such a smart idea, when you’re walking up and down and around, the clock is ticking and there are no roads. There was only one way out of this predicament: keep walking.


This was one of only a few houses between the beginning of the walk and the village of Yumani.

The track wound on and on and on.

The last half hour or so was all down hill. Easy peasy, I thought, until a herd of donkeys came along. They thought nothing of either pushing past me, or if a morsel of greenery presented itself stopping immediately in front of me to grab it. Their handlers were in as much of a hurry as we were. Not to catch the ferry but to collect the goods  that had arrived on the boat from the mainland.


Donkeys everywhere, the descent to Yumani

I considered hopping on the back of one of these donkeys, but somehow I think they’d have bucked me right off.

Amazingly, we did made it with half an hour to spare. There would have been time to linger a little at those ruins after all. But, it was true that the ferry didn’t wait. Back at Copacabana we met some other walkers who missed it.  Luckily for them, they hitched a ride on a later  boat.

If I had the chance again, I’d take our friends’ advice and spend longer on this island. It would be the perfect place to rest and recuperate after weeks of travelling, assuming you can cope with the altitude—not everyone can.

For us our hike was a good compromise, if a little rushed. And I was very proud of myself for having done it.

Word Press Photo Challenge: H2O

23 replies »

  1. What an amazing adventure you have been on Jill, I will slowly browse around your posts and enjoy your stories and photos of places I have always yearned to see.


  2. My grandson was in Peru with the Marine Corp some years ago, I remember photos I think of lake Titicaca with people living in floating houses. I’m not sure it was the same lake.


  3. I think you’ve moved into “Extreme” travel! Good post. Had a bit of everything, including suspense: “Will they make it?”
    The photos are beautiful, but I can’t imagine living there!


  4. Glad you had ths half hour to spare – I love john’s photo of the drop off point – shows the beauty (and the peak) and I know what you mean with altitude – I think my entire first year in Colorado I was adjusting to the altitude! And when football players go there for NFL games – many of them have to have oxygen on the sidelines – and some say the altitude is an advantage for the hosting team.

    Oh and laughing at imagining you jumping on a donkey / I know you did not – but that was funny. (Eeee-ah)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Yvette, I think that games at altitude would be an advantage to the hosting team. They’d be used to it. Thanks for visiting, so glad you enjoyed the post.I’m just beginning to catch up on with my blog, and get back into a routine … of sorts.

      Liked by 1 person

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