* monster post – you might want to put the kettle on…
November 1st was Todos Santos/El Dia de los Muertos (All Saints Day/Day of the Dead). That meant a long weekend and I seized the opportunity to travel to La Isla del Sol. This is an island on Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest altitude lake, which borders both Bolivia and Peru.
By incredible luck, I travelled with a delightful Bolivian family, who took me entirely under their wing and ensured I had an experience vastly different than travelling as a lone tourist. After daily greetings with Rosa, the office cleaning lady and her 8 yr old son, José Luis, it transpired we were all heading to La Isla del Sol for the holiday weekend and suddenly I had instant travel companions.
We left at 4am (not my ideal departure time but well worth it for the good company) and travelled by taxi, minibus, boat, another minibus and finally another boat. The final stretch of the journey involved catching a lancha (motorboat) from the town of Copacabana to the island. As I was about to pay the tourist fee of 20 Bolivianos ($3) for the 2hr journey, Rosa intervened and sternly told the boatman “No es turista! Es familia!”, ensuring I paid the half-price ‘community’ fee. We were only just becoming acquainted at this point, but it was one of many remarkably generous gestures on the family`s part. They insisted upon hosting me at Rosa`s father’s house and shared absolutely everything with me – I truly couldn’t have wished for a warmer welcome.
Our group consisted of Rosa and her children Patricia and José Luis, Rosa`s sister Marcela and her children Omar and Monica (who is one of my colleagues, a nice surprise discovered en route), another sister Ericka and myself.