Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca’s best hike, every star in the Milky Way, and slingshotting with the postcard-collecting-frog-expert boat captain

From Copacabana, our crew plus three girls from the U.S. we had met in our hostel started a hike towards Yampupata, a small town on the tip of a peninsula 17 km north of Copacabana. The hike would lead us along the west side of the peninsula with Lake Titicaca on our left.

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After about 30 minutes we could look back to see Copacabana in the distance

From Yampupata we planned to take a boat to Isla del Sol, where we would be spending the night before another day-long hike.

The morning of the hike started the same as every morning I started with Jose.  With several hot mugs of mate.

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Every Argentinian owns a mate mug and straw, along with a thermos for hot water.  Here, Nikhil samples the bitter beverage.

Mate is an extremely popular drink in Argentina

It is prepared by nearly filling the mug to the top with mate leaves and then pouring hot (not boiling) water over the leaves.  The metal straw is used to pull only hot water, now infused with nutrients from the mate leaves, into your mouth.  After about 5-7 good sips the hot water is gone but the leaves remain in the mug, ready for more water to be poured.

Proper procedure requires the person that just finished the mate mug to take the thermos of hot water, fill the mug to the top again, and then pass it to the next person in line.   The owner of the thermos (in the above picture, Jose on the right) can dictate who gets the next mug of mate (who Nikhil should pass it to).

Mate is bitter like tea and shares some of the same properties.  It is simultaneously an appetite suppressant and stimulant. Mate’s best property is that it provides a great opportunity just to sit and chat while drinking mate and regardless of what people from Argentina may tell you, this is the real reason they love to drink it.  While mate is consumed in Argentina’s neighboring countries Chile, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Brazil, it is most popular in Argentina – they drink mate like its their job.

We needed the charge the mate gave us because the first couple hours of the hike was grey and overcast with intermittent showers.

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After about 6 km of hiking north the path led inland, where we passed a farmer’s house who was using a rudimentary but effective way of collecting fresh water.

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At some point while we were inland a stray dog (there are thousands of stray dogs in South America, just like South East Asia and Eastern Europe) joined our group – you can see him on the left side of the picture below.

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I only note this because he would end up traveling with us all the way to Isla del Sol, which included two boat rides.  At some point I informally adopted the friendly mut.

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Eventually the path swung back towards Lake Titicaca and the sun came out.  We stopped in a small rural village for a lunch break and Petra snapped a group shot for us.

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From left to right, Nikhil, Jelena, me, Johanna, Jose, Emily, Erika, Tegan. Photographer credit goes to Petra.

Logically, the lunch break had to include a disc-throwing session. I think in this shot the disc was about to fly into the water trough for the donkeys.

midair frisbee

Continuing north we headed past several locals herding both sheep and pig.

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Prior to this point I was unaware that pigs even needed herding.  In Iowa we just keep them in a pigsty.

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After lunch and over halfway to Yampupata we came upon a bizarre museum on the side of the road.

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Not nice Johanna.

The museum’s main attraction, as you can see in the sign above and the picture below, is a collection of frogs that live in Lake Titicaca.

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The museum is run by an eccentric old man who has been living on the shore of Lake Titicaca for years and years.  Because he did not know much English he communicated with us through Jose.

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