Isla de la Lluvia


Half an hour after arriving at Isla del Sol it started hailing. Then came the thunderstorms. Followed by the intense cold. This was far from being the Island of the Sun that was promised to us. More like the Island of Wind and heavy Rain (or Misery Island as Manna dubbed it). We had arrived there exhausted after first taking an overnight bus from Cusco to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca. We then took another bus to Copacabana across the Bolivian border, followed by a two-hour boat to this island on the middle of the lake.

Things went awry as soon we stepped of the boat as a group of kids no older than 10 ran up the jetty demanding money from us for setting foot on the island. This seemed wholly wrong so we tried to walk on only for them to push us back. Luckily they were small and weak and we managed to push past onto the island itself, only to be met by an older woman demanding a similar fee. Turns out this was a legitimate island tax after all, even though they had a seemingly illegitimate way of collecting it.

Walking tax

Later on we found that we had to pay another ‘legitimate’ tax to walk on the North side of the island. But we were lucky – some travellers paid a third tax for the middle of the island, which is fake and is administered by the many locals trying to defraud gullible visitors.

After paying our first fee, we then had the even more taxing task of walking to the nearest village up a steep hill for half a kilometre, with our heavy backpacks and at high altitude (at 3800m Titicaca is the highest lake in the world). Anyone who has walked in altitude knows that taking just a few steps can be exhausting so this was hardly a fun introduction to the place.

It didn’t help that the group of kids followed us the whole way offering to carry our bags for a fee. I would have gladly obliged but my rucksack alone was bigger than each of them and I doubt they would have got very far before demanding their money anyway.

Its not easy to make a sacrifice to the sun god when the clouds are spoiling your view

We eventually made it to the top and that’s when the dark clouds started forming overhead. We met some fellow travellers who recommended that we stay at their hostel so we took a cheap private room. But as soon as the storms started the rain seeped in through the cracks in the windows. The landlady came up with a role of cellotape to ‘fix’ the problem. At least it gave us a reason to renegotiate the fee and we ended up paying 35 Bolivianos (€3.50) a night.

Later we went for dinner with our fellow travellers – three 18-year old Europeans and a 26-year-old Californian. It was the worst dinner of our journey so far.

The company was fine, although teenage talk is not really our thing. However, we all ordered soup and pasta as part of the ‘meal deal’ and we couldn’t have made a worse choice. The soup was clearly of the powdered kind straight from a packet. And what arrived next looked like pasta, smelt like pasta but tasted like the greasy, mushy leftovers of a three-day old fry-up.

Even on my most inept cooking days (and there have been many) I could not have contrived to get pasta so wrong. The cook didn’t just over-boil it but also seemed to have fried it up to ensure it was well and truly toxic. It was partly our fault for ordering an Italian dish on a Bolivian island but we were encouraged to do so by the ‘deal’. We went to bed feeling cold, unfulfilled and mildly nauseous.

At least the views were pretty good

The next day we were determined to make the most of it and we set off on what would be a six-hour trek around the whole island. The views were great although perhaps paled slightly compared to our Colca Canyon experience.

We enjoyed the walk and the sun even made an appearance for a couple of hours. But we were exhausted by the end. We found a mediocre meal (a thousand times better than the night before) at a restaurant nearby and headed off for another cold night in bed.

I awoke shivering at 6.15am. We had arranged to have breakfast at 8ish with our teenage friends before heading down the hill to get the boat back to Copacabana. I couldn’t get back to sleep so I lay there uncomfortably for the next hour and a half. I tried and failed to convince myself to have a cold shower (the hot water didn’t work until the afternoon) and then got dressed and finally put on my watch. It was then that I realised we hadn’t put the clock forward to Bolivian time on our ipod alarm clock.

Get me off this island!

We had just 15 minutes to pack up and leave so we wouldn’t miss the morning boat off Misery Island. We ran down the hill without breakfast before finding that the 10am boat would now be at 11am and we would have to pay twice the price to take it. We again succumbed to the islands demands. We had enough time to eat an overpriced cheese sandwich surrounded by flies in the now baking sun – the Sol part of the Isla had finally woken just as we were leaving.

The boat eventually arrived and we were glad to be on our way, having enjoyed our long walk but not much else and with teenagers in tow. After our island experience we were more than happy to be heading to the bright lights and big city of La Paz.



2 Responses to “Isla de la Lluvia”

  1. DW Says:

    Wow, two posts in one day, you are spoiling us! I don’t make comments often enough, but I must tell you every time I see a new email notification in my inbox, I get really excited to see where you’ve gone next. Loving it! The trip looks awesome, despite giant spiders, the occasional bad meal, the cold showers, the exhaustion, I am still REALLY jealous!

  2. cynthia cutler Says:

    Well you cant win them all. Bound to be a few hiccups.


    Mum x

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