One and a half hours by boat from Copacabana an island sits, floating atop the surface of the picturesque Lake Titicaca. Blessed with sunshine and blue sky I set off from Copacabana intent on spending a night on Isla del Sol; a time I thought would include little more than some rest and relaxtion. Oh how wrong I was!

Less than 5 minutes before the boat departed Tanner, Bryan, Carmin and Nathan (whom I´d planned on meeting in Copacabana the day previous) boarded the boat and thus ending any chances of a quiet couple of days.

After arriving at the dock we climbed copious amounts of stairs at an altitude of 4000 metres with full backpacks and thongs. Burning lungs and a beating sun aided our decision to stop at the first possible Hostal to drop our things and rest our weary legs. Not more than 4 minutes had we stopped before we learned of a Sacred religious ceremony they perform on Isla del Sol once every year involving the sacrifice of a llama to promote the fertility of the land and ensure a good harvest to come. There was no way we could miss this and sure enough promtly set off to observe this cultural experience, tho nothing could have prepared me for what we were to see.

On the side of a mountain hundreds of people had gathered to partake in the ceremony. Not least for the religious aspect than for the interesting gawk did we gringo turn out in troves to also pay our respect (tho mostly through digital photographs) to thier religious sanctity. Two columns of men sat whilst local women assembled necklaces of bread rolls, bottles of softdrink, and bananas which they placed around the mens necks and over thier chests. The end result was a number of men sitting around looking like mobile bakeries all wearing these bizaar donut jackets. White flags were waved about and the llama (whom Team hike later nicknamed Llamy Llama) was paraded backwards and forwards, wearing a fetching pink coat and two white flags, with an entourage of brightly clad locals chanting and dancing as they paraded poor llamy around. Naturally, feeling important due to all the attention he was receiving one could not help but feel a little for poor Llamy llama as his fate appeared evident to all but him. Still he looked like he was enjoying the moment.

In honesty, it all happened so quickly there was little time to feel for poor Llamy as after they had paraded him adequately he was held down and a sharp knife taken to his throat detaching his head from his elongated neck. Blood spurted, children giggled, gringos dry wrenched and we (the boys) sat in awe at the sight as the men performed the ceremony with clinical precision. They promptly skinned him and then gutted him draining his blood into the dugout grave and piling his innards and intestines into the earth as the offering before carving him into the types of cuts seen in a butcher shop and carrying the pieces away to be consumed by the ceremonies patrons. Part of me was disgusted, part of me admired the way nothing was left to go to waste. Naturally there was a pair of drunk old men ordering everyone about thinking they were in charge of the smooth administration of the proiceedings but they only added to the atmosphere.

Once all had cleared and poor Llamy had been taken away in pieces for later consumption we Gringos retired to a hilltop balcony to consume a beer a watch what turned into the nicest sunset of my entire trip so far. Sitting and talking we took in the sight before having a nice meal and drinking some cheap rum before bed.

TEAM HIKE

The following morning after an overpriced breakfast Team America (Tanner and Bryan), Team BC (Carmin and Nathan), two English girls (Sash and Abby) and I set off for a hike across Isla del Sol. Easily navigated the island has a path which runs along the ridgeline provding amazing panormaic views. Quickly apparent the boys were to set a faster pace than I intended we broke into tweo hiking groups and the Sash, Abby and myself quickly formed Team Hike (which turned into Team everything) and it was with them that I spent the following couple of days.

Walking the island we talked of home and of my trip to England, of thier other travels and of course of Flavio, who was thier personal porter when they stayed in Bolivian 5-star accommodation in La Paz (these girls certainly knew style). For some reason there was also a lot of talking about spooning, but who ever minds talking about spooning? Specially with two hot girls! We quickly built a repore and it became evident Bolivia is not the only country I will be hanging out with my fellow team hike members.

Reuniting with the other hiking members we picked different beaches and teams America and BC went one way as Team hike went another. Turned out to be not such a good idea as the hill climb down was tretcherous and longwinded and quite frankly my thongs proved less than adequate footwear. Still, mimicking Steve Irwan accents we traversed the decent and found ourselves on white sand at an amazing beach. A hunt around for food prooved fruitless, and after watching a pig wee in the water we decided it was perfect time for a swim. Clear blue sky and a beating white sun made the sand hot and the water refreshing as the three of us swam through Lake Titicaca enjoying every warm patch and lamenting the colder water underneath. We managed to gather a crowd as the end of school bell rung children gathered at the shore near us some removing thier clothes and jumping into the water with us tho none with the gall to swim out and join us. With two hours before our boat (tho i still had not decided whether I would catch it or not) we dried and dressed and began our walk back to the dock at the south end of the island.

Steeper and longer I concluded the swim was definately worth it as the three of us sweated our way back into the South end with the sun beating down upon us. With a boat at 4 team hike had to move as the girls had booked the honeymoon suite at the priciest hotel in copacabana and were determined to make it back for fondue and mousaka (told you they knew style). As we reached our Hostal I had decided breaking team hike was more than any of us could handle and the three of us boarded the boat back to Copacabana.

Checking into a $2.50 cell I parted with the girls as they ascended the hill to thier matrimonial palace, tho I was scheduled to join them for beer and the sunset followed by a nice dinner, which they pretty much talked me into. I am a sucker for a pretty face and a nice smile, let alone two pretty faces and smiles!

Talking and drinking we watched the sunset, ate in the overpriced resteraunt ( although the fondue and moussake were amazing) and retired to thier palace for wine as a nightcap. I left that night and walked in the cold back to my cell wishing I too was travelling on the pound and not the meek Australian dollar. Sometimes tho the best things in life are free; I can assure you tho the fondue was not free.

We met the next morning and just hung out in thier room again. Ate some fresh water trout (the specialty of Lake Titicaca), attempted to keep up to date with my journal and listened to music whilst generally chatting. I missed my 1.30 bus (which I attribute to the comfort of thier room) but was promptly on the next one at 2.30 where we departed with hugs then more hugs and promises of a reunion (which will most certainly happen; they are taking me to a Chelsea game) in England. I loved our team hike and was sad to walk away, tho this is the case with travel whenever cool people meet whom are travelling in the opposite directions. I decided it was best to focus on what was ahead as opposed to what was left behind, tho i still wished team hike was to hit La Paz together, tho i dont think my wallet agreed.

Waiting at the bus stop my bus was half an hour late (which is really early for Bolivian time) i bumped again into Team America and Team BC, and together we have been travelling since. At about 3.00pm that afternoon we all boarded a bus and were bound for La Paz, tho that is a completely new chapter of this travel adventure.

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