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On the Isla del Sol...
When you are unsure whether the thundering noise behind you, disturbing the tranquility of the cobbled island street, is a heard of sheep or tourists, and whether the loud hollering sound is coming from a weather-beaten bolivian shepherd or a tour guide waggling a bright umbrella, you know things aren´t quite as they should be.
This week, I headed by boat to the famous Isla del Sol, in the centre of Lake Titicaca, where the Incas believed that the sun was born. We headed across on a boat stamped “kick me, I´m a tourist,” with around 25 other white people who had obviously fallen for the souvenier stalls hoarding the bay aswell. After a freezing 2 hour boat journey (we are at 3,800m here, so we are permitted a bit of drippyness I think!) we arrived at the edge of the island. Little children came buzzing around the boat offering help with bags, advice on hostels and just companionship. After fending off the porters, and casting aside those who wanted to offer advice-at-a-price, we were left by those who offered no more that companionship. We were not feeling particularly lonely, but these boys clearly thought differently. Once settled in a hostel we began to wander around the island and the clouds of gringo influence evapourated instantly. Suddenly we found oursleves walking up winding dirt roads past local volleyball matches and large ladies fighting with toddlers who were “making a scene.” Ancient ladies bent double by life staggered along with bags big enough to hold several tourists and pigs snorted indignantly from the verges. This is Bolivia.
The fascinating thing about this country is that its autheniticity, I might even go as far as to say its soul, has not been destroyed by tourism. Tourism brings in a revenue, but unlike in some of the countries I have visited, it leaves the towns largely intact, and Bolivians continue with their lives as their grandparents might have.
I am about to cross into Peru and I can only hope that in this far more frequently visited country, the same harmony will be present. Until then, hasta luego...
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