If you're going to call yourself "Island of the Sun", you had better be pretty awesome. Island of the Tick and Sock Isle, you guys can go ahead and suck: we're not expecting much from you. But an island named after the entity around which our world rotates, which provides warmth and life to everything on the planet? You had better be freaking amazing. And with some crazy Inca ruins, a central role in ancient mythology, and a gorgeous setting in the world's highest navigable lake, the Isla del Sol definitely delivers.
We had such a great time during our first hike with José, that we immediately scheduled another: this time through the Parque Nacional Carrasco. Carrasco is one of the most ecologically diverse areas in Bolivia, with a total size of about 2400 square miles. 5000 plant species have been recorded here, including over 200 types of orchids, and the park is home to rare animals like the Andean Spectacled Bear, the taruca (North Andean Deer), the jaguar, and the Andean Cat.
Pachamama plays a big part in the ancient Andean religions. The benevolent earth goddess is still worshiped throughout the highlands of Bolivia. She controls the harvest, and demands frequent rituals to be performed in her honor. For example, before drinking chicha, Bolivians spill a bit onto the ground. First drink goes to Pachamama. Llamas are also sacrificed and incense burnt in her honor.
By bus, a trip from Sucre to Potosí takes just a few hours, and it's even faster by taxi. But if you're more interested in scenery than speed, check out the ultra slow bus-train, which winds its wobbly way around mountains, lakes and valleys, offering spectacular views every inch of the way.
On the second day of our hike, we woke at sunrise with aching shoulders, backs and legs, but possessed by a strange energy. The Crater of Maragua was within sight, and the promise of restorative thermal baths at hike's end made us eager to get moving. But breakfast and packing up the campsite took longer than anticipated: a delay which would later haunt us...
This past weekend, Jürgen and I embarked on a three-day hike offered by Condor Trekkers: a relatively new, non-profit tour operator in Sucre. Starting at 5am on Saturday morning, our hike led us into the heart of the Andes, along the Inca Trail, into the Maragua Crater, past dinosaur footprints, through waterfalls, into the houses of Quechua-speaking campesinos, and over mountains, before depositing us into steaming hot thermal baths. Three days of spectacular scenery, unexpected adventure, sore shoulders, and starrier night skies than I've ever seen.