The best views of Lake Titicaca can be reached from the Bolivian side. The small town of Copacabana provides the perfect gateway to reach the aptly named Isla del Sol. Searing heat beats down upon the dry earth here as women with brightly patterned traditional shawls strung across their back heave loads up the steep hills. Do not be ashamed when they overtake you on the Inca stairs that lead up away from the bay on the South side of the island. With altitude of over 2000 metres, it is a wheezy trek even after weeks of promised acclimatisation.
Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigational lake but to call it a lake is to undersell its incredible nature. It is a vast sheen of blue in this arid yellow landscape. At points along the shore, you almost cannot see to the far side but are instead left gazing out at the distant curvature of the horizon.
In the haze of mid-morning, it is possible to make out the little cones of the snowy Cordillera de Andes which glisten even as they seem to float on a bank of cloud. This sight defies all my brain’s associations with the word ‘lake’. It cannot be named such a dull and restrained body of water. It must be a splendid and fierce sea, an ocean.
By the shore of Copacabana, its waves crash sea-like over the dusty shingle, littered with can rings and shards of glass. Aggressively and self-indulgently, the owners of kayaks and jet-skies shut their prices. They portray a sense of aggressive self-satisfaction at the somewhat intimidated tourists. Enamoured with the jet-skies that remind him of childhood, my travel buddy walks over to ask the price. It is 100 Bolivianos (almost £12) for seven minutes. ‘Seven minutes?!’ we echo incredulously back to him, when he returns. ‘What kind of time-frame is that?’
The way around this, we discovered, is to haggle. I suggested he ask if we could both get on together for the same price and, to our delight, the surly woman agreed. We tiptoed across the treacherous beach to the jetty and were pleasantly surprised to be handed to life-jackets. Naturally, they had broken clips and so we wore them more for their stylish fluorescence than any safety purpose. The jet-ski had no clock but the man who showed us the boat promised to wave us back when it was time.
And so we set off on the jet-ski, revving the engine, positively flying over the waves, the wind whipping our hair back, the whole picture. It being my first jet-ski adventure, I am somewhat nervous about the possibility of flying spectacularly overboard, but I cling on tightly and even whoop excitedly in the gaps where it feels appropriate. Definitely an unforgettable experience.