The next morning I headed out at 8 o´clock, bags in tow, to meet the others and catch the boat (note to self: don´t wear mum´s combats when no hands are free to hoik them up as I go). All went to plan: we made the boat on time and all together, and ate breakfast on the way (fruit and bread, standard fare for travelling on a budget). It was a pretty chilly 2-hour boat ride to the North of the Isla del Sol, with us having made the natural decision to sit up top, especially when the sun went behind the clouds, but generally it was very enjoyable – the lake was beautiful, there were various islands dotted along the way, and we chatted to a nice Dutch guy who was informing us of the excellent perks of having a girlfriend working for an airline company (i.e. flights cheaper than the price of a bus ticket).

We arrived at about 11 and said goodbye to our Dutch friend, who was only doing a quick day tour, struggling off the boat overloaded with bags (there was a moment when I sincerely thought I was going to topple overboard). Then we set about doing the usual hostel-finding-faff, luckily managing it pretty easily – an adorable old Bolivian woman told us to follow her to her hostel, and by the time we got there (it was slightly uphill) we were so out of breath that we decided to take it, naturally. I definitely wasn´t fussed by this – only Bs25 a night and I got a twin room to myself, result.

Our first day on the island was highly enjoyable: we wandered around and sunbathed in the hills, headed to the beach and swam (for literally 5 minutes: even for someone brought up on freezing holidays in Cornwall it was hard to bear), went out for dinner (at a very reasonable price considering all the rumours about how expensive the island is supposed to be), and then bought some rum and coke INCREDIBLY cheaply – like £1.50 for a bottle of rum – to take back to the hostel.

It was the first time I´d really drunk anything on the trip, largely because of the expense, so it made a really nice change. We played Chilean rules Ring of Fire (in my opinion not as good as regular Ring of Fire) and a game called “Octopussy,” which was very enjoyable and hilarious considering that predominantly it was based on the idea of counting to 21. It was generally a really good night; nice to be in good company with a few drinks and to be able to just have fun and relax.

The next morning was a preassigned lazy start, so naturally I was awake and up by about 8 (not sure what has happened to me in these past few weeks), and I opened the door to the room and was greeted by a view that honestly looked like something out of a Disney film: the incredibly blue lake dotted about with boats, backing onto snow-capped mountains in the distance. Hello South America. I went to get some coffee and then sat on the balcony and read my book (kindly given to me by Olivia; God I´ve missed reading), with an overwhelming “my-life-is-incredible” feeling.

Once everyone else was up and about, we went for breakfast before putting into action our predetermined plan to hire a boat and row out to one of the smaller islands nearby. We managed to find a pretty reasonable deal, so stocked up on picnic food (the best kind) and set off. I couldn´t quite believe our luck: had I been the owner of the boat I wouldn´t have trusted a group of 5 Europeans an inch; but I suppose we have to be grateful for these things.

It was another beautiful day, so naturally I spent every other minute topping up on suncream (and still managed to fry my toes and hands), the water was still and clear, and soon enough we pulled up (is that the right terminology for a boat? hmm) to our chosen landing spot. I hopped out and helped pull the boat further up the shore, and we tied it to a bit of scrub for extra security, before taking everything out and heading off to find a picnic spot.

The downside was that it seemed that one of the island´s purposes was for the disposal of rubbish – officially or not, it was unclear – so there was a fair amount of debris scattered about; wine bottles and plastic cups and the like; which did somewhat ruin the ambience. Luckily we managed to find a rubbish-free spot for the picnic on some rocks a little way away, only slightly spoilt by the dead cat strung up in a nearby cave (no clue as to why). It was a lovely lunch nonetheless, and after an enjoyable hour or so eating and chatting and catching the rays, some of us (me) more than others, we set off back, but not before discovering the eucalyptus plantation a little bit further up.

I had a turn at rowing on the way back (and have a miniscule blister to prove it), and Hans and Josh decided it would be really cool to have a quick swim off the boat, which lasted all of 20 seconds, and caused a massive kerfuffle when they had to try and get back in. Amusing.

We got back a thoroughly enjoyable 3 hours after having set off, with the help of Captain Hans (“a bit more Josh… Bit less Olivia”), all worn out from spending so much time in the sun, and went back to the hostel for a quick nap (Ok so I didn´t actually nap, I read Harry Potter in Spanish – did I mention that I bought that?), before scrambling up the hills just in time to catch the sunset (and I really mean just in time; we puffed our way up to the peak just as the sun sank behind the mountains and edged the clouds with gold). It was the perfect way to end the day: we all sat there for a while in silence (partly to catch our breath, I´ll admit), and took some pictures, and generally appreciated how good life was, before preparing to struggle back down for dinner.

It was a much more difficult descent down the mountain (OK, hill) in the dark, but luckily the moon was almost full so our path was pretty much lit. Even so there were a fair few slides and stumbles (admittedly a lot were on my part) before we made it safely to the bottom. The restaurant we chose for dinner led to the discovery, much to my amusement, that they refer to aubergines here as “meat vegetables” (“carne vegetal”). It was a great meal again and I felt very much refreshed by having chosen the vegetarian option (there´s only so much chicken and trout a person can take). It was a great end to two days in paradise.

We all pretty much went straight to bed after dinner, knackered from our day in the sun (it´s a hard life) so we were all ready for the boat the next morning, back to civilisation. All went smoothly (except that the shower decided to stop working, hey ho) and we left on time, all pretty sad to be leaving – me in particular: it was so nice to spend a few days in the company of the same few people, and I will definitely miss that. But life goes on and I ended up having travel issues to occupy that small wistful place in my mind – so you can look forward to hearing about that in the next post…