Towering over Lake Titicaca.
After bumming around Cusco for a couple of days and considering my
many options i decided to join Jason and Liam (you might remember them
from my Salkantay trek) in traveling south thru Western Bolivia. My
goal...to try and reach Salta Argentina before i run out of time and
money. Buenos Ares is out of the question this trip, i had to change my
return ticket to come back to NYC some three weeks earlier than i had
originally intended due to money constraints. Having done that i
figured i would try to squeeze in as much as possible in the three
weeks i had left.
So yes, Cusco. We had dinner at Paddy's and toasted the great
town. As far as Peru goes it was by far the coolest place i stayed.
Sadly i think Paddy's got me sick that night for soon afterwards my
travelers ailment returned.
We caught a 1030pm bus bound for Copacabana
Bolivia situated on
the eastern bank of Lake Titicaca
, the highest elevated navigable lake
in the world.
In South America you get what you pay for so... seeing as
how we got tickets for the cheapest non stop Cama(bus) we would find
this would turn out to be the worst bus ride of my life.
Firstly the bathroom on the 10 hour ride was out of order. Ok,
fine, im a grown man i can hold it. Around 1am the bus temperature
dropped to just above freezing. We huddled under thick blankets, fully
clothed, shivering. The bus driver, schooled on the lawless roads of
Peru and Bolivia took hairpin turns and bumps with reckless abandon
turning a bus ride into a turbulence filled flight into darkness.
"Sleep" was a semi waking state that afforded little to no rest. What
else is new tho? I have spent more time on buses than in deep REM sleep
since my arrival to South America.
Now, i don't want ya'll to think im constantly complaining. Far
form it, you learn to accept these things while on the road, as the
comforts of home melt away into stark third world reality.
This is all
just a part of the experience.
At some point before dawn our skillful and intrepid driver
slaughtered a donkey with his lumbering death mobile. Pieces of meat
slammed into the windshield, splintering it into a cobweb of glass, the
front bumber flew off, and the back tire blew out. We sat on the road
for an hour, mostly clueless and oblivious as the driver jury rigged
When traveling in South America you learn to not be surprised by
anything. So when we were ushered off of our "non-stop" bus at 6 am, we
didnt as much as raise a peep in protest. Those of us bound for
Copacabana were transferred to a run down mini bus where...we sat and
waited, cold, tired and confused... for god knows what. I couldnt stop
my guts from twisting and (if you are squeamish about bowel movements
or if you feel like i shouldn't even be mentioning them in detail
please skip to the next paragraph) convulsing, so i jumped out the bus
into the brown dusty village by the road.
Boats on the lake.
Finding a decrepit wall and a
bucket i did my solemn duty. I don't think i was really ever alive
until that point, sitting on a slop bucket in the frozen morning dawn
in the Peruvian country side. I wonder how long it will take me to stop
making sure i have toilet paper in my knapsack when i return to NYC.
Next stop the Bolivia/Peru boarder. The military stationed there,
straight out of a bad 80's movie about dictators, took great relish in
extracting the $135 visa fee that only Americans pay from me. Then,
upon learning that i did not have my yellow fever vaccination (which is
required if you go down into the Bolivian lowlands) i was ushered
before yet another cinema cliche, a fat, older, gravely voiced, cigar
chomping colonel or whathaveyou where i was in formed that visa fee of
not i would not be allowed into the country. I heard "Cien Dollares"
mentioned and getting the hint i bribed the fat batard with a hundred
My entry into Bolivia having gone extremely well i climbed back
into yet another mini bus dejectedly, and we were off to Copacabana.
is a lake
located on the border of Peru
It sits 3,812 meters above sea level, making it one of the highest
commercially navigable lakes in the world. By volume of water, it is
also the largest lake in South America
'Isla del Sol' is an island in the southern part of Lake Titicaca.
There are over 80 ruins on the island. Most of these date to the Inca
period circa the 15h century AD. Archaeologists have discovered
evidence that people lived on the island as far back as the third
millennium BCE. In the religion of the Incas, it was believed that the sun god was born here.
Laka Titicaca...magnificent. Not so much the settlements that dot
the borders, but the crisp blue waters themselves.
The Bolivian Navy flexing its muscles.
Situated at over
3,800 meters you can see Andean snow caps upon it's far banks.
We arrived too late for the boat bound for our destination, the Isla
Del Sol, so i decided we hire a private boat. The locals wanted
300 bolivianos for the trip, but we were pretty broke, and the one ATM
in town did not take any of our cards, so using the skills we learned
in our time in South America (haggle haggle haggle) we got the price
dropped to 60 bol and set out on a 90 minute boat ride to the island.
The isla turned out to be a small island, elevated over the lake,
with some stunning views. Dark blue waters flowed into bright blue sky, lit by some of the clearest sunlight ive ever seen. In the distance
snowcapped giants stood guardian over the lake. We spent the day
lounging around in front of our cliffside hostel, drinking cervesas and
taking in the view. For a few moments it seemed like South America was
behind us and we were chillin in the Virgin Islands.
We´re on a muthafuckin boat!
forth a vast array of bleeding colors, and the snow capped giants
turned from pink to purple and then faded into dusk.
The next morning we took an early boat off the island and headed
for La Paz, Bolivia, where i hoped to find some cheap sunglasses to
replace those i wreaked, and a doctor to cure my ailing stomach.
La Paz, Bolivia is located at an elevation of 3,660 meters above sea level
, making it the world's highest capital city.
The city sits in a "bowl" surrounded by the high mountains of the altiplano
. As it grows, La Paz climbs the hills, resulting in varying elevations
from 3,000 meters to 4,100 meters.
La Paz coming in from El Alto.
Ah La Paz, what can i say about you that isn't mean and hurtful? You
have a beautiful mountain looming over your shithole of a city. You
have wonderful exhaust fumes clogging the air. Your Witches Market is a
nightmarish maze of dead meat and fake logos. You...
Ah screw it. I hate this city. In fact i might do a little dance of joy
when my bus rolls out tomorrow. No where else in South
America that ive visited has the division of wealth been so starkly illuminated. The
city sits in a crater or bowl, and all the money resides in the deepest
depths, away from the breathtaking altitude. The rich push the poor
into the outskirts, so much so that a new city is forming on the edges
of the carter, aptly named El Alto.
While the rich live amongst a strange mix of old spanish colonial
buildings, well trimmed parks, garish modern condos and tall glass office buildings the
poor inhabit the same type of squalor found every where else in Bolivia
and Peru. It's sickening to experience. Altho the downtown is clean and
modern it is kept that way on the stooped and bent backs of the poor,
who literally scrape the ground on hands and knees. So it is no surprise
whatsoever that every day ive been here thousands of poor workers have
taken to the streets in traffic clogging protest. The are protesting
wages of $80 a month, the gendrification of their downtown, and the
clean well dressed Spaniards who look down upon them in contempt.
Fair enough, i say.
Anyway, enough for now. Enjoy the pictures from Lake Titicaca. next Stop, the Salt Flats of Bolivia, Salar de Uyuni.