A Vacation Within a Vacation

Trip Start Sep 07, 2011
Trip End Dec 22, 2011

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Friday, November 4, 2011

In addition to the self annointed German philosphers that seem to be multiplying down in these parts, I am discovering another trend as well.   Unbathed white dudes with frizzy dreadlocks have taken it upon themselves to entertain the masses with juggling, bongo drums and the like.   These performers, and I use that term loosely, in their burlap like clownpants set up shop seemingly anywhere, and I don't think they fully realize how ridiculously out of place they look.   That indigenous woman barely scratching out a living ten feet away probably does not give a flip about a repititious bongo beat while she sells candy and water.  

Even more entertaining is watching these guys haul their crap through the jungle, down into Colca Canyon, or from one end of Isla del Sol to the other like today.  I don't know about you, but when I am trying to climb steep hills, the last thing I need at 14,000 feet above sea level is all that dead weight hanging off my backpack whacking me in the ass with each step.  To each his own for sure, but I just wish they'd wash their clothes and bathe so a certain pungent odor is not part of their repartoire.

Bongo drums aside, Isla del Sol really is a la isla bonita paradise, and waiting a day for good weather paid off nicely. This rocky mostly scrub island rises out of the impossibly blue waters of Lake Titicaca.  Random groves of eucalyptus cling to the cliffs and scent the air so nicely I slowed down to deeply breathe it in.   Yes, this is one thing we can all admit to inhaling.   It really is a shame the only eucalyptus most people will ever smell is on one of those decorative sticks from a place like Pier One or some Vicks Vaporub.

Anyone with a bit of stamina and a good set of lungs can enjoy the 6 or so mile hike up, over, and down Isla del Sol.   For hikers the two hour ferry ride from Copacabana drops them off on the north and picks them up 5 hours later in the south.  The roughly four hour trek clears one hill after another right down the island's spine.   The views over the lake and surrounding mainland from the top of the world are worth the effort, and as with anything scenic out there, nothing comes free or easy.  While walking around I couldn't believe that I was hiking at Lake Titicaca, and this place is so unique and different I really felt like I was on a vacation in a vacation.  Ever been somewhere you feel worthy of a magazine spread?   Isla del Sol is indeed one of those places that jumps straight from the pages of National Geographic.

The ferry ride back into Copacabana arrived over an hour late because after an already late departure Bolivia style, we had to return to pick up three old French farts who also decided timeliness isn't all that important.   Twenty minutes out their travelmates discovered these missing buddies and pleaded with the boat driver to return.   OK, how in the hell do you not notice that three of your companions are missing in action while boarding the first time?   I am guessing that the high altitude must exacerbate can't remember crap disease or something. I would have just left their whiney asses behind. Hostels are a 600 foot climb from the docks so no one would be left out in the cold.

I barely made it back in time for my 6:30pm bus to La Paz, but luckily for me nothing in Bolivia seems to run on time.   That sweet spot of relaxation had just found me when all of a sudden the bus came to a stop an hour into the ride.  The lights inside came on, and everyone started to get off as if this were normal.  With no clue what was happening I just blindly followed the crowd hoping this wasn't some primrose path.   Someone told me we needed to buy tickets to cross the river and I began to figure things out.  Cross the river? What River?  I thought we would just keep going around the lake like we had been the past hour.   Purchasing a 20 cent ticket from a booth was the only way to continue the journey across the water. 

The bus drove onto some sort of shakey pontoon that looked like tree trunks lashed together, and I prayed this wasn't the day the water gods would ask for a sacrifice.   Passengers made their way down to another dock with several tiny boats waiting for all of us to cash in our tickets.   Keep in mind the night air was close to 30 degrees and these boats were open air.   This goes down as one of the sketchiest water crossings I have ever made, and I am just thankful my wobbly little boat made it across.  As a side note, I noticed after crossing that the few Bolivians on board the bus never got off it in the first place and just sailed across on the pontoon for free.  

Once on the other side we had to wait about ten minutes for our bus to float across, and a lady frying sausages to music on the street corner brought me down memory lane.  Picture it...Tucson...very early '90s...KRQ's nightly Top 8 at Eight.   By the time the bus rolled up from the pontoon we had only made it to number five of the sausage lady's greatest hits, but I did hear Markie Mark and the Funky Bunch, Vanilla Ice, and Milli Vanilli.   Yes, that Milli Vanilli...Blame it On the Rain on the shores of Lake Titicaca of all places. Which is more painful...some Milli or the guy playing bongo drums nearby? That's a tough one. I was hoping for just a few more minutes to see where O.P.P. would place on the countdown tonight, but the bus was once again here.

About 2 hours later we rolled into La Paz and I made my way to the hotel by taxi.   As it turns out, the hotel gave away my room and I had to then walk a block to the place they had put me instead.  No big deal in the grand scheme of things. The main thing is I made it here safely to continue my travels another day across Bolivia.

How I Got Here:

Perla des Lagos Hotel to Bus - 3 minute walk
Bus from Copacabana to La Paz Bus Station- 4 hours - 25 Bolivianos ($3.80)
Bus Station to Cruz de Los Andes Hotel - 10 minutes - 10 Bolivianos ($1.50)
Cruz de los Andes Hotel to Estrella Andina Hotel - One minute walk

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