Well, we're still in La Paz, but our time here will be up on Friday morning when we head south to Uyuni to tour the salt flats.
We've ended up staying in La Paz longer than expected because of the earthquake in Haiti. Ben has been working pretty much around the clock since it happened and DAP has acheived much success. We did take a short break over the weekend when we took a day trip to Huatajata, a small town on the shores of lake Huayamarca (which we learned is really a part of Lake Titicaca). Although it hailed on us twice, we had a wonderful afternoon. I think the best part of the day, besides the scenery, was our interactions with some of the locals. After lunch (where the only option was eggs because they really only serve trout), we started walking around the lake
. During our walk we encountered several groups of people picnicking and everytime we walked by, we were invited to come sit, eat, drink and chat. Mostly we just chatted and interestingly, in two of our three longer conversations, we were told that the U.S. is harboring Bolivian political regugees, including the last president, and we were asked why. We did not have a good answer. In addition to the topics of discussion being interesting, the dynamics were interesting as well. Most of the conversation took place between myself and whomever spoke Spanish in the group. Didn't they all speak Spanish?, you may be asking. Nope, many of the people in this part of the country, speak Aymara. So, as I would translate in English for Ben, the Spanish speaker would translate in Aymara for everyone else. There was a lot of laughing, especially at Ben and I, but it was all in good fun. On our way back to La Paz, we had to hitch a ride with an elderly couple who charged us more than the bus, but it was a fast comfortable ride back.
While Ben has been working, I've been wandering around La Paz's dizzying streets, up and down steep hills at 13,000 feet. I've also spent a lot of time on the computer, trying to resolve my photo issues. Photo issues? you ask, yes lots of them. Lucky for me, the internet place I found first is run by Angel, my new best friend. The first day I came in, I couldn't get my memory card reader to read my cards
. He offered to help and spent over an hour trying to resolve what seemed to be a virus. He finally salvaged the photos from one card and told me to buy a flash drive on which to save them so I could reformat the card. So, I hiked up to the black market (which is really a misnomer as it is totally above board) and bought an 8 GB drive. The next day, I went back to Angel's place, optimistically started moving photos and only after having lost about 50 photos did I realize they didn't transfer. So, Angel to the rescue. Two hours later, he tells me, the flash drive is bad and that I need to exchange it. So, back up to the market I go, naively thinking it would be a simple retrun. It wasn't. When I got there, the guy who sold it told me he couldn't exchange it without the owner's (he was at the doctor) permission and a technician's word that it was really not functional. He told me to wait a second while he got the technician. Then he tells me to come back in 10 minutes, but I insisted on waiting. Forty-five minutes later, he tells me the technician is gone for the day, but to come back at 11 AM tomorrow. Back I go up the hill at 11 AM at which point I must wait another 30 minutes for the technician who eventually tells me that the drive is fine and that it must be my fault. Disheartened, I returned to Angel's place and told him what happened. He immediately said I'm going back with you and making them change it. So, once again, up the hill where we encounter a similar waiting game. Finally, Angel convinces them to give me a 4 GB as a replacement, so I accepted seeing that as my best option. Back down the hill we go to try the new drive...and...same problem. As it turns out, the brand of the drive does not like photos. So, in the end, I was out $20 and many hours, but I made a new friend. I saved the photos on a CD and will use a new card now. Fortunately, my best photos are up on Picasa so at least they exist.
Tuesday, while Ben worked I decided to go on an excursion to Chacaltaya, a mountain about 2 hours outside of La Paz. The bus takes you most of the way up the mountain on one of those notorious South American mountain roads with narrow switchbacks and no guardrails. Fortunately, we did not have a crazy driver which made it a little less frightening. Unfortunately, we had snow on the road toward the top and that did not ease the nerves. As soon as we got to the lodge at about 16,000 feet, it started hailing. None the less, we started the trek up to the summit. The hail and the clouds made visibility almost nil, so when we got to the top, we couldn't see anything. That's the bad part. The good part was that I was the 3rd person to summit out of our group of 25. Not too shabby! Going down was much harder for me as it was slippery in the snow. I went down on my butt most of the way. When we returned to the lodge, I was happy to learn that the bus started back down the mountain without us because of the weather so we had to walk down a ways to get to it, but that was way better than being on it!
Well, that wraps up another entry. I hope you are all happy and well.