Friday, April 2, 2010

Copacabana and La Isla del Sol and crossing the border

how they fry an egg in a stall in Uyuni

We took the most aweful bus ride ever back to La Paz from Uyuni. My seat was broken and wouldn´t stay back, the road was unpaved and we were thrown towards the ceiling as we sped over bumps from our position in the last row on the bus. We arrived in La Paz early and cranky on Palm Sunday where processions were going on in honor of the holiday.

nice palm fronds

sweet robes!!!

We found a cafe and then stumbled upon a giant Sunday market with live performances, food, and artisenal goods. This is where I finally purchased my poncho!!! We then headed to the tour office where we booked our rafting trip where we returned to complain about the blue plastic bags of death and to pick up our free t-shirts. After a quick sausage sandwhich we headed for the bus where our chariot awaited us to bring us to Copacabana.

Our chariot turned out to be a very small bus with only about ten rows filled with gringos, and our luggage was stored on top instead of below the bus. The first leg of the journey was a nice trip through the thouroughly terraced hills outside of La Paz. We then arrived at a port where we got of the bus and bought tickets for a ferry for 1.50 Bolivianos. We got on one ferry and our bus got on another!! We watched in astonshment as the whole bus drove onto the ferry and we met it on the other side!!

I´m not sure if it came out but our boat´s name was Helen Go! (my middle name)

our bus embarking on the floating part of its journey with all our stuff on top

an indiginous pride statue at the port where we arrived
Bolivian indiginous pride is in stark contrast to the Argentine´s interpretation of things as seen below

statue in the plaza principal in a small town in the north of Argentina...indian groveling at the feet of a dignified

Copacabana is a nice little sea port town, and when we got off the bus we were greeted by the usual array of people shouting their offers for tours, hostels and tickets. We found a sweet deal with one lady who offered a room for 15 Bolivianos each and a free taxi ride to the hostel. We were sold. The town is nice, has lots of fresh trout filled restaurants and is a little more relaxing than other Bolivian towns. At this point we were kinda tired of Bolivia. Its not exactly the easiest place to travel and we were tired of how unfriendly the people are and how dismal the service industry is. You pay a lot and recieve nothing...
The onda was a little better here and we booked a boat ride over to the Isla del Sol, an island that was very important to the Inca culture and supposedly the birth place of the Inca culture itself. There are supposed to be ruins on the island, I say supposed to because we never saw them.
We found out after we had speant most of our money that there is no ATM in Copacabana and scrounged together enough to get there and back again and to pay the tarrif for the south and the north ends of the island. We arrived in the afternoon after it had rained all morning and set off up the steep ancient stairs.

Josh hiking up ancient stairs next to an ancient water drain

Because we had no cash we brought our tent for some free camping. We shared the burden as we made the beautiful hike to the North end of the Island taking in how the people live here as they have lived for hundreds of years.
The shepards and their sheep, and the young boys and girls with their pigs, llamas and donkeys and three or so stray hikers were they only living things we passed as we raced the sun across the island.
Lake Titicaca in the background

We strayed from the path and asked a young shepard for help and he guided us down to the town where we would camp the night. We set up camp and were soon accosted by a group of small female terrorits in the form of pre-pubesent girls who tried to steal our bread and asked Josh if he was going to rape me that night. There was nothing appropriate about that. Their runny noses were cute at first and then they all tried to pile into the tent and rolled on top of me in a flurry of giggles and I had to physically keep them from taking our bread and to get them out of the tent. Like all Bolivians they assumed that were made of money and had plenty that we should share with them. Little did they know that bread, some tuna and a little bit of PB&J was all that separated us from starving. They finally left us in peace.
The view from our tent was incredible. The lake is vast and in the background we could see snowy mountains as an incredibly large moon rose in the middle of the view. Blue rays of light rose outwards from the horizon and it was an awe inspiring sight until the storm clouds moved over the scene and we retreated into our tent. The last inapropriate harrasment we recieved was when our tent was surrounded by young kids and someone asked us if we wanted a prostitute but then they left us alone as we played cards and paranoidly jumped at every sound the wind made thinking they were back to harass us!
It started to rain at around 10 pm but the tent kept us dry till around 10 am the next day when it became saturated and water started to puddle around the edges. In my wallet we had: two one dollar bills, twenty Bolivianos, and a fake twenty Argentine pesos that I had kept since a taxi driver slipped it to me at three in the morning after we got back from the last beach tournament. It was still raining and the prospects of hiking back to the south side to try and see some ruins that we probably couldn´t pay to see didn´t seem like the best option so we gave a young boat driver our half counterfit selection and took the two hour trip back to Copacabana relieved not to be stuck on the Isla del Sol forever...
With our debit card we warmed up over lasana and tea and then hopped on a bus and headed for the border...

a side note on my generalizations about the Bolivian people:
I always try not to generalize a people, but as a person myself its hard not to, and even harder in Bolivia. The people seemed depressed and desperate. They are very proud of Evo Morales, the first indiginous president Bolivia has ever had, but they still remain a poor land locked country (their coast was stolen by bratty bullying Chile) and the many recources that exist there are most often taken advantage of by foreign investers.
On the way back to Uyuni we passed a town that had been completely relocated by an US mining company after rich silver deposits were discovered. Turns out the people had been building their homes with silver for years and had no clue. Their whole town and even their church was made of rocks full of silver and it was all rebuilt a little ways away. These people have a nice town and jobs in the mine, but as usual someone from the US is making the real profit and the real money is leaving Bolivia. That is a bummer...
However, it is very tiring to constantly fight for lower prices and worse when you hear of other people getting the same service you fought to receive a lower price for for less than you did. In the street the people do not meet your eyes and when they bumb into you they ignore your and keep going. There are not so many smiles from strangers and when we asked questions of people about what some food was or a clarification for something the response was often a one word grunt and often not in relation to what we had asked about (serious language barrier). There are no acts of random kindness, and no kindness in general. I´m not sure what the reasons for this are, but we were releaved to leave Bolivia where everything is a struggle. Even leaving Bolivia was a struggle!!!
At the border, the guards gave us a hard time because we were never given back this slip of paper when we entered the country becaue the office in Villazon was a crazy mess. They told us no problem, just fill it out again. When we had done that they said, ok, now give us twenty bolivianos each. I wanted to say: listen I have seven bolivianos, your stupid town doesnt´have a cash machine, the bank is literally open for like two hours a day, never when i am there, and no one ever gave me this slip of paper so i shouldn´t have to pay this stupid fine to begin with!! and I can´t even if I wanted to!!!!! I watched as an Israeli guy eventually threw his fine at the officer and ruined Isrealis reputations abroad even further and decided a different couse would proably work out better for us. I stayed really calm, and explained our situation to five different people in spanish. At first they said, fine, just leave! but they wouldn´t give us the stamp. I´m not sure how leaving Bolivia without an exit stamp will affect my status here, and its not like I¨m rushing back but I still figured that if I ever wanted to come back I would need that stamp.They finally called over this guy they called the profe which is a term of respect for the guy in charge and I explained our situation to him again, finally this other guy said, yea villazon (where we had entered) is a mess. With a nod form the profe they gave us the stamp, and as the stamper took our passports with a resigned look on his face he said, ok but give me those seven bolivianos, so i did, whatever, it was worth a dollar, and we hightailed it out of there and ran the 300 meters of no where land to the Peruvian side!

We arrived in Arequipa Peru and felt instantly wonderful. They peole are full of kindness, the language is easy to understand, and when we ask what a food or drink is they smile and give us a free sample so we can see for ourselves...we love it here!! But that´s for another post!


Shelley Rolf said...

we love to read about your travels - your descriptions are great. besos to you both.

Ann Behar said...

I glad I'm hearing all of this after the fact. A mother can only take so much!