19.02.2007 - 23.02.2007
Nanette and I made our way to LaPaz by what we we thought was a first class bus. It took much longer than we were told. By now you'd think we would know and expect that. It was a beautiful trip along the lake, but we were fighting about how long to stay in Bolivia. She was ready for more comfortable surrounds, and tired of the seemingly endless bus rides, whereas I wanted to spend more spend time in isolated villages and tramping around in the mountains. This was one of those times when the stress of being on the move in foreign places carried over into our relationship. It's all well and good to talk about compromise, but sometimes in the course of a long journey things break down. At that moment, I saw this as my only opportunity to see this country. I wasn't getting any younger, God Damn It, and I wanted to do all the crazy, physically demanding things I could still do. TIME was limited. I have always pushed myself to go the extra mile to the next village up the road, and well, since Nanette was with me, there were times when she clearly did more than she wanted because of my instigation.
We settled into a cold silence, as the bus stopped for lunch in Copacabana, a resort town and jumping off point for the Isla del Sol. After an hour or so we switched buses for the remainder of the trip. Apparently the bus company in Puno sold more tickets then there were seats, and an argument ensued between the driver and several foreign passengers. A few extra people squeezed in and others decided to spend the night rather than put up with the discomfort. We arrived at the Straights of Tiquina, where Lake Titicaca is essentially split in two. There is no bridge, so we all piled out and and got into a launch which took us on the short trip to the other side.
At the same time our bus was floated across on a barge. It looked precarious, but somehow everything went alright and we re-boarded for the final stretch.
Before getting to the center of LaPaz, we passed through El Alto, which may be one of the few slums of the world to be located higher than the wealthier parts of the city. The reason is simply that at these heights, 4058 meters ,13,000 feet, the people with money want to be where there is more oxygen. By now El Alto is as big as the main city, which is located in a deep canyon below the rim of the Altiplano. It took a while to get through the upper city streets, crowded with women in bowler hats, indigenous men in western dress, and the ubiquitous chicken buses belching black smoke. After the steep decent downtown, we took a cab to the relatively upscale Hotel Rosario, a place I hoped would give us a few amenities. We were not disappointed.
We spent about three days , wandering around the city streets, going to the art and coca museums, and the witchcraft market, with its fake(?) shrunken heads. The city itself had few interesting buildings, but was a mix of cultures due to the large Indian population. We ate at the convenient hotel restaurant a few times, but unfortunately we also went to a middle eastern restaurant which made Nanette ill for several days. Hard to imagine how humous could be bad, but it turned out be.
During our stay here I began to feel less pressured to see everything on one trip. This was not going to be my last opportunity to visit this most impoverished, but fascinating country, and we reached an understanding about our itinerary. We were both very excited about our next stop.