Happy Thanksgiving from La Paz, Boliva
Today has been sort of a day to kinda get used to the altitude. La Paz is situated at the bottom in a bowl shaped valley and is surrounded by snow-capped mountains at a staggering 4,000 meters above sea level. The altitude here is for real, walking up the steps can leave you wondering what type of shape you are in. Our group of six has been reduced today with the departure of Clare, an English girl with a great sense of humor.
I have been traveling the past coupla days with some jokers that I met at my hostel back in Cusco. We get along well and it is like a weird reality show because we started off with 10 people getting on the overnight bus in Cusco to Copacabana and people keep gettin knocked off. We changed buses in Puno, Bolivia and had to take an immunity challenge. Actually, we prolly had to challenge our immunity systems because trying to figure out what in the hell the menu really meant and what we were gonna get was pretty dicey. For example, what in the heck is "Prepared Give Chicken" or "Trout to the Vapor" or "Sweater Gives Trout."
I decided on coffee and ate some crushed Oreos outta my backpack.
We arrived and passed through Peruvian immigration without any hassles, except for the kid that kept on insisting to shine my sandals. Im like, "what are ya gonna shine, they're plastic" My passport stamped and a pocketful of Bolivianos I walked across the border to Bolivian immigration. No probs and we continued to Copacabana. We exit the bus at Copacabana on Lake Titicaca and the sharks started to swirl. These sharks or wolves hang out near the bus station and pressure you to come to your hotel. It is unbelievable how much these guys surround and pressure you to make a decision right then. Two sharks devoured two of our group members. And then there were eight.
The problem with a large group of gringos is that making a decision is a monumental task. Like eating lunch. We walked around for 20 minutes in this small town with our 20 or 25kg packs and are like "ummmmm...i like this place...what do you think about this place...naw, this place doesn't look good, lets go here...naw, im not hungry for pizza" Getting lunch was kinda just the start of our functional dysfunctional reality family. After boating to the Isla del Sol on Lake Titicaca we had to hike uphill from the dock to our hostel. Instead of settling on the first one that looked reasonable "we" decided to hike to the top of the island because the Lonely Planet guide recommended it. Note to self: just cause the guide recommends something doesn't mean hiking 45 minutes with heavy packs over uneven donkey manured covered dirt steps. But we did. We stayed at the Templo del Sol for the cost of a meager 13 Bolivanos. About 1.50USD. The view was well worth the hike and the sunsets are something out of a postcard or poster.
So the next day our functional dysfunctional reality family decided to hike the Isla del Sol. Corrine from Canada wasn't feelin so well so she decided to retire back to the hostel while the seven of us carried on. The quietness and serenity of Lake Titicaca was great. Many times you hear just your footsteps along the dry trail and the wind whipping through your jacket. The weather here is strange. It can be burning hot in the sunlight and quite chilly in the shade. But its all good. The blueness of the lake seemed outta place in the bland brown desert that I have seen throughout Peru and Bolivia. The emerald color was a breath of refreshment. So we walked along the trail and came across two checkpoints where there were guys selling tickets to see some ruins. The first ticket we thought would allow us entry into the Inca Sacrificial Table so we handed over our 10Bs and walked on. Then we came to another checkpoint and there was another joker selling tickets to see the same Inca Ruins. He said that the ticket that we had purchased earlier was for a museum that was in Copacabana and we had to purchase this 5Bs ticket to see the ruins. Some of the guys didn't have as much patience as I did and were saying some smart remarks about getting taken advantage of. But it was like 75 cents so it prolly wasn't worth getting all heated up about. The Inca ruins were pretty cool, we walked through them and then continued on to get some lunch about an hour later.
The lunchtime conversation was pretty interesting. One thing I have noticed in my travels is there are lots of people who talk passionately about things they have no idea about. Even if people don't know very much about something they will continue to talk about it as if they do. And fight for it. Some jokers never really take the time to ask someone who might have some experience in the situation. For example, back on the Inca Trail there was a discussion about the size of Machu Picchu and then what exactly is an acre and a hectare. This conversation continued for about 10 minutes before the guys realized there was a farmer from the States who might know a little bit more then they do and then asked him. He gave the correct answer while rolling his eyes. Well, the same thing happened during our lunch when our functional dysfunctional reality family began to talk about computers, email, the Internet and security on the Internet. No one thought about asking the guy who has a Masters in MIS what he thought about privacy and email. Oh well, at least the asparagus soup was good.
That was the only thing that got on my nerves. The group that toured the island was great. Lots of good conversation, smart remarks from English fellas about English fellas and comments about Americans by Americans and by English fellas. We come from a lot of different backgrounds and seem to always make light of any situation and be able to crack a joke at the drop of a hat.
We departed the Isla del Sol after staying two nights and caught the bus to La Paz. Two more members of our functional dysfunctional reality family were gonna make there way to Cusco. And then there were six. The bus ride was kinda long. We thought we were gonna get the nice semi-cama bus but ended up getting the 4-55 bus. Four windows down and 55 miles per hour bus was the only way to cool off the 40 passengers. We were stuffed in there.
We arrived into La Paz with no problems and had to walk around a little bit to find our hostel. Our functional dysfunctional reality family checked out a few hostels and had a great idea. We all dumped our backpacks at the first hostel when we found it was full and checked out a few hostels on foot without the burden of a pack that screams tourist. The difference in quality from hostel to hostel can be pretty major, it can be anything from the Ritz to the "We Dont Tell Motel." We settled somewhere in between and dumped our packs at Hostel La Blanquito for the low price of 30Bs per night. About 3.50USD. This is a good hostel...well, any hostel that doesn't have someone offering you weed as you walk in is a good hostel in my book.
Things here in Bolivia are a great value for the tourist. Hostels are inexpensive, haircuts are like a dollar and the food you get for the money is incredible. Last night the six of us had a huge Middle-Eastern type meal with wine and dessert for about 5.50USD each. That wont even get you a value meal at McDonald's. I love food...whoever invented food, I love em...
anyways, this blog entry is getting a little too long and Im hungry again.
This weekend looks to be lots of fun....walking tour and professional mountain biking exhibition on Sat, soccer on Sun, and mountain biking on Tuesday...This is gonna be epic.
catch you all on the flip side - - - jp