Monday, July 31, 2006

puno, copacabana, la paz, cochabamba

the heart strings drew me back to coch. i didn{t plan to, really, but i couldn{t resist. being a mere 10 hours away by bus was too much. i convinced s. that it would be restful and good to be in our little home here, with mom and all the old friends and memories.

puno is on the peru side of lake titicaca and it was freezing. we only stayed there long enough to recover from the 10 hour train ride from cuzco and to spend a day in a sauna that we were providentially led to to steam out our dried, freezing bodies.

then we caught a bus to the other side of the lake, to copacabana. on the way we crossed the border and got bolivia stamps in our passports. ahhhhh. things are just better in bolivia.

in copa we chilled out and hiked isla del sol like tradition would dictate. i also got to make a little pilgrimage to my favorite beach of all time (all pebbles and clear water). the 2.5 hour hike back to the south end of the island nearly killed s., as she is my kindred spirit and had foolishly picked up a large rock that was truly lovely and HAD to be brought back with us.

we met some nice colombian guys that sell handmade jewelry itinerantly. sharon got to dance and i got to try to dance. a fun game of pool. some austrian lads who had stuff in common with us: one went to the same high school as s. while on an exchange to the u.s., the other lived in ecuador on an exchange the same year that i did (the year that 9-11 happened).

i had to make a run back to puno to get our bags because we had originally planned to only make a quick 2 day trip to copacabana and then continue on into southern peru and arequipa. but then the pull toward bolivia was too much so the bags we{d left at the hotel had to be retrieved. the result was that the day after i entered bolivia, i returned to peru and then returned to bolivia. as a result i spent almost the whole day (3.5 hours each way) on the bus. when i got back to puno i strangely was offered a tricycle (sorta like a rickshaw) ride by the same guy who showed us to our hotel room the day before. he remembered me and offered to take me back to get the bags. what a hair-raising ride, dodging cars, making right turns from left lanes, near misses...

so we got the bags (s. and i have been shopping too much, i guess, even though i decided against the wonderful red poncho).

back to the bus station, board the bus, but when the bus drove away, we weren{t 4 blocks out from the station when i heard a terrible crunch.

turns out we{d just hit one of those tricycles that clog the streets of puno (they{re not that common anywhere else, strangely). the driver-pedaler was knocked to the street. the cop and his dog who were the passengers were unharmed. as i peeked out the back window of the bus i saw them climbing out, unharmed, but the driver was reeling, holding his head as he tried to stand up.

our bus driver seemed to be trying to sneak away, but eventually we returned to the scene of the accident and he got out and went to talk to someone. was the driver ok? some people said that he died, others that he had been taken to the hospital. i couldn{t see anything from my seat.

i said a prayer for the poor man who had either lost his means of income, or else his life.

but i was also concerned for myself, since i was in a race against time to get back to the border before the immigration office closed.

eventually we had to return to the station and board a new bus, since the one we}d been on was held up indefinitely. the passengers were bonding and chatting as a result of this common misfortune and the disaster we{d witnessed. i liked the girls i{d been sitting by but on the second bus a guy decided that he should sit by me and get to know me even better. i responded to some of his questions but soon had to halt the inquisition by handing him the novel by mario vargas llosa that i{d just finished. he read obediently until it got dark. then i got him to explain the peruvian political situation to me.

it was dark by the time i made it back to the border. i got the peru exit stamp but on the bolivia side the officials were locking the stamps in their desks and said i would have to come back tomorrow. well, at least i was allowed to physically enter the country. i didn{t really know what the rules were.

the shared taxi from the border to copa was filled with a bunch of men, which made me quite nervous. once i felt comfortable that i wasn{t going to be kidnapped, i started eavesdropping on their conversation. i didn{t really get it but it sounded like they were just coming from some sort of lefty conspiratorial meeting. they discussed the politics and leadership of the group and their next "action" and how soon it should come.

interestingly, the next day when i travelled back to the border to get the passport stamped, the bus encountered a road blockade, which consisted of small and very large boulders pushed into the road by lots of campesinos. the taxi driver managed to talk to a couple of the people and they obliged and rolled a couple of rocks out of the way. i asked the driver what the road block was protesting, and he told me it was because the catholic leadership had forbidden smaller communities to exist independently, and made them merge into a larger unit (or something).

so i think i got to see what the "action" was that those men had been discussing the day before.

other highlights:
-finding the streets of la paz almost completely blocked by a massive, day-long parade for "la entrada universitaria"
-looking for our colombian friends in the calle de las brujas (a touristy street that was probably more famous in the past for its witchcrafty wares including llama fetuses--which can still be found for sale)
-taking a bus from la paz to cochabamba, and YES! they played a rambo movie!! and a van damme movie too!!
-there was a darling little puppy across the aisle from us on the bus and the owners let us hold him and we got doggie kisses!
-the trip was made even more adventurous by a drug bust. apparently a woman tipped off the police at a checkpoint and the next thing you know the bus was swarming with police, their drug detecting equipment, and a sniffing dog. later, i got to see the three bags of stuff get cut open and checked, too. i have never seen anything like this before.

now we are in cochabamba and it is so nice to be here. it is dusk. from this internet cafe, i can look down into the valley and see the lights twinkle. dogs are barking, and it is not very cold. in fact, i am wearing shorts because i just washed my very filthy and only pair of jeans.

(sorry i cannot post pictures--i will have a huge job cut out for me when i return to civilization. also, sorry this post is long and not terribly well-written.)

hasta luego.


Wikkid Person said...

Now that was a fun post to read...

eatyurveggies said...

sooo... do you have anything to add about your favorite beach on isla del sol?