February 26, 2006

Held Hostage in La Paz

Well, I finally let Cuzco after a long stint there! Two of the girls from the hostal insisted on accompanying me out to the bus station to see me off, which was very nice of them. Boarded the coach (which looked nothing like its fancy picture on the companys brochure, by the way!) at 10:00p.m. and settled down for the llllong journey to Puno. Fell asleep almost immediately but then KING KONG came on and lucky me was sitting right next to the speaker!! Aghghghghghg. Thank GOD for MP3 players - I stuck my earphones in for the next 8 hrs!
Arrived in Puno at 6a.m. and stumbled into the station looking for coffee or anything containing a stimulant to keep me going for the next few hours while I waited for my connection to Copacobana. Watched the sun rise over Lake Titicaca as I tried to chew a dried up chocolate pancake and chatted with a Norwegian girl whom i{d met on the bus. The journey to the Bolivian border took a couple of hours. Once we reached the frontier we all had to get off the bus, get our exit stamp from Peru and then walk across the border to Bolivian Immigration. It was good to be out in the fresh air for a few minutes and I finally started to wake up a bit. All back on the bus again for the short ride to Copacobana. Once we arrived, I sussed out a lovely hostal which cost me only $5 for the night. For that, I had a lovely spacious room with own bathroom and breakfast! Bargain. Was very disappointed to find that YET AGAIN there was no hot water.
Instead of climbing into bed, I decided to push on through the tiredness and booked a tour for 1:30 to visit Isla del Sol on Lake Titicaca. It was exactly what the doctor ordered. The lake is a spectacular sapphire blue colour, and that particualr day, was very calm and serene. As the boat bobbed back and forth on the waves, the lake winked and flashed in the sun, and a tremendous sense of calm came over my frazzled body. At that altitude, you feel as if you could almost stretch out your arm and pluck the sun out of the sky. I, of course, forgot (having spent almost 3 weeks indoors sick) how easy it is to get sunburnt at this height and slowly fried in the afternoon sun. Isla del Sol was beautiful, although we just had an hour to explore. It, and nearby Isla de Luna, are believed to be the birthplace of the Incan civilization and there are many lovely ruins to see there. Not in the mood for much of that, I climbed to a high point on the island and played with some local children. I gave them presents of the many finger puppets Ihad been cajoled into buying in Cuzco. You{d think Id given them gold! They were so happy.
Th next day, after a much needed 12 hr sleep, I was up and rearing to go again! After a short wander around the town (which is v small) I hopped on a bus bound for La Paz. As the bus wound its way up the hills, we were able to see Lake Titicaca in all its glory. Its huge!! At one point, the road ends and we all had to get on a little motor boat to take us across the lake, while the coach drove on to this rickety looking wooden craft which looked as if it would almost certainly sink! The crossing was very short and a small bridge would really take care of the problem, but I suppose maybe they cant afford to build one...
Arrived in La Paz yesterday evening at around 6ish. The carnival was in full swing and we were literally dumped into the traffic choked streets wth our bags! All around us devilish looking masks leered at us and waterbombs were fired through the air. I tried as quickly as I could to find my bearings and made off in a particular direction, hoping it was the right one. Thankfully, it was and before long I found the street I was looking for. In Copacobana, I made myself a promise that when I got to La Paz I was going to splurge and book a hotel as I hadnt had a hot shower in over a month. The place I{m Staying in is costing $25 a night (the equivalent of 5 nights accomdoation just for some hot water! but its sooooo worth it!) I hopped into the shower straight away and stood there for about an hour! Bliss!
This morning I met a lovely English couple at breakfast and we ended up spending 2 hours chatting.They are both photographers and their favourite place is Cuba. Ruth is 60 and Mike 72. He{s a jazz musician. Had a very interesting morning talking to them. They{ve been everywhere and had lots of great stories! After breakfast I headed out into the streets looking forward to a day of sightseeing and exploring. Ten minutes later I was back in my room soaked to the bone and changing my clothes! You cannot go out into the streets today unless you dont mind getting wet! EVERYWHERE people are throwing water, buckets from balconies, kids with supersoakers, waterbombers! Its great fun, but considering the fact that Im just over a chest infection I thought it wiser not to get stuck in. So, along with a lot of other tourists, I am a hostage in my hotel today. Its so crazy here, even the staff in the hotel are throwing water at each other!
Tomorrow night, I leave for Potosi to see the silver mines. Apparently, its a terrible experience but worth doing, according to most travellers Ive met whove come that way. Seeing as I{m so close I might as well check it out!

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