A Travellerspoint blog

6.26: Back to Peru

La Paz to Arequipa

This morning I woke up with a long to-do list, before the 12 hour bus ride ahead of me. Get the laundry, grab one more souvenir, go to Fed-Ex and mail them all home, pack up, eat (I had a delicious papas rellena, a potato stuffed with carne)
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Then it was time to go!
I made it to the bus station just in time!
We had bought our tickets a day earlier- a direct bus from La Paz to Copacabana, then we'd switch buses before heading to Puno and on to Arequipa where we would arrive around 2:30 in the morning.

We got to the bus station and turned in our tickets. The woman looked our tickets up and down. There was a problem. Of course. There is always a problem. They didn't know where our bus was or if it even existed for us. Finally they put us on a new bus with a new ticket that was said to be the exact same. We boarded the bus and looked around to see that it was only a quarter full. We were stoked and smiling as we pulled away from the station. We headed down the road for a good 30 minutes and abruptly stopped on the side of some run-down street corner. I thought this was a direct bus? The driver got out and started announcing "Bus to Copacabana!". This went on for about 40 minutes as the bus filled up beyond capacity. People stood in the aisles clutching giant bags of oranges and bread, a man stood at the front of the bus a preached about Jesus for a long 15 minutes, trying to persuade us to buy his literature and my tolerance quickly depleted.
Through our three hour bus ride, people would, randomly, approach the driver and ask him to pull over so they could disembark. I had never heard of this practice before. Normally you don't get to pick where you get off, but what perplexed me even further was where these people were stopping. Older people, around 70 years old, would exit in the middle of no where. No town, no buildings, not even a side road in sight. Where were they going?! Did each one of them have their own underground bunker?! Were they the ones hiding Osama?! I had many questions.

Finally we reached Copacabana. We were supposed to have an hour to eat before our next bus ride, but, because of the many unplanned stops, we had twenty minutes to locate and consume food. We walked to the closest thing resembling food, a fast-food, fried chicken joint, and inhaled our and waited at the bus stop.
The ticket man notified us that, instead of a bus, we would be riding in a 15 passenger, jalopy van, to the boarder, 40 minutes ahead, and then we would transfer to a big bus from there. I was the first person in line as the van pulled up next to me. As I hoisted my bag up to the luggage container on the top of the van, I was, literally, thrust out of the way, without a word, by a man who, apparently, "needed" to sit in the front row of the van. I was shocked. I've never been so blatantly disrespected, especially physically, by a man, over a seat in a van! Hot, hungry, and short-fused, I was seconds away from turning the van into a wrestling ring, when the little angel on my shoulder popped up (I call her 'mom') and reminded me that I am in a foreign country and that this fight may be more trouble than it's worth. I told myself to take a deep breath and Rosa Park my ass in the back of the van.

After the border, we switched to a large bus featuring two lovely ladies whose Armageddon was our reclining seats. No one else on the bus had a problem with the reclining seats but these ladies proceeded to kick our chairs and scream sweet nothings in our ears. It was an overnight bus and I was determined to get some sleep in the reclining seats we purchased for such an occasion. Another glorious surprise was the temperature of the bus, or lack of temperature. I had a t-shirt, fleece jacket, snowboarding jacket, pants, knee-high socks, shoes, and gloves and I still felt like I was living in an igloo. The few moment of sleep that I was fortunate to get between the knees in my back and the chattering of my teeth featured dreams of new travels.. To the article tundra.. in my bikini.

I was relieved when we finally reached Arequipa at 2:30am and was more than ready for a speedy cab ride to the hostel with a warm bed to rest my head.

But can it ever be that easy? Oh no. We had already endured a hellish bus ride and, as the saying goes 'when it rains, it pours'. We got a taxi as we stepped off the bus and I was armed with the address of the hostel which the cab driver seemed to recognize immediately. Five minutes into the ride to our hostel, the cab driver unexpectedly pulls over, gets out, and starts to examine the exterior of the vehicle. We had a flat.
Although I would have love to ditch this broke-down piece-of-crap-mobile for the next cab that came along, he had strategically pulled over on a small street where there were no signs of life. We stood there, patiently waiting, at three am, on the side of the road, for him to change the tire.
We were off again. He pulls over, once again, on a hectic street with no signs and few lights and informs us that we have arrived. I told him that he must be mistaken because the address was #100 and the building we were in front of was #106, displayed, clearly, for him to see. To me, this was an unarguable point, he seemed to disagree. I told him the name of our hostel and asked him to drive down the block a little further. Normally, I would have sucked it up and walked myself, however, I didn't want to take the chance of walking down the street at 3am with all of our bags and potentially being stranded no where near our hostel.
Instead of heeding my advice, he decided that his time would be better spent pacing up and down the street, surveying the area. He finally got back into the cab and tried to tell me that the unlit, closed door, with no sign was indeed where I needed to be. Having done my research on the hostel, I had already seen pictures of the building, so I knew this was not true. After some forceful coaxing, I eventually convinced him to circle the block. He turned across the median of the busy street, proceeded forward as instructed, and then, abruptly, changed his mind. He no longer wanted to go forward. He was now in a reverse kind of mood.
This would have been mildly acceptable, had we been on a small street, or if it had even been the correct direction. However, we were on a busy street with cars flying at us at 40mph and honking and we were going the wrong way! After increasing the decibels in my voice a few more notches, sounding like a squawking goose, he finally put the car in drive. Still our hostel was no where. He erratically pulled over and knocked on one of the unlit doors. A drowsy Peruvian answered with no idea of where our hostel was either. But it just so happened that the man ran a hostel and said that he had a room available for us if we couldn't find our hostel. At 3:30 in the morning, it was a sign.. And we gladly took it. Goodnight.

Posted by emichele 10:18 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

6.25: La Paz, Bolivia

Shopping in La Paz

Today was souvenir shopping day. I walked all over La Paz's shopping district to look for goodies.
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We walked through an area called 'The Witches Market', a section of town filled with mystical booths run by witches, gypsies, or whatever you choose to label them. Superstitious shops filled with candles symbolizing everything from money to love, sex and power, potions, oils, ceremonial trinkets, and best of all- aborted llama fetuses! Yes, you heard right. Apparently, they use them in their rituals. I wonder which lucky blog-reader will get an aborted llama fetus for a souvenir? One can only hope!
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We moseyed down the street, admiring the sidewalk displays fish, meat and fruit next to bracelets, earrings, light bulbs, and car batteries, whatever your heart desires. "I'll have some fresh fish with a side of battery acid please!" You guys are getting HOOKED UP with souvenirs!

We ducked into a salchicha for lunch. A salchicha is the Bolivian version of an empanada, each one more delicious than the last.
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I headed back into the chaos for a few more trinkets and postcards. I found myself in an artsy little antique store that happened to feature a very intriguing cigar section. The woman who ran the shop was Cuban and had access to a steady supply of cubano cigars. Now, I'm no cigar smoker but, when in Rome (or Bolivia, for that matter). I bought the cigar and put it away for safe keeping until the bar hopping began later that night.
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We headed to this bar that was recommended to us a few days earlier, called Musik.
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It had a futuristic, clean, jazzy vibe and I started with a shot of tequila in its honor.
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Next was a rose martini which included champagne, raspberry vodka and a real rose petal floating on top.
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We sat out on the patio overlooking La Paz and enjoyed the martini and Cuban in Bolivian bliss.
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Posted by emichele 10:09 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

6.24.10: La Paz, Bolivia

Mad crazy La Paz

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I woke up this morning cursing the streets of La Paz. It started again! The incessant beeping, cars, people, madness! Brain... Not... Functioning. I had had enough. I did not was to spend another night playing Guess Who with bullets and fire crackers. Not my game, I fold. We had til noon to check out so we decided to grab some breakfast, as if the all you can eat pork from the night before wasn't enough food to last me a lifetime.
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We got to this nice looking coffee joint and came in to find a sexy breakfast buffet batting her eyelashes in my direction. Still having a atrocious tumor of meat in my tummy, I decided to opt for a cup of coffee and maybe I'd have a bite of Max's buffet. We ordered our lattes and Max asked me to grab him some granola while he had his way with the egg and pancake station. As I was bringing the dish back to our table, the waitress approached me, "two buffets?" she inquired. I told her that I was getting it for my friend and that I was only waiting for my coffee. She informed me that I was not allowed to eat it. I heeded her warning and reassured her of my loyalty to my latte once more. Max brought back a plate of eggs and rolls and went back to grab some juice. (I would have helped had I not feared a tirade from the food Nazi). The waitress came back with the coffees, sat them on the table and said "two buffets?" By now I'm a little peeved. "No, this is for him" I said pointing at the plates on the table. She pointed to the yogurt cup that was slightly more toward the middle of the table then towards Max's side. Was I really going to have to go through every piece of edible material on the table and divide our assets?! “I’m not eating it!" I exclaimed with my best 'get the hell out of my face' look. She starred at me for a second before she walked over to Max who was claiming more goodies from the buffet. She then proceeded to explain to him, on his way back to the table, that he was the only one who could partake in this feast. Now I was pissed. "Screw it" I thought. I might as well get a buffet if it's going to be this much hassle to sit at the same table with this food. I was already cranky from little sleep and did not want Hitler standing over my shoulder the whole meal, charging me for the breakfast smells wafting into my nostrils. I went and got a heaping plate of food. If they were going to charge me for a buffet, fine. I was going to eat them out of house and home. I unbuttoned the top button of my pants and went to work. When the fantastically rude waitress came back, I asked her, with the biggest 'kill 'em with kindness' grin on my face, for some ketchup. It took her ten minutes to come back with one packet of ketchup. This is a buffet and you bring me one measly packet of ketchup? I guess I needed to be more specific. "Cuatro mas por favor" (4 more please). "No mas." she replied. Excuse me? Now I just thought this was ridiculous. After being hounded for twenty minutes to get a buffet, and waiting ten minutes for some friggin' ketchup, you're going to refuse to give me another few packets of ketchup. I even offered to pay for the damn thing. What kind of customer service is this?! "Yo quiero ketchup, ahora por favor. Mas dinero ok", I enunciated. Then she informed me that ketchup was not included in the buffet and when I offered, again, to pay extra for it, she told me that ketchup was only available for lunch and lunch was not served for another hour. Bolivia has been, hands-down, the worst service I've ever had, and I've eaten in Tijuana strip clubs.

After gorging myself on every morsel at my disposal, we walked out smug and full. I dragged my new found thunder thighs up the steep hills of La Paz and went back to the hostel. I tried to get on the Internet and find a new hostel, one far away from the center of La Paz, where I would not have to fear for my life. However, the hostels Internet connection moved at the speed of a sloth on Xanax, so we decided to hail a taxi, haul ass to the other side of town, where we would, surely, find another hostel.
Maybe surely was an over statement. We got dropped of with our 50lb backpacks, in the center of a plaza which looked promising but did not deliver. We walked and walked, sweat and sweat and finally, like an oasis in Afghanistan, it appeared. Hotel Ecuador. We are saved. Reasonable prices, nice facility, finally we catch a break! I dropped of laundry for cleaning, down to my last pair of underwear, still clad in yesterdays uniform, it was time.

We headed down to the San Francisco Basilica and Museum and took a tour of the facility, the artwork and the church attached to it.
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The church was attractive with gorgeous vaulted stone ceilings and golden archways.
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The was a stone stairway inside of the church that looked like a dungeon opening and led underground to a room that held the cremated remains of different dignitaries in solid gold vats.
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They also featured artifacts such as wine barrels and old wine presses from ancient wineries hundreds of years old.
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We hurried along the crazy streets of La Paz until we stumbled upon the coca museum.
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It was a really interesting museum that walked you through the entire history of the coca plant; its history in Peru and Bolivia, where it is still a huge source of income, to the US and other countries, where it has been illegal for decades.
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I learned a lot of cool facts about coca. Did you know that Sigmund Freud was the first person to use cocaine as a recreational drug? He later developed nasal cancer... Imagine that. Cocaine was illegalized in 1950 when an American BANKER stated that it caused retardation. Not that I disagree with the law, because I don't, but a banker... Couldn't at least quote a doctor? I also found out that coca was first used by doctors as an anesthetic, this I already knew. What I didn't know was that, before coca, doctors would strike their patients over the head to render them unconscious or feed them alcohol until they passed out. Sounds like a magical time. One more fun fact for you: In 1985 Coca-Cola bought 204 tons of coca leaves from Bolivia, and continues to buy coca to this day. Coca-Cola does not contain cocaine but still uses the leaves to add flavor. Trivia master here I come!

Posted by emichele 15:49 Archived in Bolivia Comments (1)

6.23.10: La Paz, Bolivia

On to La Paz

Today we rose to a beautiful view of Lake Titicaca from Isle Del Sol.
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I walked outside for a nice big cup of coffee and ran into the Brits from the night before. They were headed back early to Copacabana to watch the England world cup game. We thought we'd tag along too cause we wanted to make the bus down to La Paz that afternoon. We decided to wait til after breakfast to go. I walked into the diner attached to the hostel and waited patiently to be acknowledged. There were four or five employees in the diner who basically refused to acknowledge my presence. I let out a little cough... And then a bigger "ahem". Nothing. Then I approached the woman who waited on us the day before and said, "desayuno?" (breakfast?) "one moment" she snapped back, disgusted that I would even come to speak to her.

This, by the way, has become a pattern in Bolivia. Horrible service is the norm here. The night before at that same hostel the waitresses son sat at the next table playing a hand held video game that "ping!"ed every two seconds. After fifteen minutes of incessant "pings" I thought my head was going to PING! right off my shoulders so I eventually asked him to stop.
Two nights previous we were at the bamboo restaurant in Copacabana and the waiter/manager/owner sat at the table in front of us and watches a world cup game. I watched our food sit in the window for 15 minutes before he finally peeled his eyes away from the game (which happened to be a rerun). Then when it was time to go, I asked for the check and he turned around and watched the game for another five minutes before he would get us our bill. I was shocked. Even though it seems like every place I eat at is ruder than the last I still have a hard time accepting this blatant rudeness.

Anyway, to get back from my tangent, I finally forced myself upon the waitress to order breakfast and sat down to wait for my coffee. I had 45 minutes before my boat left, I still had to walk down to the docks and buy my ticket, but this seemed pretty doable. I sat down, bags loaded around me, and patiently watched the lake water flow as I anticipated my coffee. I waited and waited and about 25 minutes, later still no coffee in sight, I said screw it and left. I made the boat, coffee-less and feigning for caffeine, but I made it!
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The boat docked in Copacabana and I made a beeline for coffee and substance. What to eat, what to eat?? The day before I left for the island I found the love of my life standing on the corner- the empanada man! Ever since I tasted one, I had dreamed of more! I hauled ass to his sexy little empanada cart and engorged myself with three heavenly egg, cheese, and potato filled, crispy, crumbly flaky empanadas.
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We went back to the English pub, watched the futbol game, sucked down some coffee, read a little bit and killed time before or bus for La Paz.
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We had a 3.5 hr bus ride that was advertised as direct, so when I was woken from my empanada coma and hour into the ride, I was perplexed. We stopped in front of a body of water and were instructed to exit the bus but to leave our bags on board. We were goin to be crossing the lake in a boat.. And so was our bus. Apparently we had to get off because our body weight would have capsized the boat. One too many empanadas, I guess.
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It was really an odd sight to see, a huge tourist bus floating across a lake on a huge wooden plank.
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We boarded he bus again and headed for la Paz.
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We had seen a flier for Hotel Continental, which was also advertised as a nice, low-budget hotel in Lonely Planet, so we decided to check it out. Our bus dropped us off in the center of La Paz and it was pure madness all around. Yelling, beeping,bustling madness.
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It was overwhelming just walking down the street. Clothes and food vendors overflow the sidewalks and into the streets inundating the roads with people, cars, and fake Fendi purses. The hotel was just a block away from where the bus dropped us off and luckily there was a room available. I set my stuff down and headed out onto the city for some grub. We got a map from the hostel that noted different restaurants on it so we decided to try a steakhouse appropriately called "the steakhouse".
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We walked in to survey the place before we committed to our carnivorous desires and upon looking at the tables adorned with a bottle of wine and Jack Daniels on each, we knew it was fate!
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A few rounds of drinks and I was really lovin it. The Jack and coke came segregated in their own glasses. Jack Daniel on the rocks in one and coke in the other so you can mix it as you wish. I also got a "Jacky Cool" which was a mix of JD, sprite, and fresh mint; jacks version of a Mohito. Mmmmm. For the main course I decided to go healthy with a modest dish of all you can eat pork ribs. With all the drinks, the ribs, and the tip, the total was $34. I love this country!
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By the end of the meal the pork sweats were setting in and I was starting to see double so it was back to the hostel to try to relax... "try" being the operative word. I must have overlooked the fact that our windows were paper thin because I could hear everything going on in the city of La Paz. A combination of people, honking cars, fireworks, and gunshots was the soundtrack I was forced to fall asleep to. It was 3:30 when I finally did fall asleep to the lullaby of gunfire rocking me, ever so gently, to sleep.

Posted by emichele 10:35 Archived in Bolivia Comments (2)

6.22.10: Bolivian Islands

Isla Del Sol

Today around 1pm I boarded a boat from Copacabana to Isla Del Sol (Island of the Sun).
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The hour and a half boat ride was amazingly beautiful.
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Once we arrived on the island we had about 200 stairs to tackle in order to get up to where the hostels were.
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Not having a hostel booked yet, we decided to go with the flow and wing it. We found a nice hostel with a fantastic view of the lake and snow-capped Bolivian mountains beyond it.
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We decided to explore the island and see what it had to offer.
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We walked all the way down to the tip of the south side of the island to check out the temple of the sun. When I asked the woman who ran our hostel for a map of the island, she pointed to a large painting of the island strung up on the wall. This was the only map there was. She pointed to a tiny building on the south end of the island and told me that was the temple of the sun and that it would only be a short half hour walk. We walked all the way down to where the "map" had said. There was no temple. We will find out later that we had actually passed it. "it" being a small, nothing special, brick building blending like camo in with the dozens of other small, nothing special, brick buildings in the vicinity.
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I was walking back from my where's Waldo temple search as the sun started setting. I thought that this would be as good of time as any to sit and observe. I watched the blue glistening lake merge with clean white painted mountains on the horizon and as the sun slowly went into hiding the snowy mountains changed before my eyes.
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Spotless white with the day light changed to brilliant, fiery orange and on to purple and pink when the sun was just barely holding onto life.
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The only noise was the clop, clop, clop of burrow hooves in the distance at random predictable intervals.
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I had the best time just sitting, thinking and dreaming. As I wandered back to the hostel it was about dusk. We decided that it was time for a bottle of vino and a game of rummy amongst the peaceful outdoors. As I continued to show max how to win the game we noticed a few English guys playing cards a few tables over with a big bottle of rum. As the sun went down and they were left in darkness, our headlamp seemed pretty appealing to them and their big bottle of rum seemed pretty darn appealing to us so we invited them to join forces.
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We played a convoluted game of chip-less Texas hold 'em and decided to move the game indoors toward a light source not attached to a forehead and away from the frostbitten air of the island night. After chatting up drinking games for a while we discovered a mutual admiration for the game "kings cup". Now there are many, many ways to play kings cup and rules vastly differ between states, towns and groups of friends, so when we started to discuss the rules, ready for some debate, we were surprised to find out that we were on the exact same page. Not one differing rule... It was fate.
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Drinking with the Englishmen was in the stars. We played a game or two and decided it was time for some food to soak up that rum. Quinoa soup, garlic trout with rice and veggies and bananas and chocolate. It was good but pretty typical of what I've been eating day in and day out so nothing spectacular. The food and drinks sent me into a coma and sleep was my longed for dessert.

Posted by emichele 10:28 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

6.21.10: Copacabana, Bolivia

Copacabana day 2

Woke up this morning to find out what exactly this ¨free breakfast¨was all about. The last hostel that offered a free breakfast meant to advertise ¨free rolls with jam¨. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this free breakfast consisted of coffee, juice, cereal, yogurt, a pancake, rolls, and scrambled eggs with cheese and ham.

After breakfast and a warm shower I decided to find out about this massage place that was advertised on a flier at our hostel. I walked up and down the street it was supposed to be located on about 3 or 4 times before I finally gave in and asked a restaurant manager on the street. He informed me that it was located inside of the garage right in front of my eyes. I guess the fact that it was a closed garage with a mural painted on front threw me off. This should have deterred me.
I knocked on the door and after thirty seconds of barking a woman in her 30´s answered the door. I asked her if this was indeed the place advertised for massage which launched her in to a 2 minute Spanish ramble of which I only understood ¨si¨. I followed her into the compound and up a flight of stairs into a room with 3 beds, none of which were a massage table. She told me the price of the massage was $30, I thought, what the hell, even a massage on a bed by a non-english speaking Bolivian woman living in a garage compound is worth $30, so I gave it a go. She left the room to give me some privacy before the massage and put on some music. I got comfy i got comfy under the covers and waited.. and waited... and waited and waited. I had no idea what she was doing but a 15 minute wait longer she returned with an inscent and a candle. After lighting them and talking to me briefly in incomprehensible Spanish, she left the room again to turn on music which she had previously forgotten to do. Apparently getting a candle, inscent, AND turning on music was a mental overload.
The music, a mix between belly-dancing, Indian music and revolutionary war musket in hand, pump you up for war instrumentals, was supposed to relax me, she said. She started at my feet. Nothing too special, poking and prodding, rather than kneading. Just then, my skin started feeling really tingly and cold. That´s when I realized that she was massaging me with and IcyHot type substance... maybe the Bolivians version of Tiger Balm. I don´t know exactly... but it was cold.
Now, I´m the type of person who doesn't particularly like to be talked to during massage. I´d prefer just to zone out and tranquilize. So what a special treat it was when the woman would not stop yammering away in Spanish. At first I tried to respond with ¨no entiendo¨(I don´t understand) or ¨no say¨(I don´t know) but that just spurred her on more, as if explaining her previous question using more Spanish would help my understanding. So, I changed my approach and just answered everything with ¨Si¨.. everything ¨Si¨. I would have thought that eventually she´d realize that I was merely agreeing out of incompetence and cease the conversation but I think she just thought I was legitimately congenial. I did make an attempt to understand what she was saying, and normally I absorbed most of it, it just took me a minute. Half way through my massage, body shivering from the IcyHot permeating my muscles, the massage was still a weird combination of jabbing, jostling and gibberish. I understood that she had told me that, not only was she a massage therapist, but she was also a Reiki master. She was also telepathic, she said. She told me, using her ¨powers¨that I was very intelligent, I read a lot, I am an Aries, and that I am the middle of two sisters. Bulls-eye on the intelligent part... however, I don´t read books as much as I skim the tv guide and I am a Virgo with no siblings. Close but no cigar.
By this time I am counting down the minutes, singing 99 bottles of beer in my head, hoping that each lumbering squeeze of skin would be the last. Finally it was over. I threw on my clothes like a bat out of hell, paid and thanked her and got the hell out of there! Word of advice... skip the massage next time you´re in Bolivia.

After the lovely massage ¨therapy¨I went for a burger at a chill little bar that was broadcasting the world cup. Patty, bacon, cheese, lettuce, cucumber, and egg. Hit the spot! After the deliciousness, we walked down to the lake.

We had seem something about horseback riding the day before and decided to go check it out. As we walked along the boardwalk, amongst all the lake front restaurants, we saw some horses tied up. Although there was no one standing by them, normally all you have to do is go stand by something you want, be that a restaurant, hostel, or boat, and someone will approach you, so we started walking toward the horses. As I got closer, I saw the condition of the horses, patches of skin missing, hip bones protruding, obvious malnutrition. It was just not cool, so we decided to pass.
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Instead we went and stood next to a giant duck-shaped paddle-boat and a woman approached, told us that it was 10 Bolivianos ($1.40) per half hour and just that simply we were paddling out into the glimmering sea.
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Our duck was sort of handicapped and didn´t go as fast as i´d have liked it to... it was no speed duck.
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But it was nice just cruising around the bay area and I got some great shots of the land from out in the water.
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We shopped some more,ate some ice cream,
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read next to the lake,
bought a boat ticket for Isle Del Sol for the following morning, grabbed some grub from the ¨Bamboo Restaurant¨and passed out.
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Posted by emichele 17:54 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

6.20.10: BOLIVIA!

On to Copacabana

This morning started about 5:30 am as I got ready for my next destination; Copacabana, Bolivia. It was a three hour bus ride before arriving at the Bolivian border armed with my visa and other necessary paperwork. We handed in our yellow fever vaccination certificate and our pre-filled out visa applications, proud of my organization and beaming with satisfaction at my own capability. When we handed over our $135 visa application fee, which,by the way, only applies to American citizens, things got a little tricky. The armed man in the military uniform scrutinized our every bill, not for authenticity, but for cleanliness. He would not take one of Max's 20's because of a minuscule tear at the top and was tempted to reject mine for a tiny pen mark. I've never had so much trouble giving someone money in my life. We had to go across the street and change our slashed bill for Bolivianos because we only had exact change for the visa application. We returned with our crispy clean currency and he ordered us next door to make copies of our visa application, yellow fever vaccination certificate and passport. This, by the way, was not free. We returned to get our visas stamped twice. Afterwards he sent us into another room where a different man sat, sounding like he was one cigarette away from emphysema and demanded five more dollars from us. Having read that they often try to get more money out of Americans, I inquired, politely, to know what the charge was for. My Spanish, being shaky at best was no match for his fluent phlegm so I gave in and gave him the five bucks. He stamped my passport another four times, pulling stamps from hidden drawers strategically located next to his gun holster, and sent us on our way. The bus driver stood outside our ride ushering us over because we were the last people they were waiting for. Apparently we were the only Americans on board and the only people to have to go through a twenty minute ordeal, which, ironically, never lead to any baggage search whatsoever. Seems as though they don't care what you bring into their country as long as your money isn't ripped. We boarded the bus and continued for another ten miles down the road unilateral we reached the center of Copacabana.
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We had not yet booked a hostel but had read about one that looked nice so we told the cabbie to drop us off there. Unfortunately they were all booked so we settled for the next most convenient option, the hostel next door. It wasn't too shabby. Hot aqua, television, free tea, fruit and a complementary breakfast. We also had a peaceful view of the lake from our bedroom window.
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We dropped off our baggage and set out to explore copacabana. It is a neat little town. We walked down to the lake and along the boardwalk.
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There were a ton of people out, lots of places to rent paddle boats, kayaks, motorboat and even a place that rented horses to ride along the beach.
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The boardwalk is lined with little restaurants, all specializing in fish from the lake and we could already tell that this was way more our style than Puno.
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We decided to find a place that was broadcasting the world cup game and chill out. We found a teeny tiny English pub that was contingently showing the game in English. It was the first world cup game that I'd seen in English the whole trip.
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I sipped on a mudslide first and a piña colada to top it all off. I figured that it would be a shame to leave Copacabana without slurping down a refreshing pina colada. There was no umbrella but I was still satisfied. After the game we meandered around town for a while, window shopped and gazed out onto the lake before returning to the English pub around dusk. We played some cards and warmed up with a peppermint schnapps hot chocolate. It was Christmas in my mouth. We were both getting pretty hungry so we wandered into this Mexican restaurant that was playing bob Marley that we could hear from the street. The ceilings were strung with plants, vines, and Christmas lights. There was no waitstaff in sight so after waiting about five minutes I went and grabbed a menu myself. It took us about ten minutes to peruse the menu and figure out what we wanted.... Still no waitstaff.. ANYWHERE! We waited about ten more minutes and when no one appeared our stomachs dragged us out of there. Next door was another restaurant whose menu looked delicious (in Peru and Bolivia the restaurants display their menus outside of the restaurant so you know what you are in for.. Pretty convenient I'd say) so we decided to wander in. Not a clear table in sight. We stood around awkwardly for a minute or two, chucked up the deuce and exited. 0 for 2. We hurried down the street and finally found a restaurant with a visible waitstaff and an open table. The peppered steak, fettuccine Alfredo and free salad bar was just what the doctor ordered. We grabbed some ice cream bars on the way home, watched a movie (In English YAY) and passed out.

Quote from my lovely mother: Diarrhea is a hereditary disease... it runs in your jeans.

Posted by emichele 14:19 Archived in Bolivia Comments (1)

6.19.10: Lake Titicaca, Peru

Islands of Lake Titicaca (Peru Side) Day 2

e_017.jpgToday I woke up with lower back stiffness that you can only expect to have after sleeping on, what can only be called, wooden boards with sheets on top. I got ready and sat in starved anticipation waiting for breakfast. The bowl of starch that we had for dinner was just not enough to hold our appetite at bay. We went down to breakfast and was disturbed to learn that ¨breakfast¨ consisted of two crepe-thin pancakes, jam and tea. The same amount of food that their four year old daughter had for breakfast, she assumed would be enough for me and my 6 foot 3 travel partner. WRONG. We concluded breakfast and retreated back to our room and proceeded to consume all of the snacks that we had bought for the trip.
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We thanked our hosts, took some pictures, and set off for the last of our 3 Islands; Taquile Island.

We got to the island which, besides the luxurious views of the lake and the surrounding islands, was particularly bland.
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However, we did learn a lot about the people of the islands and the different customs they have, which was really interesting.

We learned that one can tell who, on the island, is married or single by the clothes they wear. The married men wear a red beanie called a Chumpi and the single men wear a white beanie, which can be worn two ways to differentiate between the single men who have a girlfriend and those who are truly single. (What a way to be branded a loser)
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All the women wear the black mantle head covering called a Chuco, but the yarn ¨bon bons¨ at the bottom symbolize if you are married or single by the size of the bon bons.

The leaders of the island are people who have more than two children and they don’t wear a headscarf or beanie at all, they get a special hat. Now thats why you have kids!!! The special hat!!
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I thought that the most fascinating thing was that ALL couples on the island have kids BEFORE they get married and there is no such thing as divorce. You´re stuck.

From the ages of 14-17, the boys carry little pebbles in their pockets and when one finds a young lady they are interested in, he throws the stone at her. (Can someone say spousal abuse?!) How barbaric.

The kids fall in love in a period of 15 days, no more, no less..this is a rule. (I mean, how much time do you need to find the person you are going to spend the rest of your life with? 15 days seems appropriate.) When they fall in love, they stay with the boys family for two years, during which they have their first child. Ah, there´s nothing like having an illegitimate child while shackin´ up with your boyfriends parents house... now thats what dreams are made of!

Then they get married and celebrate for five days. The first two require you to refrain from drinking or dancing to symbolize the hardship that comes with marriage and children (congrats) and then they drink and dance the next 3 days away.

It was an interesting island of only 2100 people, no police and a society that rejects any education past high school. At 4000 meters above sea level, I certainly learned a lot about the people of Taquile Island.
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We ate a nice lunch of trout and soup at a locally run restaurant and headed out on the 3 hr boat ride back. I slept for about an hour and a half. I love nap time. We got back to Puno, arranged our bus to Copacabana for the next day, and headed out for the post office. We were supposed to receive a package that had been waiting for us with no luck. Apparently we are only allowed to get our mail from 10am to 11am on Wednesday or Thursday. Thursday was the day before we left for the islands and we tried, at our dismay, to get the package but the post office was closed due to a strike, so we were screwed. In conclusion, if you are not available from 10-11 on Wed or Thurs, you don´t get mail.
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We stopped to grab a bite and retired.

Quote: ¨You´ll live longer once you realize that any time spent being unhappy, is wasted.¨

Posted by emichele 14:35 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

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