Cochabamba - La Paz - Lake Titicaca
16.07.2007 - 26.07.2007 20 °C
So, i decided to stay in Cochabamba for a couple of days to chill out, warm up after the chilly temperatures in the mountains, recover from a dodgy cough and why not, also recover from the drunken marathon of sucre... Cochabamaba is a city with a student feeling to it (they sells books everywhere here) and with an all-year around temperature of 25C, which gives it the nickname of the "city of the eternal spring". After a couple of days, i ventured to the bus station to find out about the bus times to La Paz. I can not explain the feeling that you normally get in any of the soutamerican bus station i have been so far (that it is something that can only be experienced personally) but i can not certainly explain the state of the bus station in Cochabamba that day: people everywhere (even on the floor), shouting, screaming.. a chaos! and the worst bit: signs everywhere saying: "There are no tickets to La Paz. Do not insist". Ok, there we go again. Of course i try to ask someone about it: no answer, not even a "fuck off" from the ticket desks, nothing. Great. I got back to the hotel and decided to watch the news to see if the give any info. And if trying to talk to bolivians was frustrating, watching the news is even worse. After a whole hour of shit about really random and non important news, all i got out was that "people from cochabamba trying to get to La Paz, might find difficulties trying to do so..." But why? strikes? road works? and for how long?.. AGH!
it is then that i realize one of the biggest problems in bolivia, which is communication, or lack of it. Other backpackers always comment on hhow lucky i am that i speak the language. Trust me, in Bolivia, speaking spanish is pointless, as the problem is not the language, is the fact they dont use it, even amongs themselves or in the media. I bet most of the people in that station didnt even need to get to La Paz, but the panic takes over, and if they say it might be impossible to get there, they just HAVE to go..
I tried again the next morning, and eventually found a company that would operate services that same night, so without thinking about it i kick every bolivian person out of my way (in this cases it is good to be taller) and manage to get a ticket. To celebrate i decide to treat myself to a muffin from the bakery next to the hotel (which are heaven) and surprise surprise, walked in the bakery and it is completely empty. What is going on? I asked. No bread, she replied. YES I CAN SEE THAT, but why?? I think. But then i remember that one of the random news from last nite was the bakers in cochabamba would be on strike for 2days. Ok, is it that difficult for her to tell me that??? Apparently so...
Eventually made it to La Paz, and the location is AWESOME. Founded in the middle of a valley, and as it grows, the houses are being built on the side of the mountains, and they look they are gonna fall down! I get to the hostel and the nite porter tells me there are no beds and that they didnt get my reservation. It is probably the biggest hostel in La Paz, not a single bed for a little one??? So I ask him if there is something he can do, and he start looking at papers, and then the board, and then again the papers.. It is 4.30am, im exhausted and i have my 15kg backpack still on me. Not Happy! At this point an english girl gets to reception as she is leaving for the airport. And she says, if you dont mind sleeping in my sheets, you could take my bed, as it is paid until 1pm. Great! and the nite porter goes: no, you cant do that. And I have a "miriam moment" then: listen if you cant do anything better than that im taking that bed and i´ll come to speak to reception in the morning. So he has no choice :D
When i wake up at 9am i realized 2 things:
1. There are two empty beds in my dorm.
2. The bed i was sleeping in is full of dog hair.
The first thing gets sorted when i go to reception and they apologized cause they did have empty beds, and dont really know why the guy didnt give me one. Then i also find out about the second thing by my roomates. The hairs belong to the hostel dog, which apparently got on really well with the girl and SLEPT THERE EVERYNITE. She could have mention that little detail before she left i guess... Only left to say is that i dont like dogs sleeping in beds, and definately not that dog, that looks quite vile to me, so io close the door all the time and the dog cant get in, therefore, the dog hates me for the rest of the week and tries to bite me at every opportunity...
La Paz turned out to be this really cool place, where i had a FAB time. I was not expecting much of the place, so i guess that it is a good thing, cause everything surprises you much more. Also, the people meant a lot here: I met Greta and Dave (NZ) and Darryl and Andy (SA) again here, the guys from the Uyuni tour. And also, i met up again with Auri, the girl from Granada i met at the bolivian border that was living temporarily in La Paz. She took me to really cool places (including to a çn aymara witch that read the future with coca leaves at the witches market) and introduces me to many local people that were awesome! I must say that another good thing about my stay here was the hostel irish bar, that gave us many good laughs.. (that meant that at some point everynite i was running from an irish drunk or from the vile dog) It was also here in La Paz i found out about results from UNi, and turned out to be a first!! me! a first!! im still getting over the shock, and of course it was great to have an excuse to get pissed :D
Apart from the alcohol, I actually found time to do other stuff, believe it or not, and that includes being part of one of the biggest protedtd ever in Bolivia (people from La Paz want the city to become the capital of the country, and they were concentratring in the highest part of the valley for it. Every single office and business was closed that day, and 2.5million people made it to the demonstration. We tried to walk up there but eventually realize that 10kms uphill it is a bit too much, so end up taking a ride in a local truck to the top, with all the locals looking at us and thinking "what the f***k do you care about this matter" whilst we sang to the himn!
Next day me and Auri went down the "most dangerous road in the world" on bikes, and that was amazing! The road was named like that cause it did have the highest accident rate in the world, and although there is a new road now for the main traffic, the 64kms downhill on the dirt road, going from 4700ms to 1200ms, it is soooo impresive!
Although loving La Paz, it is time to leave the next day, and head to the next stop, Copacabana, a town in the shores of Lak Titikaka. The bus ride was hell, and i think the fact that i was stupidly hang over had something to do with it.. And to make it even better, at some point during the journey we stopped and lots of people disembarked and started walking towards the lake that was in front of us. And then i look at the rest of the bus and see that only the gringos are left.mmmm not a good thing. Asked the driver and he tells me that we all need to leave and take little boats to go to the other side. But what about my lugagge?. Leave it on the bus and run to get those boats before they leave, is his answer. So i turn around and shouted to my fellow gringos " everybody gets off and run top the boats!" and like a joan of arch, i lead the way... we made it to the other side of the water, and believe it or not, the bus floated all the way to the other side too... ! Eventually made it to Copacabana, and was a nice little town, very touristy, but still charming enough to spend a couple of days chilling out after the madness of La Paz. After that i decide to visit the "island of the sun" the island 2hs away from Copa where the incas believed the sun was created and still to this days is considered a sacred place. I leave my backpack in the hotel, and told the guy i would be back the following day, as i was spending the nite at the island. The island was awesome, did some trekking there and visited the sacred sited and stuff. Came back to copa, changed all my money to peruvian, as i was crossing to peru next, got my bus ticket and headed to the hotel to pick my backpack, just to find out the hotel is CLOSED. Ok, dont panic just yet, i think. Walked in the bakery next door, that shared the building woth the hotel and asked, what is going on?. Oh, nothing, today is wednesday, and it is the manager´s day off, she says. And he closes the hotel??, i asked again. Oh, when there are guests, he leaved the key with me, but there werent any, so he went home across the peruvian border and wont be back til the next day. S**T, i think. she sends me to talk to the guy at the restaurant in front, and that one to the one next to it. And so on. Nobody knows anything, and nobody has keys. So i go to another hotel, check in for another day, after changing the money again, and getting a refund for the bus ticket. Go shopping for a new jumper as the one i have stinks already, and use the emergency underwear from my daysack. Stay cool i think, tomorrow I´ll get back at him for this.
I wake up at 7am, make my way to the hotel all ready to give him the bo****ing and STILL CLOSED. Which means i will miss the morning bus to Peru AGAIN. I come back at 10.30 and still closed, but this time the bakers and one of the restaurant owners are around the door, obviously talking about me. And then i have another "miriam moment": "if the guy is not back at midday im kicking the door down, cause it is a shit door anyway, and then he can come and find me in Peru if he f***ing wants to" as loud as i can in the middle of the street. All looking at the poor gringa that has lost the plot. And im about to go when i hear a quiet voice saying "miss..." "Leave me alone!" i say to this timy guy from the restaurant to the side and carry on walking, when i hear "blablablabla.. backpack....", "what did you just say!!?!?!: and he replies.. are you looking for a backpack, miss? OF COURSE IM LOOKING FOR A BP! I shouted, and he goes inside and turns up with my backpack!!!
What i said to him afterwards cannot be written here, but the fact that he saw me yesterday and did not say a thing, cause he keeps insisting that he didnt know it was mine, still makes me angry! but what can you do¿ welcome to Bolivia my friend... Managed to make it to the border in a shared taxi, and to Puno, the peruvian city where i could catch the bus that i missed already in another shared taxi... That is how i leave Bolivia after 3weeks, taking with me all this unforgetable experiences, the surreal landscapes, the llamas, the incredible quinua soup, and of course, the memory of the most incredible sky at night, full of stars so close you could reach them.. cause the truth is Bolivia might be poor in many aspects, but it has the most incredible sky at nights...
PS. By the way, for those of you on facebook, i have decided to put the photos there, cause it is easier, so if you want, you can have a look and see pics of La Paz (mostly drunk, sorry), the protest, the death road, the crossing to copacabana and the lake!)