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Published: February 23rd 2007
I spent my few days here sitting on the beach with my guitar, making bracelets and reading Eragon.
...unless you are a Bolivian child or my friend Karl from California, who insists it "wasn't that bad."
Copacabana is a resort town on a peninsula on the southwestern side of Lake Titicaca, just across the border from Perú.
My first South American border crossing was uneventful, despite persistent rumors floating amongst the traveller population that a new Bolivian policy requires that American citizens pay for a visa/pay an entry fee/pay a bribe cunningly disguised as an "entry fee". None of these turned out to be true, though I was scolded by two very serious border guards for the miserable condition of my passport (I keep it in my money belt strapped under my pants, and I don't care if it looks like I sleep on it (I do)... I still have it, don't I?)
My first day in Bolivia was uneventful. I wandered the town and ate some greasy fried trout at a beachside stand. I was slightly creeped out by the slow-witted young guy at the hostel, part of whose job consisted of standing outside the shower door (the poorly-fitted shower door) and adjusting the temperature until you assured him it was acceptable, then turning off the water when you banged on the door, so that you could dress without soaking your clothes. I don't think he intended anything, because after one of the Argentinian girls explained to him, a bit aggressively, that this was off-putting to the female bathers, he began hovering around the corner from the shower. Which was really too far away to hear the banging or the cries of ayuda.
There is not really much to do in Copacabana except chill out, and watch all the other backpackers chill out. The main activity is taking a trip to the Isla del Sol, legendary birthplace of the first Inca, Manco Capac, and his sister-wife, Mama Occllo (if you are not already, you should be aware that Incas (and by this I mean the
Inca, the emperor if you will) were only allowed to marry their full sisters. If they didn't have any of those, half-sisters would do. If they didn't have any of those, I believe they moved on to cousins and started working their way down from there.)
Anyway, I caught a little speedboat out to the south end of the island my second day and set out to walk the length of it (which is, I think, like 9-10 km). It was starkly beautiful, the color of the water seemingly different at every angle, but mostly, to my eye, an impossible shade of cerulean - one I always thought Crayola had made up, but no! Here was their inspiration, right here in Bolivia...
I overshot my destination, a small town reported to have accomodation, and came upon some pretty cool ruins. I almost kept going right to the northern tip of the island, but some helpful girls with huge bundles of firewood on their backs informed me that I was heading for nothing, and the town was a ways back... I overtook some Argentinians on the trail, and they led me to the town I was looking for, which turned out to be a little strip of land connecting the main island to a small but tall extension of the island. I had a hell of a time finding accomodation, as the town (like most of South America these days) was completely full of Argentinian backpackers, and the few people who still had rooms didn't have any for only one person. Thankfully there were two guys (guess where they were from?) in the same predicament, and we were able to get a four-person room for the three of us.
Here is how the bargaining went:
Bolivian Kid at the Hostel: "The room is 45 bolivianos."
Argentian Guy #1: "45 Bolivianos! But there's only three of us... can't you make it 40?"
B.K. at the H.: "No, no, it's 45." B.K. at the H. is wearing a smirk that very clearly says, You can't outbargain me! Go ahead and try!
A.G.#1: "Oh, c'mon, 40..." They go back and forth for some time with the same amounts. Then, after a significant pause in the argument, when it seems we have been defeated:
A.G.#1: "Well, how about 12 each? 12, 15, what's the difference?"
B.K. at the H.: "Yeah, all right."
I have got to learn to bargain. Cerro Calvario
My final day in Copacabana, I climbed a big hill. I seem to be doing a lot of that on this trip. One important lesson I have learned: if a hill has the Stations of the Cross positioned along it, it is probably steep. Prohibitively steep. Steep enough that it will inspire Christian masochism, and thus sympathy with Jesús.
This one was worth the climb. The cerro (visible in the photo here) overlooks both the town and the lake. I climbed up to see the sunset, but retreated much too early under a very impressive and threatening display of thunder/lightning/rainclouds (which never erupted into a storm... damn tricky nature). During my brief time at the top, however, I met a group of friends (a Dutch guy and and Swiss couple), who asked me to take their picture. Turns out we all had the same camera. This we found enough of a bond to enable us to eat dinner together, where Dutch guy regaled us with stories of his time in Miami. Apparently, there are many lecherous old women prowling the beaches, just looking for young, naive Dutchmen to snatch up...
Next day I took the bus to La Paz.
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