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Published: March 4th 2006
They just don’t know when to stop. At least by Tuesday things had somewhat returned o normal (?) in La Paz, just the odd random squirt of water, splash and splatter….here in Copacabana, as if to emulate their more famous namesake in Brasil, they just keep on with it, two groups at opposite corners of the plaza, almost in competition, couple of big bass drums, some small drums and 20 or so square recorder-like things, I hesitate to call them instruments, but no doubt in the sober hands of a musician something musical could come of it.
The women, who incidentally, seem to do 90% of the work in Bolivia, are dressed to the nines in a million layers of skirts and petticoats, the outer layer being elaborately embroidered and with little ornaments stitched on, they swirl and swing their hips, long black braids down past their bums, little derby hats balanced precariously on their heads. The men are sober-suited, all the musicians are men and each group has its distinctive “team” outfit.
And everyone drinks lots of beer and most get absolutely shit-faced, but in a friendly sort of way, swirling and twirling, dancers falling over, bodies lying in doorways,
drunks lurching about the streets, toilet training all but forgotten.
The women carry the weight of the world tied up in brightly coloured cloths and slung over their backs, I saw them in the road carying rocks for construction, to markets, in the carnivals they carry a milk crate of beer bottles same way!..and usually with a kid as well.
And at 10am every morning someone blesses the vehicles in front of the big church. Can’t tell if it’s christian, pagan or a mixture, the latter I expect. It’s the same tradition in La Paz and elsewhere at carnival time, every business, even the little tin-box-street-stall is garlanded with paper streamers, strewn with petals, then the nerve-jangling, ear-deafening string of crackers is lit, everyone jumps!, the concussion effect is startling, especially in the narrow laneways, then beer or wine is sprayed around the ground!! Now you’re set for another year! I want to do the bike, there are some fabulous gladioli around, all the vehicles have flowers attached all over, and streamers and balloons, I’d like to try it but don’t want to go pissing off any of the local people…or whatever deities are still active here…I can feel
it, don’t huari!
Ahh, cos this is the place of ‘energy’,..they say you can feel it!…I’m not sure about the ‘energy’ tho’, by the time the boat got the Isal del Sol nearly everyone was asleep!, even the hippies who flock to these places for the religious experience…the experience coming from the sale of real imitation beads, amateur-hour rasta music and hand woven plastic wristlets…and there are hundreds of hippies here in Copa…is this Herb Instinct that draws them here?..,
And there’s not a lot of energy in the food and bev department either, placing orders, getting food, paying, getting change is a long drawn out experience. Fine, once you appreciate the time-lag but frustrating if you have something else to do.
The ferry-boat was a bit short on energy too, 2 little outboards to push this large boat a long way…slow boat to Isla?
And climbing to the top of Isla, where’s the energy now that I need it?..up the 1,000 steps, past the holy water spouts, past the 50,000 local women and kids flogging Isla del Sol neckerchiefs, llama wool jumpers, plastic Chinese beads and necklaces, outdoing the hippies who can only watch and weep.
essential for construction they say!
Back in Copa..”plastered in the plaza”…The plaza, in fact the whole town, is dominated by the big church. It is massive, built following the appearance of the Virgin and subsequent miracles, it is the pilgrimage epicentre for many believers. And, as per usual, despite my lack of specific religious leaning, in fact, my strengthening disassociation with all things to do with organised religion (but let’s not go there just now) the building is fantastic, ornate Moorish influenced tiled cupolas, majestic bit of architecture, such a waste.
Of course this is all about the famous, mystical, mysterious Lake Titicaca!. It is much bigger than I thought, and also I’d always associated it with Peru but it’s half in Bolivia. 230 kms long, 97kms wide, 3,820 m high, pant, pant, 9,000 sq kms. Enough facts!
The BIG attraction here, after the virgin, and a lot older, is the Island of the Sun, now this IS important, this is the origin of all things Inca, and the birthplace of the Sun….. So, prior to that event, was this the original place where the sun never shone?
We went for a ride to get to the closest point to the Islas,
flagged down by an old guy who had the last reed boat, showed me postcards from all over the world, 2 from Oz! From people he had taken out on his reed boat.
The road was almost impassable, only these bikes could get thru’, very inhospitable but being improved, I stopped to photograph an entire village community out on the road in the hills, doing the curb and channel, then got hit for 10 bollies by the chief!.for drinkies all round after the work…fair enough...anyway, about an hour or so of fabulous up and down, following the lake, we are flagged down by aforementioned old man, and sure enough, his last reed boat. This is the basis for your Kon Tikis etc, used to be lots, now nada! I’m thinking there may be more further down the lake, like in Peru, but this is the only one around here…and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be around for much longer! It looked barely watertight but he insisted, and he punted us thru’ the reeds and out on to the lake, just sublime, soo peaceful, and comfortable, just cruisin’ thru’ the reeds, the old man poling away, Raf and
I laid back, the little dog running up and down..ahhh…he offered to row us out to the Isla de Sol today, but it pissed down all night and the road will definitely be out of action for a few days so we will take the toury option boat.
Flashback…did I tell you about the ferry coming into Copacabana? I don’t think so…the road suddenly dipped down into a small pueblo and onto a “ferry” man, this was dodgey brothers maritime, the crudest bit of floating transport I have ever seen, and we had to pack in behind a giant tourist coach!..the middle planks were missing, careful where you put your foot down!, and a hole in the floor with a little outboard stuck thru’ for power, the whole operation run by two 8 year old kids, doing some maintenance on the motor as we went…..but it worked..I’ve lost count of the boat trips the bike has had, must be about 20 by now.
Ahh, the bells, the bells, yes, the fcuking bells woke me at 7am this morning, crikey, what a racket, and as equally discordant as the pipe and drum bands, which, incidentally, kept it up til
about 3am this morning, great droves of swirling, gyrating, vomiting, urinating couples all down our street and around the square…fantastic.
Now nearly midday, the next day, confused?…hey, I figure time and space mere confines of the unimaginative..anyway, a BIG band just started up, right under my window, these guys are shmicko, even if the last line of trumpeters are nervously peering at sheets of notes as they blast their way down the alley, yes, 2, count them, BIG bass drums, 6 french horns, 4 lines of 3 trumpeters, the shrill discordancy of a truly pissed mariachi combo, another pisco sour please, and these guys have the blue and gold embroidered windcheaters, whoo hoo!..tres professional….there seem to be about a dozen different outfits around the town today, don’t know why, but they are all going full on, and the crackers and rockets are going off too…maybe the virgin is back!…maybe a bit flippant! flippant on her back?..back to the flippant future?
Off to the frontera…next stop Peru and the holiest of holy toury/hippie uber shrines the lost city of Machu Pichu, just hope the rain eases off!
Over and out.
Oh, and there were a couple of BIG reed boats out on Isla del Sol but they were in the rich peoples compound, definitely out of reach to us and the other hippie fellow travellers.
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