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Published: July 17th 2008
The boys in La Paz, BoliviaJune 29
R - L: Ryan, me, Lee, and Wayne.
: After departing from Cuzco on an overnight bus, Ryan and I found ourselves staring out at a brilliant sunrise over Lake Titicaca and wrapping up in a few extra layers to ward off the bitter cold. We reunited with a Japanese friend, Yoshi, whom we had met on our rafting trip near Cuzco, had a great alpaca lunch, walked around a bit, and discovered that one of Peru´s poorest cities was actually a pleasant place to linger. In our hostel that evening, we made fast friends with an Australian chef named Lee who had traveled up from Chile and was bound for Bolivia. Gathered for a great dinner with new friends (including Yoshi, Lee, another Japanese traveler and an English engineer who lives in Tanzania), chatted, laughed, and ultimately, decided a round of drinks were in order. Hours later in the bohemian bars, Ryan and I decided to spend more time getting to know our new Aussie mate, packed our gear, and prepared to set off for Bolivia.
Lee left Puno several hours before us on a coach that B-lined for Bolivia. Ryan and I elected, instead, to visit a couple of the quite backwater villages strung along
the shores of Lake Titcaca on the Peruvian side. After a rough border crossing involving brusk border guards and cramped cambi rides, we reunited with the Australian in the Bolivian lakeside town of Copacabana. He was not alone. At his side was Wayne, an Irishman he had met on his bus who had been traveling overland from Mexico (!). We took a quick liking to the man from Mead, who possessed a keen since of humor and a knack for storytelling.
But after realizing that the placid town of Copacabana was, well, pretty but placid, we teamed up with a few Canadians and another Aussie and took a cambi to La Paz. Barreling out of the cambi on a busy La Paz street, the seven of us took a moment to catch our beath (La Paz is about 10,000 feet above sea level and the pollution was eye-stinging) before humping down the hills with our heavy backpacks. We decided to stay at the Adventure Brew hostel - perhaps the only hostel in South America with its own microbrewery - and after situating ourselves in the dorm, ventured upstairs for a well deserved pint. July 4
: Took in the
sights - churches, palaces, and the like - and celebrated our independence in the evening over hamburgers, hotdogs, and beer (prepared especially for the Americans by the hostel). Two large, porcelain bathtubs on the terrace outside were filled with brew and heated as hostel employees stoked small fires underneath. As the night went on, the Americans, Irish, and Aussies joked with the three poor English blokes that had come up for a drink and the conversations inevitably shifted from independence to "which country's citizens can drink the most." Several partygoers shed their clothes and dipped into the tubs outside, while the jokes and suds poured freely from within.
We woke late the following morning, and while the others toured a prison (not my cup of tea) I walked around town, did some shopping, found the Mercado de Brujos (witches market) selling dried llama fetuses, herbal potions, and other bizarre items, and generally enjoyed the myriad colors, smells, and sounds in the bustling city.
Boarded a bus the next day and went to see the Titanes del Ring, a wonderfully strange wrestling event that (for the time being) attracts a mostly Bolivian audience. The wrestlers are actually women dressed
in their traditional clothing, who proceed into the ring with an intimidating strut and hammer each other while the audience cheers and shouts. The wrestling women are actually revered as local celebrities, and to watch their athleticism and agility was quite a treat.
On our last day, Lee, Wayne, Ryan and I geared up (and signed a bundle of wavers) for a 64 kilometer storm down the "World´s Most Dangerous Road" which is a title given to the swath of gravel and mud given by the World Bank in 1995 after discovering that more accidental deaths occur here than any other stretch of road in the world. Not deterred, we followed our experienced guide from our starting place in Cumbre (at a dizzying 16,000 feet above sea level) down the curving, slippery trail with 600 meter cliffs on our left, rampaging motorists on our right, and not a single gaurd rail to be found. Our journey ended on the fringe of the Amazon basin, where we ate a hearty lunch with macaws, capuchin monkeys, and boas at an animal sanctuary in Coroico. Said a long goodbye to our friends that night, woke up early on July 8th, and left
airless, polluted (but very charming and authentic) La Paz for Buenos Aires. That´s the news for now, I´ll give you the lowdown on Buenos Aires very soon! Take care all.
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