Up in the Clouds

Published: July 5th 2009
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Rested and restless, I was in need of some action. The parties at the Loki and Wild Rover had grown stale. The frequency with which the travellers changed in these places was staggering. Five old and fifty-five new faces every night.

Where are you from? Where have you been so far?

Questions a short-term traveller may revel in replying became tiring after half a year on the road. The question Patrik (Swiss; Peru and Chile if you must know) and I had coined in Santiago for fun: What's your favourite colour? though simple and seemingly silly sounding (you're welcome to write in with better suggestions for breaking the ice) still carried more nutritional value than the boring oldies. Unable to change the people, I decided to change the scene.

Off to the dangerous part of town, the eerie sounding Cemetery District, scene of many a kidnapping and robbery. Not to be for me. A salteƱa from the corner vendour and an helado from the ice-cream lady and I was on a bus to Copacabana. Visions of tropical beaches, caipirinhas and a Barry Manilow evergreen may go through your head and you'd be right if this blog was about Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro. But it's not and Copacabana, Bolivia is a sunny but chilly little town on the shores of the legendary lake Titicaca.

Finding dirt cheap but not dirty accomodation, I headed out to try the local trout. Damn, so really good food does exist in the bottom priced places in Bolivia. Good start. What else are you going to throw at me Titicaca?

Up early for a self-administered photo assignment, I resisted the urge to cruise directly to Isla del Sol. The colour of the sky was too interesting and the temperatures were in the teens. It was perfect strolling weather. Villages grew scarce and begging children were replaced by shy smiles as I headed north. Up and down, around coves, fake reed islands and through groves of eucalyptus trees, I marched along as vans filled with locals passed me, stares of amazement at the weird gringo who prefers to walk. Six hours later I reached the end of the peninsula and together with a group of like minded backpackers chartered a boat across to the Island of the Sun.

Bargaining hard and tucking into my third trout of the trip (still good) I stopped mid chew. WTF?!? I ran out of the restaurant towards the cliff edge. The already impressive sight of the Cordillera Real across the lake had turned other-worldly in the amber light. A must-see for any aspiring photographer and a scene words can not describe...so I'm not going to.

As a new day was born, I followed the trail to the far end of the island where, as Inca legend would have you believe, the Earth was born. A rock in the shape of a puma marks the spot but I couldn't find it. A German girl showed me where it was but no matter how hard I worked my imagination, I couldn't make out a single animal like feature in the bland stone. Judging from the puzzled looks on the faces of the tourists fresh off the boat from Copacabana, I wasn't alone in this.

With one pair of fresh underpants left in my day-pack, I was ready to extend my mini adventure to include some trekking around Sorata to the east. Hopping onto a La Paz bound bus with plans to change mid-way, I promptly fell asleep and ended up back in the capital. Late night, straight off the bus that brings fresh bait to Bolivia from Peru, I may have seemed like easy pickings. So along comes a gentleman with a nice gun and a lovely uniform.

Hello, where are you from, sir? he asks.

France, I reply.

Welcome to Bolivia. My name is officer Fernandez and this is a dangerous area. Would you like a taxi to take you to your hotel?

Mmm, I can manage, I respond as I flag one down.

One moment, sir, he says, checks the driver's credentials, writes down his details and confirms that the fare I have bargained is reasonable.

What a refreshing encounter and in such stark contrast to Mr. Fake Policeman few weeks later...

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