Land of Lakes and Protests

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October 12th 2011
Published: December 13th 2011
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Wednesday (Oct. 12th) - Thursday (Oct. 20th)

Two weeks with my brother. Many people would groan at that thought but I was actually excited to see him. After 3 months of traveling and meeting new people it was good to see a familiar face and we had some crazy adventures together. Brendon (my brother) met me in Cusco after my Inca Trail trek and after I had sufficiently recovered from the hike we began the next leg of my trip. I should have known this ahead of time since I was with Brendon, but from the beginning nothing really went according to plan (if what we had could even be called a plan.) First stop was Puno in southern Peru. It's not that pretty of a city but the lake shore with the reeds and the lake in the background was very picturesque. The 'plan' had been to visit all of the islands (Uros, Taquile, and Amantaní) in one day and cross to Bolivia that night but we ended up leaving the hotel late and we missed the public boat that would take us to all 3 islands. So, we just went to Uros (the floating islands) and spent the night there, then to Taquile the next morning and quickly back to Puno via the Capachica Peninsula. It actually turned out to be an amazing day though, the floating islands were incredibly touristy but very cool and the peninsula was an interesting drive through small towns in a shared taxi with some locals and a baby on my lap. Because of the boat schedules and change in plan we didn't have time to cross the border before it closed, which was fine, but the real bummer was that the next day was elections and everything was closed. This meant we were 'stuck' in Puno another day. Oh well, plenty more to do. Sillustani was not even on our to do list until we got to Puno but it ended up being incredible. It is a pre-Inca site with a bunch of funeral tower ruins scattered on top of hills surrounding a lake. Some of the towers were being reconstructed and were covered in tarps and caution tape which was a bit of an eyesore, but they were still very impressive. We finally made it to the border town, Yunguyo, to be ready to cross to Bolivia super early the next day.

BOLIVIAAAA, we made it! A few hundred dollars poorer (after buying the visas) but with a wonderful welcome from the friendly Bolivian border guards who joked constantly. They insisted they needed 2 passport photos of me for my visa (not Brendon though...) but then ended up putting the second one in a stash of pictures on the desk. All in good fun. We were on time and headed to Copacabana when we suddenly realized Bolivia is an hour later than Peru and we had already missed the boat to Isla del Sol. Great. A private boat would cost 400 Bolivianos ($70 usd approx.) which was way too much for just us but we met two guys from Spain with the same problem so we joined up and hired a boat together. I had heard mixed reviews of Isla del Sol before we got there, but now I can not understand how everyone didn't find it amazing. There is an 8 km trail along the ridge of the island starting at some ruins on one end and finishing at a cute town at the other. The ruins themselves were very cool, especially a stone maze that I actually got a bit lost in and the scenery in general was just breathtaking. We walked on a path that was sometimes gravel and sometimes white and red rock like you would find in the canyons in the US, surrounded by the incredible contrasting blue of the lake, and there were snow-capped mountains in the background. Absolutely gorgeous. The day was topped off back in Copacabana watching the sunset from a small stand in front of the lake eating the most delicious trout I have ever had. I wouldn't have minded spending the night in Copacabana but we were on a tight schedule so we had to get to La Paz. One thing Bolivia has taught me is to NOT be on a tight schedule, or even a schedule at all if you can help it. Turns out there was a big protest on the road from Copacabana to La Paz and no one could pass. But, being the optimists we are, we found a combi (shared taxi) anyway to take us as far as the protest where we would walk across the blockade and hopefully find a bus to La Paz on the other side. My first protest ever and it definitely lived up to expectations. The protesters were very successful since the line of cars waiting at the blockade was huge and they would have had to wait hours. There were tons of people involved, bonfires were lit, people were giving speeches and chanting, and flags were waving. It was crazy! We thought it must have been about the elections but we found out later a girl had been raped and the rapist had just been released from jail so people were angry. I felt a bit bad about being excited to see the protest, but it really was very cool. The bus we found on the other side was anything but comfortable, but after a long ride we finally made it to La Paz. Whew, quite a day.

Our 3rd day in Bolivia and we had already run into 2 protests! There was another one on the road out of La Paz with hundreds of people protesting the construction of a road that would stretch across all of Bolivia and would destroy tons of rainforest. While walking down the road we were handed coca tea, bread, and a Bolivian flag right along with the rest of the protesters! I would have loved to walk all the way back to La Paz with them, but we were off to try not to kill ourselves biking down the ´Death Road.´ The biking itself wasn´t actually all that scary, although still a lot of fun, but the crazy part is that they used to take semi trucks on that incredibly narrow and curvey dirt road, right on the edge of a huge cliff. And now we can say, ´we survived the world´s deadliest road!´ From our next adrenaline adventure we had a bird´s eye view of La Paz and the surrounding valley and mountains. Paragliding has been on my ´to do´list for ages and now I have finally done it! The views were incredible and riding the updrafts of the wind was so much fun. Due to our leaving late from the hostel, once again, we almost missed our bus to Uyuni, arriving 5 minutes before it left, but we made it just in time.


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