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Tomorrow: Lima

We have been in La Paz since Monday, having finished our Andean trek last Saturday. It was an adventure indeed. Much more lengthier posts coming for sure, but I will tell you that had we not had a guide, I may not be writing to you today. But we did have a guide and he kept us safe and sound despite the fact that we were grossly under-prepared for the weather.

We have been having a wonderful time tromping all around La Paz, enjoying hot showers and wonderful food. We wake up bright and early tomorrow morning to catch a flight to Lima where we have a fourteen hour layover until our flight to Mexico City, then Los Angeles. Mike and Dave are dying to explore Lima – I would much rather spend the layover reading, safe in the airport, but I am out voted. However, Michael discovered there are catacombs under a church near the airport where the 75,000 bodies are exposed and should not be visited by the squeamish. That is probably the only thing that could drag me from the safety of the airport.

Cross your fingers for us, keep us in your prayers, and we will be stateside by Saturday afternoon!

Besos, mi amigos.

Isla del Sol

This will be the quickest post in the world because I only have about twenty minutes until Mike and Dave get back from grocery shopping and then we have dinner reservations at a lovely restaurant here in La Paz. Then it’s off to bed. Tomorrow we have to be at the bus station in the Cemetario district at 6 a.m. to catch our bus to Charazani. We will spend the night in a hostel and Monday we will arrange for a guide and mules. Our trek through the Cordillera Real begins Tuesday bright and early.

So we arrived in La Paz last Tuesday night, dirty, tired, and hungry. We spent Wednesday tooling around the city, running errands, exploring. Thursday morning we were up at 6 a.m. to catch the 7 a.m. bus to Copacabana, which is a beautiful town on the shore of Lake Titicaca. We ate lunch at a beautiful – though expensive by Bolivian standards – restaurant and happened to bump into the Canadian women we’d eaten dinner with our first night in La Paz. They told us we could take a ferry to Isla del Sol for about two US dollars and that sounded wonderful to us. We’d originally planned to hike six hours from Copacabana to a tiny village where we could catch a short ferry to the island, but we were afraid we’d make the hike, then not have time to enjoy the island. The ferry ride was lovely and we reached the Sacred Island of the Sun in under two hours.

To get to our first camping spot we had to hike about two hours, entirely up hill and mostly up steps. But the scenery – the surrounding villages – were so enchanting I don’t know the words to describe it. We ate lunch at a tiny restaurant run by a husband and wife. He took our orders and she cooked the meal. We ate quinoa sopa, trucha, pollo, and a queso omelet. And of course we had cups of coca de mate to help with the altitude. We were over 13,000 feet at that point. After lunch we continued to hike up the island with the lake surrounding us on all sides. We met two American trekkers and walked with them for a while, led by two little local children who asked for five bolivianos as soon as we reached the campsite. I also had to poop in the woods for my first time that day – which was a little tramautic, I’ll be honest. There were tears. I’m not going to lie. But once I did it I realized that it was much nicer than any of the public restrooms I’d used in the last several days.

Speaking of restrooms, there are banos publicos everywhere you go, but you must pay one or two bolivianos to get toilet paper, none of the toilets have seats, most of them only flush by pouring a bucket of water into the basin, and there is never any jabon at the sink if there is even a sink. Also, just like in Greece, you cannot flush your toilet paper but must drop it in the waste basket next the toilet. Yummy.

We camped that night in a lovely spot where we watched the sun set on our right and the moon rise on our left. We were up by 5 a.m. the next morning, so we could get an early start on our trek to the Incan ruins. We reached the ruins in three and a half hours with nothing but crackers in our belly. We had assumed there would be a market on the island but alas, it was 2,000 feet below us in another town and so we ate crackers instead. In the afternoon we ate lunch at another tiny husband and wife owned establishment and then napped on the shores of Lake Titicaca.

Later that afternoon we hired a private boat to take us to Yampupata for 15 US dollars. Mike and Dave rode on the top of the boat and I slept underneath. Between the sun, the hiking,  and the altitude I was beat. When we reached Yampupata we took a moment to pump water from the lake into our hydration packs and nalgene bottles. Dave took a refreshing swim and I wanted to, but I would have had to strip down to my skivvies in front of a family washing their clothes in the lake nearby and I was afraid of offending them. That was also the afternoon Mike was nearly attacked by a muy aggresivo pero and for the first and hopefully last time in my life, I had to throw rocks at a dog. I am not proud of it, but it was that or watch my husband have his limbs torn off.

Our table is ready and I still haven’t told you about our hike from Yampupata back to Copacabana, the incredible breakfast we ate on the floating island where they caught, gutted, and fried our fish in front of us, the lovely afternoon in Copacabana, the drive through El Alto and the people dancing in the streets…. this place, this country, these people are absolutely enchanting. I am enchanted and in love.

Until next time mi amigos. Buenos noches!

P.S. My spelling is atrocious, I’m sure. Especially the Spanish. Forgive me! xoxo

No limbs lost

There is a free Internet cafe in our hotel in La Paz, and even though I am so tired I think I might fall out of my seat, I had to take a minute and write down some of our adventures so far.

First let me say that La Paz is an incredible city. We spent all day today wandering around, sampling local foods from street stalls, picking up supplies for our hikes, figuring out the details of which busses run where and how to buy tickets and all of that. And it’s just … it’s wonderful. I love it here. I am so glad we came. I have taken lots of pictures already, but they don’t do the city justice.

We traveled for nearly thirty hours to get here, taking stops in Mexico City, Gautamala, Lima, Santa Cruz, then finally La Paz. We befriended a fifth grade teacher who spoke fluent Spanish and happily helped us figure out how to get around in the various airports. He happened to have all the same connections as us. When we finally arrived in La Paz we were filthy, tired, and breathless from the altitude. We ate dinner in a local restaurant with two Canadian women who had been seated behind us on the flight from Lima to La Paz. We were back at the hotel and in bed by 9 p.m.

I wish I had brought a little journal after all. I left it behind (along with many other things I’d wanted to bring) because my pack was already thirty-five pounds with no water and that is too heavy. Hopefully, when we get back, our photos will help jog my memory for all the little moments that can otherwise be easily forgotten.

I am too sleepy and this keyboard is too strange for me to go back and edit this post, so I hope you don’t mind if there are typos or oddly constructed sentences. I just had to pop in and tell you that after twenty-four hours here I am in love. I cannot wait to see what the rest of our travels hold. We will continue to be careful and cautious, but now there is no fear. Instead I feel as if I’ve been bitten by a travel bug; I am having fantasies of all of the other exotic places in the world I now hope to see. Should you ever have an opportunity to visit Bolivia, do not pass it up.

Buenos noches, mi amigos.

Where’s Mexico?

I know I said I probably wouldn’t post again before we left, but I was just looking at the map of South America from yesterday’s post, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out where Mexico was. Why wasn’t it pictured in the map?

It’s not that I’m stupid. Honest. It’s just that I spent my entire junior and high school career writing notes to my bffs, napping, and reading the novels I hid in my text books. And now I’m a grown-up married woman who didn’t know that Mexico isn’t part of South America.

So then I looked up a map of North and South America and I’d be lying if I said my stomach didn’t fall out of my butt when I realized how far away Bolivia is.

map of north and south america

I found this map here.

We’re practically going to the end of Earth. Ok, not really, but still.

As long as we come home healthy and well, with all our limbs intact, this is going to be a really wonderful adventure. I am still slightly terrified, but I get more excited with each passing day. Do me a favor? Say a prayer for us, think good thoughts, keep your fingers crossed that we stay safe and whole. It would mean a lot to me.