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The Village Awakens

It was day six of our travels, day four in Bolivia, day three of our first trek. We woke early and packed up our roadside camp in the light of the full moon. I was eternally grateful that we had not been bothered by anyone in the night, but I was still on edge. I do not like wandering around in populated areas at such ungodly hours. One never knows who or what one may run into.

Also? I was really freaking hungry.

We hiked down the steep slope of the hill we’d slept on and back toward the road. Something in the sky flashed.

“What was that?” I asked.

Neither Mike nor Dave had seen it. Something flashed again.

“Seriously? You didn’t see that?” They had to have seen it.

“I saw it that time.” Mike answered. “It could have been lightening.”

“It wasn’t lightening. There’s no storm anywhere. It was probably just blah blah blah…” Dave gave a very scientific-y answer to what he thought the flashing light was, but he lost me after “it was probably just…”. I decided it must either be aliens or a serial killer trying to scare us with some sort of flashy light thing as a precursor to torturing us and murdering us.

The light flashed again. I started praying, furiously, for safety. We hiked along the road, in the pitch black, in complete silence, for another thirty minutes or so before the sun began to rise. We never saw the flashy light again, and we never figured out what caused it, but even Mike agrees with me that it was incredibly weird. (I still think it was most likely aliens.) As soon as the sun started coming up I began to relax. The village we hiked through transformed from dark and foreboding to quaint and lovely. Lights were coming on in windows and we could smell cook fires. We hiked with rocks in our pockets because each time we passed a house a dog would charge at us, snarling. None were tied up, but none ever left the safety of their unfenced yard. They didn’t want to fight, they just wanted to make sure we didn’t get too close. We abandoned our rocks.

The village was beautiful. Nestled in a valley, hugging the lake, it was idyllic. We began to see people, a few at a time, working in their fields or tending their livestock in the pink early hours of the morning. I imagined their homes inside, warm and spare, a hot breakfast of quinoa in fresh milk with a sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon. Maybe a steaming cup of coffee. I was very hungry.

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I love this house. Do you see the way the balcony is set up? It’s hard to tell in this photo, but this house is actually two stories and you’re looking at the second floor. That is their balcony, with no sides, not even narrow side railings. It just sort of hangs off the side of the house so you better not let your kids out there unattended. And yet? It is so perfectly picturesque.

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“Welcome to Titicachi and visit the floating island cultural center of Isk’a Huata.”

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This is brilliant. This house (and we saw several others set up the same way) was built below the road, so again, you are seeing the second floor of the house from this view. Only this family included a doorway at road-level, then propped a long plank of wood to serve as a pathway to the road. This way, one does not need to push one’s cart of goods up and down a steep and rocky slope to get to the road. One can use this clever pathway. We saw one house whose plank was warped and looking very old and fragile. I imagined that whenever the family used it, the wife would say to her husband, “When are you going to put down a new plank? I’ve told you over and over, we need a new plank! One of these days it’s going to snap in half! How many times do I need to tell you?” To which he’d roll his eyes and say, “Ay, Mami! I’ll do it, I’ll do it. Cut me some slack, will you? I’ve been working all day!”

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The people we passed on this cold early morning seemed a little suspicious of us, but we smiled and said “Buenos dias!” and they smiled and greeted us back. Mostly. Though it had been, at this point, eighteen hours since our last meal (not counting the cold, nearly raw 1/2 cup of quinoa we shared at camp the night before), this hike through the villages of Lake of the Gray Puma became one of my favorite events of the entire trip. Watching the village wake up in the early hours of the morning was enchanting. It was story-book beautiful. Irrational fears of murder and mayhem aside, I would absolutely recommend the hike from Yampupata to Copacabana, as long as you do it in the very early morning on a full stomach.

L.A. to Mexico City to Tapachula…

…to Lima to Santa Cruz to La Paz

La Paz = Love

Cementario del Distrito

Copacabana

Isla del Sol en las Fotografias

Trekking Isla del Sol

Trekking Isla del Sol, One Step at a Time

Evening in Yampupata