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Eight Hours to Charazani

view from my bus window

The eight-hour bus ride to Charazani was uneventful. It was not a modern tourist bus like the one we took to Copacabana. This bus was at least as old as me, if not older. There was no heat and it was very very cold. The people who shared the bus with us were wrapped up in warm blankets – they’d known how cold it would be. They were not tourists, but native Bolivians traveling for work, traveling for family, traveling for Festival, traveling for a better life somewhere else.

I slept most of the way and when I wasn’t sleeping, I watched the landscape slip past the window. I tried not to look down because when I did, I saw nothing but the steep slope of jagged mountainside. The road we traveled was narrow and our bus hugged the edge so that it seemed one sharp turn would send us spiraling down the mountain in a flurry of stone and dust. Every few miles we came upon a herd of cattle and more than once I was sure we’d barrel right through them, but they always scattered in time. Two hours in we made a stop for food and toilets. Dave and Mike got off the bus to pee and came back with fried chicken and french fries. Possibly the best fried chicken and french fries I’ve ever tasted in my life. After that, the bus only stopped to let passengers off and never for more than a moment.

waiting for a different bus

roadside cattle

sheep grazing

8 hrs to Charazani

Midway through the trip they played a movie on an ancient little television. An American sci-fi movie dubbed in Spanish. A little boy, maybe six or seven, stood in the aisle gripping the armrest of Mike’s seat, eyes glued to the television as it lulled him into enchantment. His eyes were so wide, so full of awe, his mouth hung open just slightly and when the bus hit a bump and he lost his footing, he’d grab Mike’s shoulder or arm and hang on, eyes never leaving the television screen. I wanted to scoop him into my lap, bury my face in the top of his head, nibble the sugar at the back of his neck.

road to Charazani

Charazani from above

We saw Charazani long before we reached it. A cluster of brick buildings pressed into the mountainside. The closer we got, the less inviting it looked. When we finally pulled into the town square, my whole body was tense. I told myself it was because I’d been on a bus for eight hours – I just needed to get off and stretch my legs. But that wasn’t it. It was the people in the square who stopped what they were doing to watch the travelers disembark. Who froze in their tracks with slack faces and cold eyes and stared.

It was hot and I was sweating. Tired, hungry, bladder bursting, and sweating. We pulled our gear off the bus, now crusted with a layer of dirt, loaded it onto our backs and started walking. We knew there were three hostels in the village. The first one we tried was locked up, deserted, so we moved on. I only wanted a clean place to pee, a hot shower, and meal. After that, I didn’t care what happened.

L.A. to Mexico City to Tapachula…

…to Lima to Santa Cruz to La Paz

La Paz = Love

Cementario del Distrito


Isla del Sol en las Fotografias

Trekking Isla del Sol

Trekking Isla del Sol, One Step at a Time

Evening in Yampupata

The Village Awakens

Trucha Frita

Back in Copacabana (Finally)


El Alto

Dinner in La Paz

In the Hours Before Dawn

Quinoa Comes From Bolivia

Quinoa comes from Bolivia.

Wikipedia says:

The Incas, who held the crop to be sacred, referred to quinoa as chisaya mama or ‘mother of all grains’, and it was the Inca emperor who would traditionally sow the first seeds of the season using ‘golden implements’. During the European conquest of South America, the Spanish colonists scorned quinoa as ‘food for Indians’, and even actively suppressed its cultivation, due to its status within indigenous non-Christian ceremonies. In fact, the conquistadors forbade quinoa cultivation for a time and the Incas were forced to grow wheat instead.

While Quinoa is a particularly wonderful thing to eat, I don’t just want to eat it, I want to know it. I want to know more about it. Where does it come from? I’ve done lots of Internet searches trying to find out more about this wonderful little seed and the land from which it comes, but other than a few articles, I haven’t found much. Sure I’ve found information, facts, crime stats, but I want to know more.  I want to know what the stars look like from that part of the world.  I want to smell the streets of La Paz. I want to use the public restrooms, buy food from the vendors, cozy up to the locals. (But probably not really because apparently they really like to steal your wallet and they aren’t shy about it either.) I want to spend a day (or 5) trekking the Apolobamba, pooping in holes I’ve dug myself, and using llama dung to fuel the fire that cooks my evening meal. I want to know where quinoa comes from.

This July, Michael, his brother, and I will make the journey from Los Angeles, through Mexico City, past Lima, Peru, to La Paz, Bolivia, where we will learn all about where quinoa really comes from.  We will spend a few days tooling around town before we take a lovely (two day) stroll from Isla del Sol to Lake Titicaca.  (No, I won’t ever be able to say that out loud without chuckling. Titicaca. Titicaca!) After that we’ll take a bus from La Paz to Charazani where we hope to stay in a hotel, take showers, and possibly shave my legs if Mike will let me bring a razor. (I’m only allowed two pairs of panties so I’m guessing a razor is out of the question.) (What? We’re backpacking. Would you want to carry all my extra pairs of panties?) Our goal is to hit Charazani’s winter fiesta (it’s winter there! In July!), but I guess maybe their town has limited Internet because there’s no website or anything, so we don’t know what the exact dates of the festival are. We’ll spend a day or two in Charazani either way, and when we feel nicely acclimated to the 9,600 foot altitude, we’ll hike from Charazani to Pelechuco, which should take four to five days. And it will probably kick our asses.  Apparently, there’s going to be a lot of walking up and down hills. While carrying forty-some-odd-pound backpacks with all of our food, water, and other supplies. And also ziplock bags full of our poopy toilet paper. Because we don’t want to litter.

It’s going to be a Very Big Adventure.


Omg, do I really have to sleep in this?