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Back in Copacabana (Finally)

This week was gangbusters. Work was crazy, but I got through it quite successfully. Not perfectly, but overall it was pretty fantastic. And look what I have for you!


Lake of the Gray Puma

Pictures from Bolivia! Yay! (Much cheering ensues.)

These were taken on day six of our travels, day four in Bolivia, day three of our first trek, right after lunch on the floating island. The next few hours of hiking were easy. It was around eleven when we left the floating island and we were trying to get back to Copacabana to catch a one-thirty bus back to La Paz, so we walked fast. On a dirt road in the sun with thirty-five/forty-five/fifty-five pound packs on our backs. There aren’t a whole lot of pictures because, while not completely miserable, it wasn’t the nicest part of our hike. But here are some highlights:


Awwwww! Aren’t we the cutest? We totally are. Dave took this photo of us. When I look at it I remember how lovely it was to walk hand-in-hand like this. Even on a dusty road carrying heavy backpacks in the hot sun after a breakfast of fried fish Mike made me feel all romantic inside.


una vaca


dos ovejas

tres llamas

tres llamas

(Actually, two of them are ovejas, not llamas, but whatevs.)


This is me after I collapsed in a heap on the outskirts of Copacabana. I could have slept right there. Have you ever been so drunk that you thought it was perfectly acceptable to sleep in a telephone booth? I was that drunk. Only I hadn’t had a drop of anything in weeks. I was drunk with exhaustion. It would not have been safe for me to operate a large piece of machinery. My feet were tired. My knees were tired. My shoulders were tired. My butt was tired. My hair was tired. Even my teeth were tired. Also, see how crispy my left arm is? It was lobster red. That happend during our trek around Isla del Sol the day before. Just the one arm. The sun was beating from one direction, clearly.


While I took this photo for Dave’s wife, I chanted: “Touch it touch it touch it touch it! Peer pressure! Do it! Do it!” But he did not. Which was probably wise.

Walking into Copacabana through the outskirts, where village blends into city, I was a little bit nervous. It was intense. The houses were made of mudbrick, just like the farm houses, only these houses didn’t have any windows. Or any doors. Some of them didn’t have roofs. Trash overflowed from the three-foot deep gutters into the street. There were people living in tents. There was livestock, but it grazed in muddy fields strewn with broken bottles and dirty diapers. We were trying to find our way to the Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana, but when we stopped to ask for directions in broken Spanish, the people just stared at us and shook their heads like they had no idea what we were talking about. We could hear a sermon loud and clear in the alpine air so we knew it was close by. I had to pee worse than anything so we found a baño público and dropped our packs. Mike stood guard while Dave ran ahead to find the basilica and I ran to pee.

This bathroom was… it was not an American bathroom. It had a real flushing toilet which was awesome, I am not complaining. Lots of places don’t even have that. None of the toilets had seats, but not a big deal. One can simply hover, that didn’t bother me. What bothered me was the method by which the toilets were flushed. While many of the baños público we visited had toilets that the user could flush by pushing a small handle on the basin, these toilets could only be flushed by pouring a bucket of water into the toilet bowl. The buckets, old two-gallon bleach bottles with their tops cut off, were stacked, dozens of them, next to a cluster of filthy garbage cans, each brimming with thick, murky water. But, dear readers, I did not have to soil my pretty American hands touching the grimy buckets and scooping the germy water. The little girl to whom I’d paid un boliviano did it for me.

It was awful. I tried to do it for myself, but the girl shook her head, said something in Spanish and shooed me out of the way. She couldn’t have been more than six. I watched while she draped herself over the edge of the garbage bin, hanging by one arm to the lip of the can while she scooped water with her other arm, her little feet in old leather shoes dangling inches above the floor. I wondered if she’d ever fallen in. Or tipped over, sloshing muck and brown water all over her dress. I thought about what I did when I was six. How I spent warm October afternoons singing Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go while I swung on black rubber swings under old shady trees. I wanted to pick her up and carry her out. She’d just barely fit in my pack if I dumped all my gear on the street and I would have gladly dumped every piece of gear, every cracker, every bottle of water to take her home, give her a life of swings and shade trees. Except obviously I was not going to do that. I’d be arrested and hauled off to a Bolivian prison where I wouldn’t be surprised if they frequently put kidnappers to death. I wouldn’t blame them if they did. So I walked away.


Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana

Guess what happened next? FOOD. Glorious, beautiful, wonderful food. And lots of it.


We’d crossed from the questionable side of town to the tourist side of town where everything was bright colored, beautiful, and for sale. Everywhere we looked the streets were lined with food. Nuts, dried fruits, broasted chicken, salteñas. OH MY GOODNESS THE SALTENAS. Salteñas are basically Bolivian empanadas. They are baked in a wonderful crunchy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside cornmeal shell and stuffed with chopped meat, potatoes, apples, a hardboiled egg, and one olive. The kind with a pit. And everything is soaking in an incredible, rich broth that is both salty and a little bit sweet. It is manna from heaven, I kid you not. We bought three salteñas, several bags of roasted nuts, chickpeas, beans, and dried bananas. Not the dried bananas like you buy at the market but real, dried-in-the-sun bananas. You have never tasted such treasures as these.


Mi amor with a salteña and a Coka Quina. If I could buy Coka Quina in the states, I might drink it exclusively. It’s Bolivian cola, but it has ginger in it, so it has a wonderful gingery-kick to it. I wish I had a Coka Quina right now.


It’s killing me that I can’t remember what these tiny fried fish are called. Ipsy or Isspi or Ippsi, I have no idea. We ate them several times but these first ones were the best.


Please pardon the gargantuan blister-like pimple on my cheek. That is I-haven’t-showered-or-washed-my-face-in-three-days-but-I’ve-been-applying-sunscreen-every-two-hours acne. I had asked Mike to be on Pimple Patrol. “Please,” I begged him,”If I grow something horrible on my face, tell me and help me take care of it.”

“Of course, dear. Anything you say, dear.” He replied.

I had no idea that thing was living on my face until the end of the day when we finally checked into our hotelroom in La Paz. I almost died when I saw it.

We have a really lovely life, Mike and I. There are little children in the world who spend days they should be in school flushing public toilets with dirty water, but we go on vacation and worry about pimples and complain about the public bathrooms. It doesn’t make any sense. I don’t mean to be Debbie Downer all of a sudden, it’s just very strange. And it’s inspiration to be a bit better of a person in the day-to-day and to pay forward some of the gifts in my life.

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