Friday night my travel buddy and I left for Lake Titicaca with high hopes and few ideas of what to expect. Writing from the middle-of-nowhere-Bolivia I cannot give pictures of my journeys yet but take my word that it is another world entirely. The first stop on Lake T.caca were the floating Islands made entirely out of reeds which they also made their homes and sweet boats out of and ate for an afternoon snack. The taste of the reeds is like wet cardboard (but I light cardboard) but could be eaten in desperation.
On the bus I have been slowly reading the Bamba (read: illegal copy) of El Fin de la Pobreza (The end of Poverty) which has brought up many questions. Over 2000 people live 10 to 30 per island in the lake and subsist on fish, reeds (in abundance) and tourism. The reed huts now have their own solar panels to help them do many things, including watching TV. There are schools, a post office, fisheries and community events. No one appears to be malnurished. Would we call them poor? Likely they would counted into the category of Moderate Poverty by world standards but who are we to judge? If a group is happy in their lifestyle and can support themselves why do we have the right to call them ignorant and lacking.
The woman of the families on the Isle of Amantaní welcomed our boat at the shore to take us to our homestay. The new rise in altitude kicked butt again and the climb up the side of the mountain was somewhat painful. But we arrived to a very comfortable room overlooking their small garden plot and THE Lake. We found out later that we were not alone in our experience but in showing us their culture they demonstrated that they in no way wanted to talk to us. I should correct myself because the husband asked what country we were from. The wife brought us our delicious, delicious local food in our room where we ate alone by candle light. That night we were treated to the most intense lightning storm ever. What do you do when given fried dough for breakfast? Dip it in your tea, smother in sugar and pretend you are eating a Beaver Tail.
We entered into Bolivia yesterday in the afternoon where I had to pay a fine because I was given only 60 days in Peru according to their system even though it was corrected in my passport. Lesson: pay very close attention to how many days they have given you in a country. Luckily Peru is pretty forgiving so we promptly set off to walk into Bolivia.
It has now been almost 24 hours on a bus with a short stop in La Paz long enough to order coffee, leave before it was served and book a night long bus ride to Uyuni where we wait for our trip to the largest salt flats in the world (not to mention volcanoes, geysers and coloured lagoons) to be left at the Chilean border.
One more thing: Peru is a bubble bath compared to the cold shower of Bolivia. It just feels different. Maybe it the armed guards at all of the gas stations. Maybe it is the ghost-town like stops every hour or two on the bus and the nauseous making dirt roads throught the desert. At 2am we stopped for food for the first time since we got on the bus at 7pm to be treated to a choice of massive hunks of cheese, hard bread and bland coffee. We could have gone across the street for the same thing but we decided to wander around the bus in the eerie and deserted town. Goodbye catering to my every tourist wish, hello communism.