Enough with the Titicaca jokes already.

Trip Start Oct 09, 2008
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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Today I spent a grueling eleven-hour round trip on a bus and a boat just to visit an island in the middle of Lake Titicaca. Was it worth it? You bet it was. The highlight of the morning was a point where we had to get off our bus and take a boat across a body of water, while the bus rode across on a separate boat next to us. Maybe it was the fact that the bus's ferry boat was tiny and wooden, but for some reason the sight delighted me.

The bus trip took about four hours from La Paz to Copacabana; a small town on the shore of Lake Titicaca. For some reason the bus driver decided to change the plan and make everyone get off ten blocks from the center of town, which caused a couple of angry Bolivian women to yell at him. As I will later describe, the public works in Bolivia aren't particularly reliable.

Lake Titicaca is beautiful and it is big. Fun facts: it's the highest commercially navigable lake in the world. By volume of water it is the largest lake in South America. 60% of the lake is in Peru, 40% in Bolivia.

From Copacabana it was a 90-minute boat ride out to the famous Isla del Sol, a former Inca and Tiahuanco settlement. I got suckered into a walking tour in Spanish which I actually ended up enjoying very much. I'm happy to say that after just four days my Spanish is really starting to come back. I understood much of what the guide said and in speaking my vocabulary is getting noticeably bigger. One thing I'm not doing so well at: conjugating verbs. Example: "Please to getting your llama away from me. He is seemed agigated."

The guide told us that 180 Inca and Tiahunaco ruins still exist on the island. Most of these date to the Inca period circa 15h century AD. But archaeologists have discovered evidence that people lived on the island as far back as 3000 B.C. Today the island is inhabited by approximately 800 families that subsist on farming, fishing and tourism.

The only bus back to La Paz was a "local bus", as opposed to a "tourist bus." This meant that we stopped a dozen times along the way to pick up Bolivians on the side of the road. Soon the bus aisle was full of people who were forced to stand up that way for hours. No easy feat, I would guess. Miles outside of La Paz, the bus driver pulled over and announced that he would not be taking us into La Paz as promised. He said he'd take us near La Paz then we could take taxis from there. Once again, this caused several Bolivian women to scream at the top of their lungs until the driver reluctantly agreed to take us all the way. These Bolivian women do not mess around. Muchas gracias for that; otherwise who knows where the bus would have dropped us off.

When I got back into La Paz tonight, I heard on the news that 200km away from here, a group of farmers has started marching in the direction of the capital in support of a constitutional amendment to redistribute land and revenues from big gas fields to benefit Bolivia's indigenous majority. The Bolivian President himself has joined the march. They're expected to reach La Paz in "about a week" according to the BBC, and their numbers could reach as many as one million furious farmers! I'm not scheduled to leave here for five days, so I'm getting up early tomorrow to figure out what my options are. If this really happens the city could shut down for days. Who knew that being in close proximity to political unrest could be so exciting?

Reading: Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
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