Today was a short travel day from La Paz to Copacabana, both of which are in Bolivia. Apparently this copacabana is the original one, the beach in Rio de Janiero was named later.
Today was one of those days that starts out chaotic and uncertain, and then gets better. I left La Paz, which I continue to struggle to describe. I've said that it's a jumble of colors and shapes, and I've also said that the city borders on being slightly insane. I'm not sure either of these really describes the city though. Perhaps the best way to think of it is the feeling that you have when you have a fever, and your perceptions of the world are slightly crazed, overheated, and too full of color and sharp points of light. La Paz does make sense in its own way, but being there is kind of like pressing on the sides of you eyeballs until you start to see oddly hallucinogenic shapes swimming through your field of vision.
In leaving La Paz, I was planning on listening to some nice soothing music, but when I hit play on my iPod, it was in the middle of an equally chaotic piece of electronic music. It fit the mood perfectly, and provided a perfect soundtrack to the ongoing chaos that I was seeing as we were moving up and out of the valley that the city sits in. This path is a lengthy circular path, given that the valley walls are too steep to drive straight up, so you get plenty of opportunity to see your surroundings as you slowly ascend out.
Beyond La Paz proper I traveled through a great deal of sprawling neighborhoods. The further from the city center you got, the poorer these neighborhoods became, and it was somewhat heartwrenching to see miles and miles of poverty. More so than any other place I've traveled so far.
Eventually though we got out into the countryside, then had scenes of traditionally dressed Bolivian women, with their high bowler hats, pleated skirts, and colorful bags slung behind their back, herding groups of sheep and cows. It wasn't much longer when we reached Lake Titicaca, and then I was in for a treat. Part of our route took us on a ferry. In order to cross this narrow part of the lake, we all disembarked from the bus and took small passenger boats. Meanwhile the bus was loaded onto a pretty rickety looking barge. We more or less all beat the bus across the lake, which meant we could stand around and watch the barge come in at a slow speed, all the while hoping the silly thing wouldn't tip and dump its contents (including all of our backpacks) into the cold waters of the lake. Fortunately we all made it safely, and so did the bus, so soon we were on our way. All of this gave me enough time to try my first bites of trucha, or lake trout. I typically don't write about the food I eat because it's difficult to describe, and poorly described food experiences are pretty boring reading. This fish though, was amazing. And I just had to giggle a litte bit in glee as I was standing on the shores of one of the largest, highest lake in the world, eating freshly caught trout, and watching my big tour bus slowly make its way towards us all. It was a fantastic experience.
Soon after this we arrived in Copacabana, a small town near the Peruvian border on the lake. I spent the day exploring, which mostly meant looking through Bolivian handicraft shops, and eating at a lakeside restaurant while lounging in a beach chair. I am at about 3800 meters of elevation, which today meant that I was a little chilly, but getting sunburnt at the same time. Again. :)
In the evening I hiked up to the top of a tall hill and managed to capture some of my favorite evening photography so far this trip. The sunset was amazing for a very brief few minutes, and the blue sky mixed with the yellow of the streetlights after the sun set makes me very happy.
After very slowly making my way down the cobblestone path (I had remembered to bring a flashlight), I ate dinner at a tiny little street food vendor, serving up more of that wonderful trout. The street was full of people, there was a guy carrying giant sides of raw beef past the whole time (just, you know, slung over his shoulder), and small pickup trucks were backing up slowly down the street a foot from where I was sitting. The tiny bench I shared with two Bolivians. When I had finished my meal one of them spoke to me, and I apologized that I spoke little Spanish. At this point the food vendor leaned over towards me and spoke to me. Everyone else chuckled, and it took me a minute to realize he had spoken to me in a native language that was not Spanish. I said, "uh...,.that's not Spanish." and they all chuckled some more. I thought this was pretty entertaining, and at any rate, I was still enjoying the trout too much to do anything other than smile and enjoy whatever subtle joke they were having at my expense. :) It was a pretty great night that I finished up with by trying some more street food, in this case some kind of hot drink made from Quinoa and water, with a nice lemon flavor. Yummy!
Okay then! Photos galore!