Sunday, June 20, 1999

Greetings from Potosi Bolivia!

When I last wrote, we had just finished the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu and were headed for Lake Titicaca.
The way from Cusco to Titicaca is either to take a bus, or a train. The train comes in 3 classes; Inca at $33.00US, Pullman at $19.00US or Economico at S/30.00 The coaches are identical, the only difference being that they turn the heater (not needed) on in Inca Class and do not allow people in the isles on Pullman Class. We went with the S/33.00 Option (About $6.00US)
Well, we made it to Titicaca, and must say that we were not all that impressed; it's a gray slab stuck on a gray plain. Puno on the Peruvian side is a typical 3rd world shithole, and the only saving grace were the floating islands of the Ururu people. They originally fled Arymara aggression on the Altiplano only to find Quechua aggression on the Cordillera, so the hid out on Titicaca by building huge rafts of reeds where they still live. This as far as I know is unique.
From Puno, we beat a hasty retreat from (relatively) high Peruvian prices to cross into Bolivia and Copacabana.
Copacabana IS nicer than Puno, but there is literally nothing to do there except visit the birthplace of Mancu Inca, Isla del Sol. The only place in the world that Titicaca looks good from is Isla del Sol, and MAN DOES IT LOOK GORGEOUS FROM THERE!
To give you an idea just how boring Copacabana is, complete strangers (Hi Brett!) will approach you to see if you want dinner.
From Copacabana, we headed on into La Paz, the Worlds Highest ________ (You fill it in; as it's at 4000mtrs above sea level, it claims the highest ski run, capital city, movie theatre, railway, and on and on).
The first view of La Paz from the toll booth at El Alto is SUPERB!!! Jesus, the air was so clear that you could see for days across the Altiplano. The city itself is huge, and quaint at the same time. On every street corner you see bowler hatted women selling llama fetuses (purported to cure everything from hemorrhoids to hernias) and receive nightly tear gassings from the police (Yes Malin, here too!) We also ran into the Venezuelan-Canadian Luis that we had originally met on Isla Del Sol, and the Aussie named Brett that asked us to dinner in Copacabana here again.
Well, it's time to head into the Jungle, to The Beni! But first stop is the small town called Crioco at the end of the "Most Dangerous Road In The World" (It was pussy safe compared to the road to Batopilas), so we get up at the crack of dawn, and take a cab to the gas station that serves as a bust terminal, and after we get dropped off there, I finally get to use the Pepper spray that my mother gave me before leaving home.
It's 5:00 am, and we are loaded down to immobility with our packs; when this odd looking gentleman accosts SGK. She turns away and he advances on me with his hand held out in front, gripping something shiny and menacing. I yell at him in English and Spanish to go away, and he still comes on, so I show him my mace can and yell again, but now he's about 2 feet from my face, so I let go with the spray. What does he do? Sniffs once, shrugs, and WALKS AWAY!!! Does this stuff lose it's potency? Or was this guy just so out of his head that he really didn't notice?
After this, we take refuge in the only open shop on the street, run by a nice man who sells blankets. Who wanders into the shop? But Mac, the South African-Australian that we ran into in Vilcabamba. He too is going to Corioco, so we harass a local woman into selling us Tomatoes (She didn’t want to sell that early) and munched Tomato sandwiches for breakfast on the way down into the Jungle. When we arrive in Corioco, who do we see? Luis again! And Matt, the Swiss-German guy we met on the train from Cusco to Puno.
We stayed at El Cafetel, which was cheap (15Bs a night - about $2.60US) and probably has the best view from a toilet of anywhere I have ever had the pleasure of Shitting - You look out over the Beni Rainforest 2000meters more or less straight down. The owners we also amongst the RUDEST hosts in the known world, but hey, they’re French...
After a hike to the waterfall, and Skinny dipping thereupon, we decided to skip the 40 hour bus ride to the Jungle proper, in favor of going skiing in Chile, so we bailed on back to La Paz to catch Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (Vinny, how could you let your name appear in the credits of this dog?) and head on up to The Silver mines of Potosi, The Salar of Uyuni, and thence on to Chile!!!!

Cheers! MRA

PS. Haven’t heard for Hans, Alice & Andy, Petra & Claire, Owen, or my Brother Doug or my Mom in a while!!!

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