Monday, March 27, 2006


Last week we escaped Arequipa. And decided to see how the socialist movement was advancing in Bolivia. From Arequipa we traveled to Puno and then to Copocabana, which sits on the shore of lake Titikaka. After recuperating, from another day lost bouncing up and down on a bus, We took a boat to the isla del Sol. The isla del sol is an island that is about an hour and a half from Copocabana that sits in the midst of lake titikaka. We opted for the late boat and planned on staying at a recomended hotel on the north of the island. Most people leave early from Copocabana and opt for the day trip.Upon arriving, we learned that the early boat arrives on the north of the island, and the later boat arrives to the southern port. So as usual, we had to call an audiable, when we discovered that the late boat did not go to the northern port. We tryed to convince a few fisherman that it would be fun to sail up the coast. but they saw straight through our alterior motives and politely declined. So, we had a few hours of daylight and figured we could give it a shot, and try to traverse the entire island. once ontop of the ridgeline, a well tracked llama path diverted us and eventually led to a dead end in the middle of a steeply terraced agriculural area. We could see a trail in the distance, and opted to go terrace hopping as opposed to backtracking. Some of the terraces were taller than they were wide, and we were trying to be careful not to disturb any of the fava beans. a few old ladys gave us a serious eyeball, but upon meeting them their eyes mellowed, and were fine with us passing through.

The past few days, the sky had been a bit overcast. so the terrain around the lake appeard to be rolling hills. so, when the clouds cleared later in the afternoon. we were shocked to notice that the clouds had been veiling a range of snow covered mountains that stood up too 18,000 feet tall. the landscape quickly became very dramatic. We followed the ridgeline until we could see a small village in an inlet that we guessed was where hour destination hotel was. so again, we opted for the short cut. and eventually made it too the beach. A local pointed us in the right direction. and we eagerly strolled down the beach to the hotel. When we arrived at our hotel, i swear i saw a tumble weed. Apparantly, our highly reccomended beach front hotel was undergoing some changes in management. And appeared to have quickly fallen from grace. we walked around trying too see if there was anyone there. eventually, a man appeared, who we guessed was squating on the property. we asked about vacancy, and he said,¨sure. just give me a second to straigten up.¨ the view was beautiful, but i think we were the first visitors in a year or so. So as he scurried off, to remove dogs that had occupied some of the suites. we carried off down the beach, laughing at the situation. as we continued on, we passed several other hotels that seemed to have been closed or abandoned. And as night approached we contimplated camping at one of the hillside hotels, when a local couple informed us that a few kilometers up the trail was another village. So, we contiued along the cliff side trail toward the northern fishing village. on the trail we met a mandolin player who was playing that evening. we arrived just at dark and found a great little place right on the lake.

That evening, was the begining of lent so most of the village gathered to celebrate. Everyone gathered around the church, and played music for several hours. the party ajorned early which we thought was surprising due to the fact that it was friday. But when we were awoken to Bells several hours later we began to understand the schedule of a fishing village.

The next morning the sun came out and after breakfast we took a few hours to explore the norhern portion of the island. The day before we had been talking big about swiming in the lake, so as clouds began moving in our bravery began to wain. But we were patient and finally were given a nice window of sunshine. So, rob and i ate our words and went for a brief swim. The boat ride back was beautiful, and we arrived back in Copocabana at sunset. Tommorow we head toward La Paz.

Pictures....above..isla fishin vessel. below..the curtain is lifted.. let the party begin... the sun is out. how cold could it be.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Mas Champagna, Por Favor

So, sometimes traveling is easy; it is merely a matter of taking ones seat and waiting for the champagne to be served. Maybe, strike up a conversation with the attractive woman sitting adjacent to you. And drop a quick prayer that you haven't seen the feature film that is getting ready to be shown. At other times, traveling from point A to point B has the ability to test ones will and shake your personal sense of patience to it's core.

Rob, and I arrived in Arequipa yesterday after enduring a true test en route from Cusco. Traveling with Kayaks is at best catch 22. Sometimes it opens doors, and very often it is a limiting factor. Typically, it is just a lot of heavy shit to lug around to the next river. We had discovered that most of the long distance coaches did not have roof racks and if by some chance you could talk the luggage managers into taking you're gear it would more than likely double the cost of you're ticket. So, trying to avoid the excess baggage charge when buying tickets to Arequipa we located a local bus that had racks and was willing to be bribed to put our boats on top. We were supposed to leave in the morning and we arrive by late afternoon. Though it is only about a six hour drive from Cusco to Arequipa via car, the bus route is differnt and takes about ten hours. The clerk at the desk had told us that it was a direct route. A direct route is very important, otherwise you stop in every town picking up and dropping off people- not too mention the countless verndors and traveling salesmen.

So, the next morning we arrived at the terminal around six, loaded the boats and took our seats. The bus was not nice by any means, so i didn't even ask the driver if it was possiable to get a mimosa. On the positive side, the bus seemed to be undersold so it looked like we would be traveling light. We left the station and didn't drive a hundred yards before the driver stops to pick up people. Over the next hour, we stopped every possible chance on our way out of cusco and picked up enough people to fill the bus twice over. I am pretty good about people getting into "my space," but at this point i was on the verge of freaking out. I was sitting next to a large Qechuin women, and in the isle facing me was a very large man who seemed to have trouble maintaining his balance, every turn my face seemed to be the gaurd rail that prevented his belly from falling out of the fucking bus. It is a funny image but at the time I wasn't sure how long I could maintain my demenor. After a few hours they both got off and I regained a bit of sanity.

So, we had been driving for about six hours and we had stopped at every town possible. The bus stank to start with but a little bit of incubation will always create some new smells. And when we picked up two women selling baked beef spine, the bus went crazy. Baked beef spine for everyone! The smell was so revolting that i had to litterly hang my head out the window, while everyone around me layed into some spine.

As everyone was relaxing, letting their spine settle, i was staring out the window. We were crossing a desert plateau that sits at about 14,000 ft which was beautiful. All of the sudden our driver-side front tire released, sending the front left side of the bus into full grind causing the radiator to explode upon impact. Our driver did a great job keep the bus from tipping over. But by all estimates we were at least three hours from anything and missing a tire. It tuned out that we had lost our rim, though it probley wouldn't have mattered anyway because we didn't have a jack and the radiator looked toasted. A group of people immideatly deserted, when a box truck stopped. Having Kayaks with us, hitchhiking seemed tough. Especially, since alomost every vehicle was either a bus or a semi. And it seemed that only a handfull were passing every hour. There was a big rock outcropping in the distance, so we took the opportunity to stretch our legs and escape the stinch, if only for a while.

As the sun began to set, I returned to the bus to read while we had light. When a small girl grabed my attention, and pointed out that rob had flagged down a semi. Yhrough the front windshield i could see Rob running back to the bus. So, i tossed our stuff out the window and climbed ontop to begin unloading boats. Within a few minutes we had reloaded our gear ontop of 40 tons of rock destined for Arequipa, and we were on the road again. It was dark, and the load forced us to drive slow. But we were moving. And the cab smelled of Axle greas, which was a big immprovement from the bus. Our driver was very friendly, had great taste in music, and didn't seem to mind a bit of company. Though, he was a year younger than Rob and I he already had eight years experience driving big rigs. After four hours, we had driven about 110km. it was getting late and rob and i had passed out. When a familiar sound raised it's ugly head once again. BOOM!BOOM! " you have to be fucking kidding!" Apparantly, we were exceeding our recomended weight and the heat generated from the exessive pressure caused both back right tires to blow out. now changing a tire is one thing, But changing a four foot tall tire on a semi with 40 tons of rock is a completely differnt animal. The wind was howling and the temp was heading below freezing. So, we took turns on the jack to stay warm. and after an hour or so, we had one tire off. But the inner tire was a bit more trouble, and it seemed that the jack wouldn't give us the extra two inches we need. So, after two hours the mission was abandoned and we settled in for the night.

That evening it dropped just below freezing, and in the morning we were greeted with several huge volcanoes surrounding us and a heard of animals running just outside of our camp. They look similar to llamas, but are much slimmer and have the ability to run very fast. As rob, knocked the ice off of his bivy bag. The driver and I began working the same problem again. "how do you make a jack want to be taller than it is supposed to be?" and the answer is, if you have 80,000lbs of rock sitting on top. you don't do shit. After a few hours we began trying to hitch with little success. There weren't many cars and the ones that did pass were not equiped to carry what we had. Eventually, a potato truck stopped and a whole family piled out: like eight people in an exteneded cab. They were very friendly, and helped us throw our boats in the back of the truck. The truck was about 3/4 full and offered a great vantage point to veiw the beautiful surroundings heading into Arequipa. We were moving again, and point B seemed to be almost in sight. I felt that i could almost taste it. After a few hours we pulled into the local market in Arequipa; to everyones surprise, there weren't just potates back there, but also, some strung out gringos. carrying huge pieces of colorful platic. a cab to the hotel makes four rides, and we were there. A cold beer in the shower was just as i had imagined. More champagne, please!

Pictures: (Above) views from the potato truck. (Below) Tire one....Gone. Tire two....and three...gone. dawn in the desert. the last leg, via potato truck. first trip of the year. Rio Chili, Arequipa.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Negotiations cease, as fighting continues

Negotiations ceased today, as fighting continues in the once Incan capital of Cusco. It is expected that fighting will continue throught the weekend, and there has been speculation that the level of terror will remain elevated potentially through next week. This weekend most shops are expected to be closed, due to the expected level of terror that is suspected to cover this city like a wet blanket. Stores are being overwhelmed by the demand of such items as shaving cream, and water balloons.....
Carnival has been in full swing which is a very exciting time to be in South America.
despite the heavy fighting, we have been able to exit the city and enjoy some of the rivers that surround Cusco. Though most of the classic canyons are still to high there are some sections that are managable at high water. So, the Vilacanova has been the staple. In a few days, we are heading to Arequipa
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