Sunday, 22 January 2012

Crossing borders: to Bolivia

We went into an office for a stamp, walked up the road and went into another office for another stamp, got on a bus and drove away. All in under three minutes. I thought: if only it was this easy for anyone to cross a border. Wouldn't the world be a different place?
     We arrived in Copacabana, still beside the Lake Titicaca, still the same languages, (Spanish, Quechua, Aymara), people of the same appearance and dress, the same landscape, but - a different country. It made me think of the old days when those borders weren't there, when the Andean people were the Andean people, whether in Peru, Bolivia, Argentina.
     We brought in 2012 in Copacabana. Had a lovely dinner, wine, went to a bar that suddenly emptied. Decided to go to another and found everyone on the street getting ready for midnight. Fireworks are a huge thing around these parts and once again we saw the sky light up. Let's just say it was a great night that involved fireworks, beer, wine, cuba libres, caiphrinas, more beer, a badly cut finger and a crippling hangover: a fantastic new year.
     Day 2 of 2012 we were in La Paz and wondering around the Witches Market where you can find anything including llama foetus. A llama should have one baby but somethimes there are many foetus' so they pull out the dead ones until they get to the live one. The dried llama foetus are then for sale to be buried under your house as an offering to Pachamama for good luck. Afterwards we were nearly robbed at knifepoint but I saw the man, the scenario, the knife all beforehand and we miraculously escaped that one. Phew.
     In the Plaza de Murillo we watched the families and the children in the christmas mood. Every other child had a puppy, and the ones that didn't have a puppy were getting their photo taken with a puppy. I almost asked for a photo too but Oscar stopped me, saying, maybe I was a bit old for that? Maybe a teeny bit.
     Next: Coroico. The beginning of the tropics without the 12 hour journey to Rurrenabaque we unfortunately didn't have time for. Our first night we shared a table in a restaurant (common here if it's full) and we made friends with a lovely Swiss/Chilean/Bolivian lady who lives in Coroico, a Bolivian girl and American guy who live in Florida. The next day we went for breakfast at Doris' house (the most beautiful, peaceful, paradisiacal house I've seen) and went walking through the tropical mountains where we saw banana trees, avocado trees, coffee plantations and coca leaf plantations, ending in an animal refuge called La Senda Verde which has birds, parrots, turtles, caiman and monkies - all but the caiman are walking around freely in the large refuge. The only problem was we made a friend along the way - a dog - which got into the refuge. Suddenly all the animals started screaming and I spotted our friend. The owner started screaming at me to get him out of here now! And I said he's not our dog! and she screamed that she didn't care, that I brought him in here! Who knows how he didn't attack any of the animals - he had been pretty aggressive with all dogs and cars on the way - but we got him out. At the exit I asked the guys working there how he would have got in and they showed me the gap in the door. Well surely that's not a great idea for the door of an animal refuge...
     Oscar had a baby monkey on his shoulders which made me jealous and relieved at the same time. It came off safely.
     We headed on to Cochabamba and then to Sucre - both journeys with no toilet so I had to starve myself of liquids for several hours before and then take advantage of the driver taking a leak or checking the tyres to nip around the back of the bus and take a leak myself. Fun - not. One bus made a toilet stop at 2am in a village and everyone got off and walked down the road to a nook, cranny, tree, rock and I realised there was no actual toilet. I felt sorry for the village.
     Sucre is beautiful. More of that another day.