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21-October 4, 2003 |
Missing college football is
tough, but this is worth it
We made it to La Paz without any problems.
La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, also happens to be the highest city
in the world. Elevation is a mere 3,650 meters! Sam and I could definitely
feel the reduced amount of oxygen climbing stairs, hiking the hills
city, and doing our pushups at night. (Thats right Uncle
Scott, we’re doing our push ups. Haven’t been to good
about the squat kicks though). Anyway, La Paz is also very poor and
inexpensive. I think the average annual income in Bolivia is about
Right now, the city’s name is more of a misnomer. Upon arrival
the taxi driver informs us that there had been a lot of problems that
day. Strikes, road blocks, angry locals with rocks, etc. He said not
to worry though, they were finished for the day. (Yeah, sure, no worries
here). Anyway, we made it to the hotel no problem. The large mobs
of people, innocently leaving the end of a futbol game, were still
a little unnerving. The next day we got up and checked out the main
cathedral Iglesia de San Francisco and then headed to the
mercado de brujas (witches market). Here we found and bought your
typical L.A. handicrafts but saw some more interesting stuff as well.
For instance, did you know that burning llama fetuses in the mountains
brings you good luck? Sam and I thought about buying one but decided
against it because we didn’t have anywhere to burn it, and because
if smelling those things before being set a flame was any precursor
as to what to expect, I wanted nothing to do with ’em! We also
went to the museo de coca to learn all about coca leaves. The museum
confirmed the rumors that Coca Cola used and in some cases continues
to flavor their drink with coca leaves but does not actually put cocaine
in the drink. Sam and I both tried munching on the leaves. They taste
and smell bad but definitely numb your mouth and give you a buzz.
However, we don't think we'll take it up as a pastime.
So, burdened with another bag full of 10 kilos of handicrafts we checked
out of the hotel and were on our way to Copacabana on Lago Titicaca.
However, there seemed to be a problem on the road between to La Paz
and Copacabana. We made some calls and were told that we might still
be able to make it out of the city if we go to a different bus terminal
(not the main one). We had a cab to take us. The 15-minute cab ride,
which cost less than a dollar, was interesting because the clutch
was going out. That meant we stalled going up every hill (there are
a lot of hills in La Paz). We finally get to the second bus place
and are informed that those buses as well are not willing to try and
get past the various road blocks set by angry locals. We make a gametime
decision and decide to head to Puno (which is Peru’s main port
for Lake Titicaca).
We decide to do the two-day/one-night tour of the islands near Puno.
We set out on our painfully slow boat and our accompanied by some
very loud Columbians and Brazilians. They were fun for the first hour,
interesting for the following hour, but for the remaining 26 hours
they were simply annoying. The first stop is at the handmade islands
of Uros. These islands are literally handmade from the reeds found
in the shallow areas of the lake. These are the same people that demonstrated
their boat-making abilities 50 years ago when they constructed a reed
boat to cross the Pacific. This explains why mummies and such in the
eastern part of the world have traces of coca even though they died
much before Columbus discovered America or Pizarro conquered South
We then went to another island Amantani (made by nature) and stayed
the night with local families. We eat the typical food of the community
(boiled potatoes, sweet potatoes, potato soup, fried potatoes …
catching a theme here?). We had a dance that night. Locals and Gringos
running around in circles hand in hand. Men had ponchos on, and women
wore several layers of colorful stitching. It was interesting to say
the least. We ended the night looking up at a night’s sky full
of the biggest, brightest, and most plentiful stars any of us had
ever seen. The next morning we went to our last island Taquile. These
aren’t small tropical islands. It took us over an hour to hike
from one end to the other over hills, stone steps and dirt. Sam and
I both passed on lunch because we were, and still are, both battling
Pizarro’s curse. I guess that just comes with the territory.
Yesterday, about every hour or so, Sam or I would look at our watches
and let out a little whimper. Inevitably it would be the exact time
during ESPN College Game Day when Lee Corso was due to say something
stupid, or maybe it was time for the early games to start, prime time,
etc. We both miss college football but agree that we definitely wouldn’t
trade these trips and experiences for anything. We are having a blast.
Next stop, two-day rafting trip down the icy waters near Cuzco, Peru.
T.J. ’03 and Fred
P.S. — There is a good article about Dead Fred in the
Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Go to the Centre Web site and check
it out at www.centre.edu.
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