Bolivia

Copacabana to La Paz, Bolivia, by bus

We’ll get to cross Lake Titicaca by bridge said John, after studying the map, his expression reminiscent of our grandson tasting his first ice-cream.

It was time for us to leave beautiful and friendly Copacabana

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Market day in Copacabana

and Lake Titicaca, for La Paz.

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The shore of Lake Titicaca at Copacabana

It was time to begin the last leg of our American journey.

The bus trip to La Paz was one we were  looking forward to. Not only were we aniticpating  John’s fabled bridge, the trip, I thought,  was short – only four hours (ha!) —and picturesque.

The highway runs across the Altiplano, along the Andean spine of Bolivia. I expected expansive vistas and the relative relaxation of being taken somewhere.

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Lake Titicaca and Andean mountains from our bus

Anybody who has travelled by bus in Bolivia and who is reading this post, will likely have developed the stitch about now— from laughter at my/our ignorance.

My friends, let me show you the bridge.

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That’s a bridge??

Yup, the passengers on the bus piled into this tiny ferry, with its faded name, and one other like it. Although in the photos the lake waters appear calm, they were not. There were potholes in that small stretch of water that threatened to swallow us whole. And, um, I didn’t have a life-jacket. No-one did.

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Our ferryman has done this before

It was just another day at the office for our ferryman who has made this crossing so many times he does it with his eyes closed. As for the rest of us … let’s just say there was a lot of nervous laughter during that ferry ride, the sort where there’s the thinnest of lines between laughing and screaming. Not from me, though. I’m the stoic sort. I was very, very quiet, I may have been holding my breath, and I was most likely a deathly shade of pale green. I can’t be too sure about the latter, I was too busy clutching on to John to even think about looking in a mirror or taking a selfie. In fact, he’s given me nearly all these photos. I was rather too preoccupied with praying for survival to be concerned about photography.

What about the bus, you’ll be thinking. Did we connect with another one on the other side?

Oh, no, there was none of that.

Our bus came, too.

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That’s our bus

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Bus on a floating bridge.

Relieved to be on the other side and back on firm land I thought the tough part was over. But I should have remembered my mother’s favourite advice: Never count your chickens before they hatch.

Because, you see, the main highway to La Paz is being rebuilt. There  were no convenient detours, or at least none that our bus driver took.

Our chatty travel companions, the ones who earlier had been noisy in their barely suppressed panic, grew quieter, subdued even, as we lurched along the road, as our estimated arrival time ticked by and Google told us we were at least another  hour and then another hour again from the terminal.  The  view out the window changed from this

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The Bolivian Andes

to this

 

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Protests are alive well

and this.

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No roads

La Paz, I’d thought, was a bustling and sophisticated city. And it is, but not on the outskirts. Here people struggle in half built houses, in suburbs where the infrastructure is incomplete or non-existent.

The atmosphere was tense, there were worried murmurings. Most of our companions were like us, independent travellers on their first visit to La Paz. No one knew how to make sense of these sights. I still don’t know what the figure on the lamp-post was about. If anyone reading this does, I’d be grateful for an explanation. At the moment, I’m guessing it was part of a protest of some sort. With conditions like these to deal with, who wouldn’t want to object?

And then, when we were all at our most dejected, tired, thirsty, hungry we glimpsed, at last, a view of the city, itself. There was a collective sigh of relief and a surge of activity as passengers scrambled for their cameras to capture the moment.

This is what exhilarates me about travel: going places I’d never normally go, getting to see for myself how others live whether they do so by choice or circumstance, visiting places like the Altiplano, to be reminded of how vast and varied our world is. This was an arduous but unforgettable travel day and, bridge or no bridge, pot holes or not,  I’m glad I did it.

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La Paz, Bolivia.

Here’s hoping your New Year is filled with bridges, smooth roads, loving, fun-filled company, and, if travel is your thing, plenty of adventures. Happy New Year, everyone!

WP Photo challenge

 

13 replies »

  1. Bolivia has been on my dream list ever since I saw Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid…although I don’t want to get shot there. Amazing images Jill. Such beauty although certainly some challenges in making your way around. Have experienced a few boat rides like that myself and they are always a white-knuckler. Happy 2017 to you and John.

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  2. You and John are intrepid travellers in the true meaning of the phrase, I salute you as I lounge around this safe and predictable place I call home. Are you back home in good old NZ yet?

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  3. I travel, but I guess I don’t adventure. I can’t imagine staying calm through this, Jill. I’m glad you did. I’ve enjoyed your posts and photographs but I don’t see myself following your path. I don’t think I could remain calm. Kudos to you and John.

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  4. Glad I’m reading this from a comfortable chair, because I feel your discomfort! Glad to hear you made it safely and hope you are enjoying the final destination.

    Off the beaten track, sometimes beneficial to get a balance of real world reality, it reminds me of travelling in Palestine, trying to do the 50 minute journey to Ramallah from Bethlehem, (well its 50 minutes if you are Israeli), if you are Palestinian or travelling with one (as we were) it’s a four hour off the beaten track scenic route, forbidden to use the highways, and necessary to cross barbed wire checkpoints. How the other half live, indeed.

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