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
and Lake Titicaca, for La Paz.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!