Photos have been postponed until further notice. Unfortunately, my camera is no where nearby and I do not forsee myself getting anything up for a few more days.  Shots from the Amazon Basin, La Paz, and Lake Titicaca are still to come, plus my most recent photos of Machu Pichu will follow soon enough. Considering getting the 20 or so shots from before took nearly an hour to load up, timliness is an issue when I hardly spend any of it behind a computer and attempting to explore the great outdoors. As always, I will try to do my best.

Things, per usual, have been busy. Lake Titicaca is a fanstastic place, with crystal clear and, most importantly, clean water providing a nice cool off from the hot Bolovian sun.  Being that high up, the skin heats up quickly and tends to feel as though it is melting away by the time mid day rolls around. Sun tan lotion being a good idea, and me being slightly clueless, I was left with a tranquil afternoon relaxing lake side and a righteous red to compliment my peeling skin in the days afterwards. A small price to pay for lake water so transparent that  from the distance appears blue, as it reflects off of cloudless sky, and looking downward a tinge of green, as it magnifies the plant life that lies underneath. An impressive sight to say the least, swimming in it even  better.

Our initial destination around Titicaca was a little town called Copacabana (the song you are probably thinking about is referring to the Copacabana in Brasil, not Bolivia). With very little to do except take in the views of the lake itself, my companions and I hung around for a few days enjoying the scenary and also recovering from some wicked by products of what may have been not so sanitary Bolivian food. This has started to become a common factor of my trip, one that is tolerable but nonethless annoying. Our rest lasted two days, after which we headed for a small island inside Lago Titicaca known as Isla del Sol. With mountainious terrain and prestine beach front real estate, this place turned out to be well worth the two and half ferry ride over choppy waters. The wind provided a nice chill to neutralize the overbearing sun, but by the time we were situated at our beach front hostel the chill had thawed away and my body turned to that sweet color of pink that the Lucky Irish happen to know all too well. The panoramic views of cove where our lodgings lay made the burn far less painful, as the glazed water reflected the nimbous clouds above, swirling slowly around the mountains that lay just in the distance on the mainland. A view I recommend everyone should see at least once in their lifetime.

Titicaca lead to Cusco, Peru. This also means boarder crossing from Bolivia to Peru was necessary, which went along easily and with absolutely no problems. The ensuing bus ride was quite action packed, acting as a catalyst for the activities of the next week and a perfect example of the chaos that ensues when traveling by bus in South America.  A microcosm of what can expect in the world of land transportation in Third World countries, this story shall recount one of the more interesting adventures yet.  The tale begins, as most do, in a strange land. The boarder of Bolivia, which surrounds Lake Titicaca, is like a fairly tale description of two worlds combined. On one hand, you have the traditional Bolivian and Peruvian people and culture, dressed in their rainbow colorede decor and various animal skins to provide protection from the cold, flooding the streets during the day time and selling any sort of product (including llama fetus) to anyone willing to buy. On the other, you have relatively oblvious foreigners that stumble throughout the streets, eyes captivated by the novel objects the never seem to stop presenting themselves, who try to find some middle ground between their lives from home and the new world in which they are immersed (yet never able to do so completely). The result: The clashing of two cultures, this time the struggle takes place on a bus leaving Copacabana and heading to Cusco.

The bus is small, rickety vehicle, barely able to hold the passengers that are desperately trying to escape the enchanting beauty of Lake Titicaca. Appearing like something from a movie from the seventies, the vehicle slowly creeps along the Peruvian landscape, crossing from the mountainous into the desolate, empty landscape that occupies the space until one reaches the greenery surrounding Cusco. A selling point for bus companies at this point in my trip is that their vehicles have bathrooms. Screw heat, screw air conditioning, all one really cares about is if he is able to urinate when the moment strikes on an 11 hour journey. Fortunately, by some holy intervention, this bus managed to have a toilet. As by some more potent unholy intervention, the blessed toilet happened to be out of service and when the moment strikes all one could do was wait, very painfully for up to two hours. Better yet, the seats themselves felt as though they were made of cardboard…cardboard that feebily attempted to hide coarse material underneath that sent jutting pains throughout your body and, most intensely, to your ass. Reclining room (also another selling point) was maybe large enough for a new born infant to relax, just maybe. As Bolivians and Peruvians tend to be significantly smaller than the average American, the seats and space between tend to be smaller as well when cruising along a budget bus from one place to another. This time, however, they were excruciatingly small, your knees pressed right the back of the seat in front of you, with your legs having now where to go. If you were lucky enough to be sat in the aisle, you could stretch your legs out in the walking space, but as I happened to be pinned against a window this was not possible.  So, like this we moved north, weaving past the 200 foot cliffs that hung to right and overtaking any smaller vehicle that stood in the way of our destination.

Part of traveling, as I have begun to realize, is being able to find comfort in the uncomfortable. You must learn to adapt to the pains of each journey, whether it be the feeling of your blatter about to explode, the erosion of your insides from a poorly cooked meal, the nausea and headaches induced from the bumpy roads, the unavoidable foul stench of body odor from those seated nect to you who have just had a hard day´s work,  or some combination of all three (usually many more). The body becomes trained well enough so one what would normally be an intolerable journey, you can softly lull to sleep, dreaming sweetly of more comfortable times and places and hoping to reach your destination as soon as possible. The bus was packed, not an inch to move nor enough air to breath, and we came to a halt so certain passengers could leave and others could get on at around 10 PM (the percise time when my eyelids were folding over, intently searching for sleep). Except this time, for some reason unbeknownst to me, no one got off and a whole slew of workers just leaving the market place decided to board all together, regardless of the space available. With not enough room on the floor, each one had to stand. Rock sacks full of vender´s goods, ranging from premade foods, vegatables, and fruits, slung over their backs as they bobbled down the aisle smacking those poor souls on the outside seats directly in the head. Their march towards the back lasted around 20 minutes alone, with some over taking others as if they were driving on a highway in America, and a few of whom made no attempt to move towards the back, making the others bypass them with the utmost difficulty and percision required in manuevering such a small space. As things settled down and each person finding their place, the venders went to work and choas ensued. Like a busy farmer´s market on a Sunday, each person began shouting out their goods, enticing those nearby to buy and arguing amongst themselves over the correct price, bouncing up and down in order to spot out potential customers. But only those in the back wanted to buy, meaning those venders in the front would literally climb over those in the middle, on top of seats of even other people´s shoulders, as they rushed to meet the demand for their products. This circus lasted around an hour, all sales final of course, until each vender slowly relaxed and laid down on the floor. The walking space had now become beds, so even if the bathroom was working it would be impossible to reach, every inch covered by a Peruvian, their nap sack of goods, and the children that happened to be along for the ride. The funny thing is that for the locals, this appeared to be a normal endeavor, something that was expected once the market closed for the evening and they had finally boarded the bus to take them home. Yet for everyone else on the bus, a state of shock followed by bewilderment and amazement took hold as our half opened eyes attempted to digest everything that laid before them. I still don´t know if any of those people even paid to get on the bus, or maybe the bus driver took commision from their sales, but nonetheless they laid and waited on the floor until their stop for the next 6 hours. A tight, cramped bus was at its limit by the time we pulled into our final destination, each person inside more focused than the next to get off as quickly as possible after our epic journey.

Sometimes all you can do is laugh, enjoy the moment, and savor it for what it´s worth. This was one of those times. It made me smile seeing such a unique sight, something that I could never experience in the United States, even though it made the journey that much more uncomfortable (plus, I had to go to the bathroom, which made things that much more interesting). The faces of each local, the intensity in their eyes as they attempted to coerce nearby passengers into a sale, and the awe struck expressions of every foreigner as they looked on was truly priceless. The contrast, and subsequent clashing, of these two worlds unfolded right before you, leaving one in a precarious position and an impression that would last a lifetime.

Cusco is an amazing city, well worth the taxing journey it took to get there. It was a building experience, allowing me to tolerate any level of discomfort with ease as my trip progresses, one that I will cherish forever. Cobblestone roads, impressive cathedrals, and a city wide festival greeted my worn out body the morning our group arrived. Mustering the strength I could, I walked throughout the nearby square, taking in all the sights that one can see; children playing  in the streets, men in masks carrying empty beer bottles wabbling down the roads as trumpeters stood behind them providing the beat, mothers and daughters dancing hand in hand  in traditional Incan attire, and various local politicians making speeches to ignite the passion of their supporters on a day devoted to the saints of the church. Cusco was an alive, breathing city, inviting all those in attendence to take part of their inherent friendliness and appreciation of life. Very hard to resist, I stuck around all afternoon and floated from one place to another, then back again, in an attempt to absorb as much of the culture as humanly possible for one just passing through.

Cusco, beautiful in itself, is actually a stepping stone for reaching Machu Pichu. My experience there was incredible, but will be spoken of in my next blog entry as I must go. I have been typing for too long, letting the day slip away and not realizing that I will only be in Ica, Peru for one more evening. A quick note on my current location: Ica is a desert oasis, literally a town surrounding a lagoon in the middle of the desert. The purpose of my visit is to partake in the well regarded sand boarding and dune bugging in the massive sand hills that surround this place. It should be pretty neat, an activity that I will be performing in less than two hours. Wish me luck.

Chau.

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