“Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have traveled.”

I’m still hibernating. The air felt cooler when I went to get the papers, but the weatherman says 84˚ so I might as well keep the AC running. Usually I never watch the television in the daytime, but I’ve been watching the Olympics: the women’s soccer and track and field as well as men’s water polo. I think I’m addicted.

We’re in Puno and we’re boarding the hydrofoil to go across the lake. My friend and I could have chosen a cheaper regular boat, but a hydrofoil was on my list of things I wanted to try. The sensation was neat when the boat rose in the air and then flew off across the water. We made three stops on Lake Titicaca; all were on the Bolivian side. The first two were the Islands of the Sun and the Moon, del Sol and De La Luna. Both have Incan ruins. The Sun is a large island and is believed to be the birthplace of the Sun God. We got off the boat there to see some of the ruins, but the only one I remember is the Sacred Rock. The shores of both of these islands were filled with rocks, and we only saw de la Luna from the boat as there was little to see on the island. Our last stop was Copacabana, Bolivia where we went into the town and visited the Cathedral. I remember the statue of Our Lady of Copacabana was in a niche and it was the first time I’d ever since one dressed in real clothes.

As we got closer to Bolivia we saw a few reed boats and men fishing off them. One of the boats was small and had room for only one. It looked a bit like an oversized kayak. Those reed boats made me feel as if I had been transported back in time as their method of construction has never changed. When our boat landed on the coast, the Altiplano of Bolivia, we boarded a bus to la Paz. The Altiplano almost defies description with all its beauty. Mountains ring along the side and the landscape is stark. It looked a bit like the moon must when you’re standing on it. I think I hurt my neck swiveling my head from side to side to look out the windows. We rode for four hours or so; I don’t really remember. I just know it was dark as we got close to la Paz, the highest capital in the world. We came in from the mountains, and the city was below us built in a canyon. Lit up, La Paz looked like some giant Christmas decoration with lights spread across the canyon. The sight was mouth dropping in its beauty.

We found a hotel close to the bus stop and fell asleep in a heartbeat. But by this time I had a cold, a winter cold, and that hotel was so damp I woke up shivering. We decided to go plush in La Paz and got a room in a really good hotel. It had a buffet breakfast which I enjoy every morning but only for a little while. We explored la Paz. The streets were windy and seem to go higher and higher. Many were cobbled. We wandered all over not at all bothered by the altitude as we had been in the mountains since Venezuela. We went to the witches’ market and just stared at all the weird stuff on the tables. We saw pouches with what I think were potions, dried stuff I didn’t want to know about except I think I saw a few mummified frogs, not so great for souvenirs. We saw parks filled with statues and sat in a few. The hats had changed again. The women wore brown bowlers. The clothing was still colorful. We visited the Iglesias de San Francisco. The outside of the church had all sorts of engravings. Inside, we took almost cave-like stairs to the roof. The view was well worth the trip. La Paz was my second favorite city after Quito.

We decided to fly from La Paz to Asunción, Paraguay as we thought an overland trip, correct that to an over-mountains trip, would take too long. The La Paz airport was high above the city, and we got the view in the daytime which had astonished us at night. La Paz looked tiny below us, like a kid’s toy, but it was no less jaw-dropping.

I’ll always remember waiting at that airport. We were standing there when a whistle blew. Afterwards I figured it must have been lunch time because all of a sudden armed soldiers appeared from everywhere. They must have been hiding along the runways in the tall grass or behind structures. I swear there were at least twenty of them all carrying machine guns, but that only made us chuckle. They all went to lunch at the same time leaving us to our own devices.

The plane was making only a stop at La Paz, and when we got on it, there were already people sitting there sucking on oxygen. That was the first time I’d ever seen anyone actually using the drop down oxygen masks. I thought it a bit over the top as they had never left the plane. I had been in La Paz for four days and once I’d thrown up each morning I never thought anything of the altitude. I sort of snickered, a bit of arrogance I guess.

We flew to Paraguay and left the Andes behind us. We had been in the mountains for over six weeks.

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13 Comments on ““Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have traveled.””

  1. olof1 Says:

    I read this a couple of hours ago and just now I realized I had forgotten to comment 🙂 🙂 🙂

    If I remember right it was when the scientist Thor Heyerdahl sailed to the Easter Islands he asked people from Peru to make him that big reed boat. They are the only ones that knows how to build them.

    It would have been fun to visit that witch market 🙂 A mummified frog would be a perfect souvenir 🙂 🙂 🙂 As long as one doesn’t try anything they sell 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Have a great day!
    Christer.

    • katry Says:

      Christer,
      I remember Thor proving that the reed boat was seaworthy for long sea trips. They are so tight and well-constructed.

      I love markets anyway, and the witch’s market was especially interesting.

  2. Birgit Says:

    Thanks for another day of your exciting travelog.
    I hadn’t heard of the Altiplano before. The landscape is terrific, though photos can never substitute reality…

    If anyone is interested:
    Photos 1977 La Paz (Bolivie)
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/11537561@N05/sets/72157607423822142/with/2877816223/

    Just some Bolivia pictures (Altiplano, Isla del Sol, …):
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeybaker/sets/72157625085058221/with/5051913228/
    Too many beautiful photos available to make a choice…

    PS: I visited the Thor Heyerdahl KonTiki museum in Oslo 30 years ago, so I probably saw the rebuilt Ra boat. Have to check my pictures…

    • katry Says:

      Birgit,

      You are welcome! Not many comments about these memories so I hope I’m not boring the rest of my readers. I thank you for still enjoying the travelog!

      Those La Paz pictures were taken the same year I was there so you see what I saw as I walked through the city.

      The bus ride across the Altiplano was spectacular. I forget how lucky I have been to have traveled to so many amazing places.

      I have seen the Ra only in pictures.

  3. Zoey & Me Says:

    Great story like a travel guide. I’ll have to come back for those links Brigit posted.

  4. Caryn Says:

    Hi Kat,
    The witches market sounds cool. I would have found something in a potion bag to bring home just because. Maybe not a frog mummy but something.
    I’ve been reading these posts and smiling at your observations about the hats changing from place to place. The women’s brown derby hats and the knitted colorful ones with tassles are the hats most often pictured. I always thought they were from the same place. Now I know. 🙂
    It’s the three H’s up here again. Hot, humid and horrible.
    Enjoy the day!

    • katry Says:

      Hi Caryn,
      I think I did buy something but I don’t remember. I had a backpack to haul around so I was careful not to end up with dead weight on my back so I didn’t buy a whole lot until Uruguay and Brazil, the last stops before home.

      The hats were wonderful from country to country. I thought all the women wore the derby’s until I visited. Men didn’t usually wear hats except the knitted ones you mentioned. Those I saw in the really high mountain stops.

      It’s the same here except I have been inside all day-third day in a row of the AC.

  5. flyboybob Says:

    Today we got a break in the weather, only 102 degrees and very dry. I didn’t see any clouds all day.

    The witches market sounds like a fun place to visit. I wonder where our own witches purchase their supplies here in the States. I am always amazed that in modern times places like that continue to flourish in cultures around the world. In Hong Kong there were many stores selling medicinal herbs right in the bustling main shopping and business district of Kowloon.

    When flying into airports whose field elevations are above 10,000 ft. the flight crew usually turns off the passenger oxygen system before landing to prevent the masks from droping down since they are activated by a barometric switch. However, the crew has portable walk around oxygen bottles so they can assist passengers in the event of a pressurization failure. Crews can manually activate the passenger oxygen system from the cockpit. If that happens by accident on the ground it’s called a ‘rubber jungle’. It takes awhile for the flight attendants to roll up each mask and place it back into it’s overhead compartment.

    I can’t wait to hear about Paraguay. Thanks again for your wonderful descriptions of SA.

    • katry Says:

      Than you, Bob, for enjoying my endless travelog!

      In Ghana juju men sold amulets and all sorts of stuff for curses. I guess many countries have their own versions of witchcraft. I think that people are a bit afraid to let go of traditional beliefs in magic. Who knows what might happen to me!!

      I think the passengers must have complained about gasping for breath as so many of them were sucking oxygen. It amused me.

  6. Ted Says:

    Kat, our medical team normally goes to Ecuador, but on our one trip to Bolivia (2001) we toured Lake Titicaca and went out to one of the islands, I think Isla del Sol. Very few reed boats now, and probably used for tourist purposes only (great photo of the two-headed reed boat, by the way).

    We went out on a boat with two big outboard motors, steered by hand by the skipper at the stern. One of them broke down, and when he asked, “Alguien sabe manejar?” (Anybody know how to drive?) I was about the only one who knew what he said, and since I’m a fisherman anyway I got to steer while he fiddled with the other outboard. Not too spectacular an achievement, but it’s one of the things I could put on a resume: “Steered a boat across Lake Titicaca.” Right up there with “swam with nuns in an Amazon tributary”.

    We didn’t stay long on the island, so didn’t see ruins, but we walked around and bought a few things. Before we left Maine my father had given me two requests: “Can you get me a rock from Lake Titicaca, and I’d love it if you could get me a model of a reed boat.” The rock was easy, and the boat not much more difficult, in fact the one I got is a beauty, about 10″ long, has a sail made of reeds too, and the man who made it signed it for me–and it turned out that he’s the son of the builder of the reed boat for Thor Heyerdahl. Really cool.

    Bolivia was similar to Ecuador in many ways, but more intense, with more poverty, and seemed to have greater contrasts, culturally & racially (although I haven’t been to el oriente–the jungle area–in Ecuador). From La Paz up in the clouds to Guayaramerín way down in the Amazon Basin (hottest two weeks of my life) it was quite a learning experience.

    Another remarkable consideration for travelers is how cheap things are Bolivia, even compared to Ecuador. We felt guilty eating out in restaurants in some of the smaller towns because the cost was so far below our budget for groceries that we got lazy. But it was too hot to cook anyway where we were, and we were dead tired from working in the clinic and from heat exhaustion. A missionary friend who worked in Perú commented on Bolivia too–he and his son took a motorcycle tour around South America and were pleasantly surprised at how cheap things were there. But, it’s one of the poorest countries in South America, along with Paraguay, and probably no coincidence that these are the only landlocked countries. They have been squeezed out economically and there is a lot of suffering from that.

    Fun series. Thanks.

    • Kat Says:

      Ted,
      Love your driving on the lake-that’s an amazing experience which would have put it over the top for me. I was thrilled enough just being a passenger. Never did I ever expect to be there when I first learned about the lake in geography.

      There were’t any people on either Isla del Sol or Luna when I was there. People were the village when we stopped to see the church, but they weren’t selling. I would have been buying as I love the textiles.

      Bolivia was definitely cheap in comparison to other countries as we could stay in what was, for us, a pretty ritzy hotel, but Paraguay was the poorest and the cheapest of them all. Back then Asuncion had few modern buildings. I bought a few things and traded with some Indians, the last I would see.

      Ghana was the best experience in my life but this was second, a close second.

  7. Ekendra Says:

    Reblogged this on Logging Aspirations and commented:
    “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have traveled.”


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