Two days ago we returned home, beat up and weary from the last three months on the road. The next morning after arriving home in the middle of the night I was sitting on the couch, when my step dad, Mike, asked me; “This seemed to be your hardest trip yet, huh?”.
I sat there and thought about it for a moment and the memories of constant illness (between Felicia and I, one of us was in such bad shape we couldn’t leave our room for about a third of the trip), The horrible weather and constant rains we had in Ecuador, The bus ride with me vomiting out the window for 16 hours, the constant looking over our shoulder for someone who might be following us or waiting to “bump” into us and relieve us of our things, the stress of knowing that every meal you eat might ruin your day, and the constant pressures of trying to build a healthy and loving relationship in the midst of all this. The stress throughout this last trip was heavy and Mike might have been right when he called it my “hardest trip yet”…
Then I sat there for a moment longer, and let all the good experiences wash over me; seeing the sunrise over Colca Canyon with the girl I love beside me and condors flying over me, the local Chinese immigrant we found in a Chinese food restaurant in Rurrenbaque who sat and spoke with Felicia in Chinese for an hour about how he sees the local culture, riding horses through the sunscorched deserts of Tupiza with a 15-year old guide, climbing around the inside of the old Bolivar theater with a excited local telling about his efforts to have it restored after a fire swept through it, and hundreds of other perfect moment Felicia and I would never have experienced if we hadn’t put ourselves out there in the midst of all this strife to try and find tidbits of life and excitement.
I am happy to be at home right now, its relaxing and comforting to sleep in my own bed and have clean food in the fridge… but I don’t think it will be long before I start planning and scheming on how to get away again and put myself through untold misery, to find the passion that I live my life for.
Tomorrow I turn 29. I glance back and see that a year ago I celebrated in Tibet with a bottle of vodka and had know Felicia a week. A year later as I write this and she is peacefully sleeping in my bed 5 feet away, 8829 miles from her home and, although I can tell at times she is horribly homesick for Singaporean street food, I want to thank her here for putting up with me for the last year and coming to be with me. We are unsure what the future holds for us (we are both near broke at the moment), but we are holding each other as we plunge into life.
Just for anyone who was interested in knowing; when buying a ¨Direct¨bus ticket in Copacabana, Bolivia to Cusco, Peru, Direct actually means share a minivan with 7 others to the border, walk across both exit and entry points with all your bags, share another minivan for 30 minutes to the side of a freeway where you proceed to sit there for 45 more minutes amidst hundreds of cows and sheep on the way to market until a bus (which is not the one in the picture which you were promised countless times) pulls over and lets you have the last two seats in the back, next to the stinky toilet for a ride that ends up taking three hours longer than you were told.
Silly me thought ¨direct¨actually meant you would get on a bus and go directly there.
We headed off for a day trip to Isla del Sol today, where supposedly the sun was born. It didn´t seem that way excessively, but it was warm and we manage to hike the islands tall peaks, and sit in the sun with a chilly breeze before we our six hours were up. We piled back into the ferry back to Copacabana with dozens of other travellers and proceeded to take the worlds slowest moving boat back to our hostal. 17 kilometers (10 miles) in an hour and a half.
After my morning drug routine to try to keep myself alive, Felicia and I were headed down into town to see what we could find for the day since we were feeling better now. First things first, I hit up the local pelequeria for a $1 haircut where the woman went as far as straight edge razoring my sideburns and the back of my neck. It was easily one of the more intense haircuts of my life and I went above and beyond and tipped %50 (so $1.50 total).
Anyways we made our way to the giant Cathedral here to check out all the car blessing (which is done twice a day at 10am and 4pm!) and the building itself. After a bit of wandering this little town we made it back to the waterfront for an impromptu kayak rental ($1) and a paddle around the bay. Unfortunately the wind was kicking up and the choppy seas made Felicia a little less comfortable and we headed in after 20 minutes or so.
The rest of the day was spent in classic Rob style of eating and sleeping, and let me tell you it was wonderful!
Our journey to Lake Titicaca threw us right into the middle of the Fiesta de La Cruz (Festival of the Cross). We don´t know what it is celebrating exactly, some sort of religious right that calls for 3 days of 24hr music, dancing in the streets, crazy costumes and plenty of beer everywhere.
You get the feeling of a good time with not-so-sober bands wandering every street, and all the partying. Then you see a painful looking Jesus on the cross in the middle of all this and remain confused.
Unfortunately I still am not in great shape, and wasn´t really up for to much of a fiesta, but I did manage to get out and get a few pictures of the goings on.
One of the places Felicia wanted to stay more than anywhere else on this trip was La Cupala Hostal, right on the shores of Lake Titicaca. From everything we’ve read, and anyone we’ve talked to, it is a gem in the pile of shit that is this regions of the worlds hostal scene. Many people we have spoken to were disappointed because the place only has 17 rooms and is always full. Somehow we had managed to get a reservation, and also manage to keep it through two days of delays. If we didn’t make it there today, we would lose it and get stuck at one of the towns lackluster accommodation choices.
I woke up still a little queasy, but put my best face for Felicia and informed her I would be able to travel to get there today (which might have been a little lie). She left to settle our refunds with the cancelled plane tickets from a couple of days ago and I proceeded to slowly pack my bags. I was still blowing ass, but I had given up drinking and eating anything hours ago in preparation for this trip.
When she got back we got all our stuff together, I went to the bathroom once more, and we headed out to Copacabana on Lake Titicaca. The bus ride left me clenching over every bump (fortunately the road was paved). I knew, since we were in the back of the bus (for some reason we always are) I would never make it off through the crowded aisle if there was an emergency. I clenched, and breathed in the fresh air from my window, thinking un-nasty things. Felicia placed her hand on my leg, very loving and girlfriend like, and I had to tell her to take it away because and extra pressure was disrupting my concentration.
Very focused and concentrated. It went on for hours and when we finally made it to our hostal (which seems as nice as we’ve been told), I bolted to the bathroom then climbed under the heavy comforter and spent the rest of the day snuggled up nicely trying to recover the rest of the way.
My sides felt like I spent last night in a boxing match, I was sure my kidneys were bleeding, my stomach was a cement mixer, and my mouth was dry and crusted with spittle, as I cracked my eyes after managing 2 hours of sleep. I glanced at my digital watch; 4:30am. We were figuring on at least a few more hours on this bus into La Paz. I opened my window, hung my head out, stuck my finger down my throat, and vomited out whatever was in my stomach just to make myself feel better.
The road had smoothed out slightly and now our driver was speeding excessively trying to make up for lost time for leaving late yesterday afternoon, I figure bus companies aren’t to gracious when it come to excuses such as drivers losing keys.
I tried to close eyes and not think about how deranged my body felt. It was unignorable though. I just sat in the undersized bus seat in sheer agony, imagining that this must be what Hell feels like.
Finally, as the sun came up La Paz started to come into view, and although we had reservations in Copacabana for tonight (another 4 hours away), Felicia decided we would be staying here for the time being, which I was excessively thankful for. I think she might have been a little worried for me. We jumped off the bus at the first stop, instead of waiting for the bus station which is closer to the hostals, paid a taxi $1, and sped away to the same place Felicia spent penned up and sick for a week in earlier this month. They had a room, wonderfully, and I showered and spent the next 5 hours asleep. When I awoke I realized I wasn’t in the mood to throw up, but there was an uncomfortable amount of pressure Downunder, if you know what I mean…
The Incan Gods then proceeded to have some revenge for the ravaging of this continent my European ancestors doled out. Unfortunately in all landed on my gut, and although I don’t think I have ever felt this cleaned out I wouldn’t rate the experience as a beneficial one.
At 11pm last night it started raining, and it wasn’t a little shower, we’re talking about a deluge and it didn’t let up even when we woke at 6pm to go check on our plane which was supposed to leave in an hour and a half back to La Paz. The unfortunate part of having a grass runway (as Rurre does) is that when it rains flights get cancelled, namely our flight (and 3 from yesterday).
We were informed that we would be lucky to be on a plane in 3 days but it could take as long as a week until we would be able to fly. This caused us two major problems, one: Rurre doesn’t have an ATM and we are just about out of cash, two: We really weren’t interested in spending another week here.
We found two other couples in the same position and we tried to get a private 4WD to drive us back to La Paz for the obscene amount (in Bolivia) of $400US for a 12 hour drive. We found someone willing to drive, but the Slovenian couple backed out at the last second which left it quite out of our price range. (FYI: the plane tickets were only $75US each). We found our way to a travel agent who booked us two tickets for $11 each on what we have constantly heard is one of the worst bus rides in the world. 16 Hours of bumpy, muddy dirt roads with shear cliffs on one side, and the highest (per kilometer) death rate out of any strech of road in the world.
We showed up at the bus station a little before the 11:30am departure, when we found it would be postponed an hour because one of the drivers lost the key. 12:30, there was still no sign of us leaving, but I started to feel a little… shall we say icky. Finally at 1:45 we all piled in, Felicia and I in the second to last row, and as soon as the bus started moving stale water from the last days rain came through every crack and soaked many passengers with black sludge, thankfully not us, but it did leave the buses floors soaking wet and I had to keep my daypack in a trashbag to keep my camera from getting soaked. Within minutes we realized why people hated this bus ride so. We were being thrown around like a hacky sack of some young hippy kids feet.
It took about 30 minutes before I realized something wasn’t right in the land of Rob.
“Um… Felicia, you mind if we switch seats so I can be by the window?”
Then it was on, vomit spilled from my mouth and three hour old empanadas covered the side of the big blue bus. I proceeded to vomit for the next few hours until there was nothing left, after which, I still vomited more, just in the form of dry heaves into the jungle night. I rode through the horrible Bolivian rainforest roads with my upper body heaving sprite and assorted day old foods out the window into thousand foot chasms.