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Sailing away in landlocked Bolivia

Written on: Wednesday September 24th, 2008

A journal entry from: Trails in 2008

Very happy to be entering Bolivia after Peru.  Much like a plaster, we got ripped off in a few places, but not as many as we thought.  Our favourite part was north Peru – less touristy, interesting things to learn about the pre-Incan civilisation and lots of adventure in the tallest mountains outside the Himalayas!  Machu Picchu is definitely up there too – it is touristy for a very good reason.  However thereīs been a just one too many dodgy dealings, taxi driver rip offs and general travelling frustrations for us to be sad to leave Peru.  Roll on Bolivia!  We find ourselves on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world at 3,820 metres – that's about the same as NZīs highest mountain!  This is where the Bolivian navy has hung out ever since the Chileans stole their coast – it's a huge lake at 230km x 97km so it gives them lots of room to spread out.  I reckon theyīre missing out on a huge opportunity to get a Bolivian Olympic rowing team going – all that training at this altitude would set them up. This week the Bolivians have kicked out the American ambassador (something to do with spying or assassination plots), then the US kicked out theirs in return so not good relations at the moment – this has put a lot of people off coming, and also Americans are usually not being allowed entry (a bonus for others, some might say!).  So one glance at my blue NZ passport had the border official pointing at me and accusing "Americana Americana?"  I denied everything, said "Nueva Zelanda!" and it was all smiles and stamps for me. We met an interesting lady in town who is trying to clean up the shores of the Lake from plastic, and at the same time help the local women establish a much needed daycare centre by setting up a recycling program.  She got a grant for a shredding machine, and 2 women collect and shred the bottles (earning $2 a day each).  The first hurdle was that the big plastic collection bins in town were stolen within the first week and they canīt afford more.  The main hurdle is the level of suspicion - people donīt think someone would do something for the greater good - restaurant and hostel owners who once happily threw away their bottles now want money for their rubbish.  She got the same reaction when the group tried to set up a waste collection to feed pigs for the women to look after.  There seems to be no sense of community spirit, and every new idea we came up with she had already banged her head against that wall.  Most incredibly, the local school and parents refused to get involved when she proposed a scheme for the kids to collect bottles year round and be rewarded with an educational trip away at the end of the year.  I have fond memories of my childhood saturday bottle drives, they are missing out! Scams still trail on from Peru – when you visit the Isla del Sol in the middle of the Lake, you have to pay for 2 tourist tickets – but which ones?  There are 4 groups of ticket sellers all looking equally official scattered along the path on the walk north to south.  Thinking of setting up a similar crafty scheme on the Abel Tasman over the summer in NZ.