Friday, July 01, 2005

Final partings, a foolish adventure and finally, Peru!


After me and Itai finished our different arrangements and partings from Hanna and Gigi, we climbed on the bus to Copacabana Thursday morning. We both didn't expect the following developments and less than 24 hours later, I am in Puno, Peru, traveling solo.

Last arrangements, insights and parting from Hanna and Gerald
Days past fast when you enjoy yourself. Itai was suppose to get his stuff ready by Tuesday, and assuming that it will be ready in the morning (very optimistic assumption, btw) he could ship all his presents (LOTS of them!) back home through the El Lobo restaurant arrangement. Turn up that his man was behind schedule and he received all his stuff only on Wednesday noon, enough time to go the Lobo and ship all the presents back home. That day started quite bad, as I have forgotten so stupidly my synthetic down coat in an internet point. Coming back after half an hour, and the coat was gone. Damn! I was so pist about myself, how could I have forgotten such an important item in an internet point?! Returning back I have met with Itai, going to have a tea in a nice café, and he tried to encourage me ("well, actually I didn`t like this coat in any case"). His comment, even though it had a good reason behind it, didn't mend my feeling of self guilt and temper. I had no choice but to go quickly and order a fleece. The positive thing about this event (and always there is a positive in all this kind of shit) is that I could sew my own fleece, the way I like it and with my own design. Mom, don't ask about the colors, you gonna flipped out…
Two hours before the coat was ready (and this time, he was on schedule) I decided that it is time to get a haircut. WHAT?! IN BOLIVIA?!?! They gonna butcher my head, for sure, I thought to myself…Well, I walked around and found a nice place, on calle Murillo. The barber, Pedro, 23 year old Bolivian, had a 10 years experience (do the arithmetic and be amazed!) and showed me some pictures of all kinds of hair styles. I dropped it aside and explained him with my broken Spanish what I want. He understanded, and in a very Bolivian way, he started to work on me, rough and quick. And damn, he did a well good job! There are pictures (not developed yet!) of me before and after…I hope im gonna find an internet with Photoshop, and I will align both pictures one next to the other, just for the comparison. I will just say that the whole thing cost me tenth (!!) of what usually I pay for my barbers. Well, it is hard to compete with the cheap and quality of the Bolivian hands.
I had only 30 minutes to wash my self and get back to the shop to take my fleece (it was closing time already). Coming back with my brandish fleece I have met with Hanna, who has just returned with Gigi from Chulumani, a nice little village hidden between cloud forests and numerous Coca leaf plantations. We decided to go out later, even tough Hanna could not join us as she was sick from some sort of drink she had there (if you are interested, Im sure she has written something about it in her blog..).
We went to the famous El Cubano, a restaurant I have visited over ten times (!), which says a lot about it. At first, we had a nice conversation, but at some point, I felt that my speech was blocked by Itai`s speech. Im not sure what exactly I said (I have a reputation for such kind of things), but suddenly I found that I was out of the picture. What the hell? So, I kept silent and listened. After ten minutes, which I saw that the conversation continues without my presence, I finally got the feeling that after all, me and Itai would not get along so well. This feeling was there only a day before, and I had some thoughts about it, but nothing firm. I had some doubts about it only a day before the restaurant incident, when I gripped that Itai wants to do the alternative Inca trail without any mules, when we had our first dispute.
Due to the fact that it is a 4-7 day hike (depend how much fit the traveler is), the amount of food that should be taken is very large (hence the weight of the pack on the back). In addition, Itai is a fit guy, that consumes large amounts of food (believe me, he eats a cow per day..), we would have to carry even more than usual. Even though I have done not too many treks above 4000 meters (similar to the alternative Inca trail path), I knew enough that the height has an enormous effect on the ability of a not too acclimatized person to carry out a long trek appropriately. That was the reason I preferred to hire donkeys which will carry most of our equipment and thus will enable us to look at the scene and not at the passing ground beneath our feet. Itai was stubborn, though. He was sure that we can make it, and it will be fun (even though he never has done treks in high altitude). I actually belive that he can do such trek (and also enjoy it) but I was more worried about my abilities to enjoy such a trek. He was very firm with his opinion and decision, and as things looked at that point, it will happen as he wants. I tried to explain him all the above (and more) but he was stubborn: we can do it, and we gonna have fun doing it that way. I decided not to push on that subject more, and wait till we get to Cuzco and hear what everybody think about the trek path etc.
So, back at the El Cubano, the two kept of talking, and some how discussed compromises (if im not mistaken) and Gigi gave an example of saying "no" to a suggestion of another traveler to join him on a specific tour. I will not compromise in this trip, he said, there is no reason to do such a thing. And I found my self thinking, how amazingly some marks are sent to me, and all I should do is listen and act. But I didn't. Eventually, I have mingled with the overall talk, knowing what I should do but cowardly not doing anything about it.

Copacabana and the foolish decision
The next day, after we parted from the Hanna and Gigi the night before, Itai and I took the micro to the Cemetery district, and from there took another little van to Copacabana. Our plan was to stay one night in Copacabana and then move on to Cuzco through Puno (another night there).
We reached Copacabana and after a nice meal, we went straight to the coast. We walked along the coast until Itai stopped and sat. Thinking for a while, Itai suddenly offered that we gonna take a paddle boat and sail to Isla Del Sol. At first I though he was joking and teased him, but he was stubborn, as he always was. It is only 20 km away, we can do it, he insisted. Well, I told him, I don't think we can and it is too difficult (and it will be very pricy also). Finally he said, come on, if you feel like turning back, we will turn back. You are the anchor. I accepted to this proposition (still not 100 % with our plan) and we found a lady who rented us a two-person paddle boat for a good price. We boarded the "vessel", and started to paddle toward the port exit, toward Isla Del Sol.
At first we felt the difficulty of such an effort, and also we noticed that we sail VERY SLOW. But then, we felt better, and continue to paddle for and hour and half (4 pm). On the way we both noticed, to my embarrassment I must admit, that im not paddling strong enough most of the time, and actually itai made most of the effort. On the way, we argued whether we can do it or not. I knew it was impossible, especially because we ran out of light time (the sun was due to set at 6 pm), and we made little progress. I also told him that if he wants to do this sailing thing, he can do it himself (he was the dominant of us paddling, in any case). I am not enforcing you to do things you don't like, so why you are trying to do the same thing to me?, I asked. Itai, on the other hand, was stubborn and said we can do it, and tried to find excuses that we can sail even at night (!!). Only three hours later, he stated that he was just playful, and of course it was an impossible cruise to do. I will give him that credit, not without an effort…
Shamelessly, with only my backpack and not arranged properly, we found ourself pressed for the piss, but no where to do it but into the lake. In this entire charade, this was the most appealing and embarrassing act I have done. We didn't have any plastic bottle to piss into apart from our water bottle (which was already half empty, and good thing we didn't drank it all), so we had no choice. I know, Tim, this a shameful thing to do, but I had no choice. When we returned to our seats (itai was "behind the wheel"), I offered that we return to Copacabana, so Itai would have a chance to see the sunset from cerro Calvario. He thought for a minute, and declared "To Isla Del Sol!". I paddled, pondering what I am gonna say when we gonna reach our last turning point (around 4:30, exactly half of the time we had till the sun will sunk under the lake). I knew I had to be firm. This is my fuckn life, not a game.

In deep shit
When the clock in my watch stroke 4:30, I told Itai, lets go back. He was silent for a while and asked if I want to take the wheel. I said that I don't have any problems taking the wheel, as long as we turn around. He kept silent, paddling. I waited for a while and then asked if we gonna do it in our life or on our next. He asked me again if I want to take the wheel. This time I was firm, even aggressive, because I lost my patient. He was acting like a kid, and I was pissed about the entire situation. And more importantly, I got my conclusion, the one I was pondering over and over the past days. At that point, I didn't give a fuck what he thinks about anything. I had had it with him!
I told him, that if he will not turn, I will take the wheel and do what is needed to do. At that, he abruptly turned the boat 180 degrees, toward to Copacabana. It was obvious he was agitated by my request, and in an after knowledge, by the way I have put it.
For the first couple of minutes I was too occupied by the thoughts of what are my next moves to notice what itai noticed quite clearly. We are not moving, he declared suddenly. I took a look around, and indeed, we were grinding water, as the saying goes. It didn't take us too long to comprehend our very tricky, and even dangerous, position we were stuck in. We were several kilometers from Copacabana, and couple of km from the proximate shore, not to mention the fact that the sun was going down on us and we had only one litter of water as provision. I knew that if we are not on shore by night fall, we are doomed. First, we tried to aim the boat toward the nearest shore, but it didn't help. We tried the best as we can, and still we were moving only millimeters a minute. We knew we managed to move forward, but it was painfully slow, and painfully difficult, as we had to paddle at our maximum strength. Quickly we comprehended that we have no choice but to hail for help. I knew that several tourist ships are passing in our vicinity every hour, and they could haul our boat to shore. But, after waving with our red safety coats and even utilizing my camera`s lens as a signal mirror, we grasped that nothing helps. The ships, km or more away, continued with their original course, oblivious to our trouble leaving us desperate and frantic to find a solution to hour serious situation. We both managed to stay cool, even though I could see already all the dreadful possibilities that awaited us. Except for the boat lady, nobody knew our whereabouts and we couldn't continue to paddle at that pace with that speed, not to mention the fact we had less than a litter of water for both of us. It was obvious that we will need too much time and energy in order to over come the current, which was strong and was directed back to Isla Del Sol, around 15 km behind us. I am not sure whether Itai was serious or not when he offered that we sail to Isla Del Sol, but I didn't pondered to much on his seriousness: I was upset and piss off of the entire situation to give him other answer than "NO!". I was keeping asking myelf how I managed to tangle myself in such a foolish act of egoism, and why I didn't told itai yesterday that im canceling the all plan to go with him to Cuzco. I was too naïve to believe things will change. Well, they haven't.

While we were discussing other possibilities, we noticed a row boat not far away from us, maybe 500 meters. Even tough it didn't seem likely that a row boat can haul us back, we knew that it can at least call for help. I have started waving with the red safety coat and called out Ayuda!, help in Spanish. At first we got the impression that the two people on board where oblivious to our presence and our call for help, similar to the tourist boats. But, then we noticed that the boat was little by little getting near us, until I managed to identify the number on the rower shirt. And indeed, after ten mintues the sail boat (and not row boat) came to contact with us with its rigs naked of any sail. Talking with the fishermen, itai manage to explain our situation. The fishermen grinned a bit, and demanded money for their effort. We didn't argue, of course.
After the fishermen finished organizing their bait, they moved on to tie our boat to theirs, and also fitting the sail to the rigs. The blue silk waved in the cool wind, and I had the passion to take a picture. But I didn't, as I was to upset about the entire situation. I vowed that I will never ever compromise my trip for the sake of a partnership. Never!
With the rower working on and the sail fitted tightly, we were sailing quickly back to Copacabana, the descending sun on our right, painting the all scenery in deep red colors. Even so, I was not in a romantic mood, nor in a mood to talk with Itai. When we got nearer to the port, he suddenly asked me not to put this charade in this blog. I was so piss off with him, that I bluntly answered that Im putting what ever I want in my blog. I knew that I was very harsh, so I added that in any case little as non read this blog (well, actually I hope I am mistaken! :) ). He kept silent after that.
When we reached the little lighthouse, at the opening of the port, the sailor waved us that this is as far as they gonna go. We tried our best to ask them to lead us to port, as we felt that the current will do us trouble, only 500 meters from shore (and we were right as hell!). They insisted that they cant, and asked for the money. I was about to pay them already when Itai, in a very good move, told them that we will pay them only on shore. Not before. Eventually, they gripped that we are serious, and asked for an addition ten Bolivians. We agreed and the boat changed course back toward to Copacabana. Eventually, four hours after our departure, while the sun sprayed her last rays of light, we were on the shores of Copacabana. I never thought I would be so glad to walk again. We paid the lady and headed toward the main street of Copacabana. Now, I had another matter at hand. A difficult move, a necessary one.

A difficult move, a necessary one
Walking back to center Copacabana was mainly held in silence. Itai threw a joke which fell on a not very sympatric ears ("sport in Copacabana is so pricy!") but apart from that we didn't talked. At some point Itai said he is going for a tea. I said goodbye without looking back, only seeing my next moves. "You don't want to join?" he asked and I blurted a straight "No". I had to much things to do, and in any case, I was not in a mood to talk.
I went into our hostel, took my stuff and explained the situation to our hostel manager. He demanded the money even though I didn't sleep in the room, and loosing my patience, I gave him the little Bolivians he asked for and left the place. It didn't took me too much time to find an alternative option (twice as pricy) but I didn't care. I wanted to get over with it.
Once my stuff where in my new room, I headed to the café to tell itai what are my plans. I found him, as usually, reading philosophy and listening to his music on the headphones. I thought it would be short, but it wasn't. We sat there and talked for hour and a half and I even invited him for a dinner (!). My conscience just write checks I cant pay (sorry for the poor translation). He wanted to know why im doing this, he criticized my impulsive act (which was not) and also criticized some other things he didn't liked about me, sometimes without giving any reason as to why he poured the criticism. At one time he said that if I want to understand what im doing wrong, I might as well join him and I will understand while we tour together (!?). Why I was there to listen? Because I wanted to hear what he says, to hear what he thinks about me, as I am a person who cares how he acts in public. Sometime I agree, sometimes I don't. Most of the time I didn't agreed with him. But at least I learned some stuff about my self and also about him. At the end of the day, we didn't even say goodbye.

Crossing into Peru
Not surprisingly, we met again at the border checkpoint. I wished him lots of enjoyment in his trip, he mumbled something, and that's about it.

The crossing was smooth and easy, and after 3 hours I got to Puno, Peru. I leave Bolivia, amazing and wild, into a different country, full of different adventures possibilities and different rich history. Im a bit sad to leave Bolivia, with all the good (and bad) memories, knowing that I might never knock on her gates ever again.

Goodbye Bolivia,
Hello Peru!

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