South America | Bolivia | Copacabana – Bolivia!
Friday 18th May
After our first day mooching around Copacabana, eating and counting down until our next meal, we were wondering how on earth we’d kill 6 full days. So we booked an excursion to the Isla del Sol and the Isla de la Luna. I think other than a tour in the Pantanal, we will give guided tours a miss from now on! As a boat trip, the day out to the islands was very nice, but as a tour it was somewhat lacking.
After 2 hours in the boat, we arrived at the Isla del Sol (allegedly the birthplace of the sun…..) and were promptly charged $2 each to enter the museum and to see the ruins. There was no option but to pay since we were dropped off on a beach and had to pay to get any further onto the island. I was confused throughout the morning, since we were told that all of the sites on the island were of the Tiwanaku culture and definitely NOT Inca. Lonely Planet insists that the island was the site of Inca creation and that all ruins are from the Incas.
Oh well, Onto the Isla de la Luna where we opted out of the ruins (another dollar for entrance) and stayed on the beach instead. After Machu Picchu, theses other ruins seem unimpressive! Our final stop was on the South of the Isla del Sol. Not wanting to climb the Inca steps (are they Inca???) we stayed near the boat and ate salchipapas much more our style! Luckily, we managed to jump on an earlier boat and were back in Copacabana before sunset.
Saturday 19th May
I think my stomach knows when were planning to stay in one place for a while. I had put the pains down to seasickness yesterday, but after a night of toilet activity I know now that it wasnt. Oh well, at least my insides have the decency to explode only when we have a private bathroom and a nice view!!
Sunday 20th May
Feeling much better, we set out to do our present
shopping. Walking around the main square, we happened upon the weekly vehicle blessing service outside the towns impressive cathedral. Its a strange old sight scores of cars, buses and lorries adorned with flowers and streamers, bonnets open ready to be blessed. Then, out of the ornate 17th century cathedral comes an ancient European-looking priest, kitted out in brown robes, matching baseball cap and a pair of deck shoes! He then moves amongst the cars, spraying the engines and their owners with holy water. He seemed to enjoy hitting people with the flower doused in water far too much, chuckling as he soaked passers by.
It was great fun to watch, and as he finished blessing the cars, their drivers scattered flower petals around and sprayed beer around the place. To round it off, Hector grabbed the priest for a photo opportunity great fun!
As if we hadnt had enough local entertainment, we wandered down to a local bull fight for the afternoon a clebration of the towns 50th anniversary. It was an interesting occassion. When we arrived, the locals were still building the stands and as we picked our way through the rubbish dump and bull poo, we were beginning to wonder what wed let ourselves in for!
We could have paid $1 – $2 for a good view of the arena, but that meant balancing on one of the aforementioned stands (v overcrowded and not too safe-looking) or, for the higher price, a seat balanced on a plank, balanced on top of a sagging lorry (with the town mayor no less!).
Instead, we opted for a restricted view, costing nothing but feeling quite safe atop a garden wall. The Bolivian bullfight is not quite like the Spanish one (not that I would know, having never been. I had been assured that the bulls are never harmed here, or I would have stayed in the hotel room!) As it turned out, the people sustained far more injuries than the bulls!
Rather than the pomp that goes with being a Matador, any local who fancies his chances is allowed into the arena. And so they did, most of them under the influence of the local beer. Of course, this livened up the proceedings no end, and the star of the show was a drunk man who would taunt the bulls for 20 minutes or so, tripping over his feet as he went, before being dragged away by the Military Police.
Another beer drunk and the whole sequence would start again. Other than that, the show wasnt too impressive. A few good photo opportunities arose when the bulls ventured too close to the crowd (standing inside the arena) who would then turn and flee. Of course, I missed the best picture of the day, when the bulls finally had enough of the aforementioned drunk and one carried him several feet on his horns before tossing him to the ground. No blood shed, thankfully, and the man was later seen around town nursing a hangover.
The show also contained a strange procession, including the last thing I would expect to see in Bolivia a drag artist! Another local drunk dressed in the traditional costume of the cholas (local Indian women). There was I thinking drag was a British institution!
To round off the day we ate at a street stall, despite my dodgy stomach. Ill be paying for that tomorrow!