Thursday, July 26, 2007

The last time I was in Copacabana, Bolivia I proposed to my wife. But let´s forget about that fatefull day and talk about the time before that. The time I came out with a few friends. Copacabana was a small place on Lake Titicaca where the electricity was cut off at 11PM and the place remained lighted by coleman lanterns. It was very neat to see. My friends and I hired a man and his small outboard motored boat to take us to the Island of the Sun. It takes about an hour to get there across the lake. I have a picture of the man in my flickr page in both the Bolivia and the Portraits set if you care to have a look.

We arrived on the island at the bottom of a stairway built but the Inca a thousand years before we started up to the top. Water from an artesian well flowed down one side of the stairway. We were the only people in sight until a few small children came by offering some handicrafts for sale. We bought a few things and then headed back down to the boat and back to Copacabana.

We ate the trout from the lake in a small restaurant. A nice big portion served with rice, potato, and salad. We joked with the owners and headed back to La Paz as the only foreigners on the bus.

Yesterday I arrived again with my wife of now 25 years and our two youngest kids. The bus stopped first at the Hotel Utama. Utama means "your house" in Aymara. We liked the rooms we were shown and the hotel in general so we decided to stay there. We had lunch which consisted of a small salad then a wonderful barley soup and finally the trout entree. I was disappointed to see what I am sure was a filet of farmed trout. (the farms started up sometime ago) Oh well, it was delicious.

My wife wanted very badly to go to the Island of the Sun, so of course it was in the plans. We walked down to the beach and I was surprised to see 20-30 large boats and about the same number of the silly paddle boats. We got there just in time to get on a boat with about 30 other tourists. Now I´m talking young dreadlocked, wrap around sunglasses, dressed like the locals, giant backpack carrying young people. So off we go.

Bad sign number one: I see some of the backpacks have sleeping bags. They allow camping on the island.

Bad sign number two: As we near the island I see that power lines are now strung across the lake to the island.

The worst came when we rounded the bend to the cove where I had jumped from a tiny boat onto abandonment some 28 years before. There were about 20 boats tied up there ranging from a huge lake cruise catamaran to small local fishing boats. And the place where I once stood as only 5 people in sight now had a snack bar......and a public toilet.....and llamas tied up for pictures.......and hippies selling handmade crap.

I was heartbroken.

This island, this lake, are sacred to the Inca.

My wife wanted to climb the Inca Stairway so her, my son, and an army of backpackers headed up the steps. I stayed behind with my daughter and relaxed and I shot a few pictures when the backpackers whe stayed behind got out of my line of sight. I just can´t begin to tell you how disappointed I was that it had come to this but I guess when the local economy is desparate for the money.....

My wife and son came back down after about an hour. My wife had bought some place mats that I knew by looking, were made in Peru. I asked if they had seen some of the things I hade seen in the way of ruins at the top and they hadn´t. Then my son told me that situated at the top of the Inca Stairway was a, I SHIT YOU NOT, a pizzeria. We piled on the boat for the trip back and although the sun was shining brightly it was about 40 degress tops.

So now we get back to Copacabana and I walk up the street from the beach to the main plaze. More dismay. The small restaurants I remember are gome. In their place are more hippies selling handmade crap and menu boards offering lasagna and tacos and vegetarian dishes and money change houses and karaoke bars and hippie type patio bar/restaurants and even an internet cafe where I sit now, the morning after.

Last night I was awoken by the sound of rain and then hail on the roof of the hotel. I looked out the window and thought of all those campers on the sacred Island of the Sun and I laughed. The revenge of the Inca.

I walked around town this morning as all the backpackers slept and it felt like the old days again. I snapped some pictures and walked down side streets. I felt something hit me in the shoulder and I though it was watter dripping from one of the roofs. I looked up and saw that could´nt be the case. Then I held my gaze upward and a head poked out from the roof. I had been spat on. You know what? From the Copacabana that I knew all those years ago, and what it´s become now, I can´t blame the guy.

great post although very sad. damn hippies!
When I was in Transylvania, the best places I visited are those that didn't sell souvenirs made in China.

Will look at your photos now x
Change rarely seems for the better in places like those.
Oh zona, that is some story. Sad, beautiful and revealing.

i can't stand hippie crap, i wouldn't buy it anywhere.
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