A visit to jail, a ride to hell and another animal paradise -
La Paz, August 7th 2002

The floating islands on Lake Titicaca were amazing but unfortunately over-exploited by the tourist industry as usual. It was actual island made out of reed from the lake which the people bind together thick enough to build a few houses also made out of reeds. Some of the bigger islands even house a school for the children, a church and other communal buildings. The people have to add reed to the surface of the island now and then since it rottens from beneath. After this island hopping we continued to Amantani, a "real" island on the Titicaca. Here we stayed with an old woman for a night and in the evening we got dressed up in the local dresses and danced their local dance. It was a fun thing to do. The village we stayed in was spotted by bright shiny orange outdoor toilets, so it was very obvious loads of people came here every day doing the same thing. The next day we went to the island of Taquile where we joined a local festival which was much more authentic.

Some of you have complained about only stating names of small cities which are hard to place since the South American geography not is the best for the common man. I´ll try to be a bit more precise. We followed the coast of the Titicaca lake from Puno, crossed the border to Bolivia and ended up in Copacobana. This was a small relaxed town also on lake Titicaca. Here we visited Isla del Sol (Island of the sun) where the first Inca was supposed to have emerged from a rock.

The three if us headed for the great city of La Paz, the capital of Bolivia. It was a pretty rough city with a lot of character. We were greeted with a festival the day we arrived. The people from the universities had a dance competition which formed a parade through the city from dawn to dusk. I also met up with Cris a Swiss guy I shared host family in Quito with during my Spanish classes there. Nice to bump into familiar faces along the trip exchanging travel stories and tips for future travel. The second day we went to San Pedro Prison. It´s a fairly low security prison mostly run by the prisoners themselves. We came during visiting hours and a guy named Willy guided us though the prison for some money including body guards. The prisoners have to buy their own cells from other inmates and do different jobs inside to get money. The money they need for medicine and luxury things if you don´t like the food provided which seemed to be soup, soup and soup. Needless to say the hierarki was extreme and the president of the prisoners, an inmate, lived in a three story apartment with an own restaurant and a few bodyguards. Wives and children can live inside the prison walls if they want and there was a wide variety of restaurants, shops and entertainment opportunities, if you had the money of course. A scary social experiment.

We have been travelling at high altitudes lately which have meant cold crisp weather with sun and freezing cold nights. The local jumpers, hats, scarves and gloves made out of llama wool are essential. We took a bus up to the high mountains north of La Paz and started a mountain bike journey from the snow capped mountains to the deep jungle. It was almost only downhill for six hours on a very windy bumpy dirt road which was tough especially on the arms. This stretch of the road is called "the most dangerous road in the world" due to their track record of averaging running over with a couple of busses and trucks a months with an average death count of 50. Last month was bad with 70 kills including one foreign girl biking over the cliffs with her brakes failing her. Hope she enjoyed her last six seconds during her 160 m free fall. Our group didn´t have any worse accidents than seven flat tires and some trouble with the gears. The roads are clinging on to the very steep mountain sides with sheer drops. The traffic going down have to go on the outside and usually have to back up when meeting another car since the road is only just wide enough for one car. We continued the next day 12 hours in jeep on a slightly safer part of the road. Still happy I didn´t take the buss which takes 16 h with the same driver which might be another reason for them driving over the cliffs. We arrived in the evening to Rurrenbaque, a small cute town in the middle of nowhere. Since we where in the middle of the jungle the climate was warm and nice. Time to pack away the flece and llama jumpers.

Went to the jungle for three very relaxed days doing walks in the rain forest looking at toxic and medicinal plants. We had a knowledgeable guide who knew his biology but I guess we wouldn´t have known if he were making up all his stories. Saw a lot of plants, insects, a wild boar and a few birds. Nothing really exciting but then we went for three day Pampas which on the other hand was very action filled. We caught a dangerous animal every six hours with the help of our guides macho and crazy as true Rambos. The first evening we went alligator watching. The scary evil eyes reflected the light of our torches. Our guide wrestled a 1.5 m alligator which we then all could cuddle with. The next day we went to a swamp and were looking for Anacondas walking in hip deep mud. We caught a midsized Anaconda of some three meters. It was very strong and it did stinc bad. It bit one of the guides but they´re not toxic so it wasn´t bad. In the afternoon we went fishing Piranas with meat as bait. Not much meat on them but they tasted all right. The last day we spent swimming with some pink dolphins. The forest and the river seemed to be home to all possible animals like birds, fish, frogs, snakes, alligators, Cayman crocodiles, monkeys and Capybara. The Capybara is a big very strange looking animal. It belongs to the rat family but looks like an enormous wombat or a mix between a rabbit and a beaver in the size of a sheep. They all die the horrible death of leprecy at the age of some 15 years; our guide told us which certainly doesn't have to be true. I also had the pleasure of trying out the local ticks. Strangely they were only attracted to the Swede. Anyone knows if ticks do carry nasty viruses here?

We didn´t want to rough it and risk our lives again so we took the military plane returning to La Paz. The original plan was to cross Bolivia into Brazil through the deserted jungle but travelling here is very time consuming. So we´re considering heading south instead and do Chile and Argentina. The distance is much greater but the means of transport is just excellent we heard and it´s extremely cheap in Argentina since their economical problems. We might even be able to do some budget flying there.

Take care and enjoy the world, the adventures is out there. Love Emil