Wed 22 Mar 06

Today I’m 27. I don’t make a big deal out of this though. In fact Mark and Weaver don’t even know it’s my birthday and I’m fine with that. I know that’s a little strange, but for some reason I’d rather not make a big deal about it. I’ve been on a few other trips with friends over my birthday this is the way I always play it.

I wake up still thinking about ways to either get home or get to Lima early, but finally scrap the idea as silly. At 8:30 we board a green and white boat with a bunch of other visitors and sit back for a two-hour ride to a nearby island.

The weather is overcast and I’m a little sullen. Partly the weather and partly my desire to be somewhere else. I love my wife and I love my dogs and right now I want to see them and not be feeling slightly queasy on a boat in Bolivia. I climb a ladder, walk out into the fresh air on the boat’s roof and I eat an apple that I bought from a vendor on the beach. Wind in my hair, mist on my face. The queasiness passes. The sullenness mostly passes. The views really are beautiful. I tell Mark that the islands remind me of pictures I’ve seen of the Channel Islands near Ventura, CA and I decide that someday I want to take Mary to see the Channel Islands.

The overcast skies turn to rainy skies as we glide through a narrow channel between islands. I return to my seat below deck. The roof of the boat leaks though and I seem to have the wettest possible location. Water is dripping down my back, dripping on my pack, dripping on my face. I try to cover my pack with a cheap plastic poncho, but it doesn’t help much. Eventually I take out my Frisbee and hold it under the worst drip, emptying it every few minutes near the dry feet of bemused nearby passengers.

We finally reach our destination on the north side of (the ironically named given the situation) Isla del Sol. We deboard in a light rain and grab a couple of sandwiches each from a vendor near the dock. It’s a three-hour hike from the north side to the south where we can either meet up with our boat or stay at a hostel. Given the weather and how cold we were on the boat the decision is made without much struggle to hike back to the boat and return to our warm shower in Copacabana.

We pay 10 bolivianos each for permission to hike the trail (and view the nearby pre-Incan ruins), then begin the trek upward. I’m again hiking in sandals, this time with a full pack. This is easier than I initially thought it would be, though probably not the smartest idea.

The trail here is busy with tourists. An Israeli girl walking near Mark and me steps in a mud puddle then strikes up a conversation about her 30 boliviano shoes. She’s gregarious, speaks liltingly accented English, and initially thinks that Mark is from Ireland due to his Irish Jig shirt (from a 5k race in Grand Rapids). Weaver strides ahead and joins in with a guided tour in front of us.

The cloud cover breaks as we reach our first high point of the hike and suddenly the coves below are alive with blues and greens. Pictures are snapped and I wish it were warm enough to swim. The rock on the island reminds me of Joshua Tree or maybe Moab. If this place were in the US it would be swarming.

We check out some ruins which make for good photography but aren’t anything spectacular (following Machu Picchu is a tough act), then start hiking up and down peaks toward the south end of the island. Weaver repeatedly bolts ahead and I’m not sure if he’s just being enthusiastic or trying to “win” the hike. I’d guess competitive is the closer answer as he seems awfully focused on the trail and not the scenery. Mark and I just shrug, joke about it a little, and enjoy our pace, appreciative of what we’re immersed in.

About an hour into the hike Mark obviously isn’t feeling well and when asked mentions that his stomach doesn’t feel too great. I feel badly for him as I’ve been in that situation. He keeps moving though and we make good time. After a couple of hours we reach we reach the south end and after a little confusion locate a very steep trail down to the harbor. I slip and slide in my sandals quite a bit.

At the harbor I eat the rest of my snacks that I had been hoping to save for the return trip (starving!) and stave off the army of little kids peddling smooth rocks and necklaces. Weaver jokes around with a few kids and they gravitate to him as most locals here do it seems when he speaks Spanish with them

I’m exhausted on the boat ride back to Copacabana and sleep for at least forty five minutes. Mark and I also half-seriously discuss finding a way back to Lima and changing our tickets for a day or two early. Mark still feels crummy and tells Weaver and me later that he thought he was either going to puke or pass out on the boat ride. I imagine that he was feeling a bit like I felt on the bus ride to Tombochay on our first day in Cusco.

Back in Copacabana we quickly eat dinner (five courses for 17 bolivianos, roughly $2 US) then crash for the night back at the hotel. The rain pours for about half an hour with huge lightening flashes and thunder crashes and then tapers off for the night. Tomorrow we head back to Peru.