Tainted Times and a Tiahuanaco Tour

by Ekua on November 8, 2009 in Bolivia

August 9, 2009

I’d returned to La Paz on a Saturday and wanted to check out the city’s club scene that night. I went out with a group of people from my hostel and it was fun for awhile. But I quickly noticed that a large chunk of La Paz’s gringo party crowd were not people I wanted to associate with. La Paz, even more than Cusco, attracts a crowd that is there for the sole purpose of partying hard. They’re the kind of people who give 20-something backpackers a bad name.

Two of my of my roommates that night were part of that crowd. They were the most obnoxious ones I’ve ever had in a hostel. One, who had regurgitated her dinner before even having a chance to go out, passed out on a bed that didn’t even belong to her. She woke up in the middle of the night and decided it was a good time to have a long conversation with a random person in the room while the rest of us were trying to sleep. That is just a small glimpse of the night. I love nightlife, but I really don’t understand the need to be that extreme and travel thousand of miles to do nothing other than party. Needless to say, it was a sleepless night.

I’d signed up for a tour to Tiahuanaco on Sunday and could not bring myself down from my bunk that morning. I eventually did and tried to hurry, but I was still the last to get on the mini bus. I was late and I’d held everyone up. It doesn’t feel great to be that person in a group of complete strangers.

I shrugged it off because I had bigger problems than lack of sleep and being shunned by my tour group– I’d lost my ATM card. I think it must have happened at the ATM on Saturday afternoon, but I hadn’t noticed the card was missing until night when I was going out. It was late, so there was nothing I could do about it then.

It was a two hour drive to Tiahuanaco. We began our tour in a museum adjacent to the ruins. The tour guide was awful. He rambled on and on about trivial speculation. It was hard to follow him because he would sporadically switch between English and Spanish. After awhile, I got tired of pretending like I was listening to him. I found a chair and had a seat.

I was sympathetically approached by girl I’d noticed earlier. In her multicolored head-to-toe llama gringo gear, she was impossible to miss. She wore a llama wool hat with earflaps, a llama wool sweater, and striped pants that resembled pajamas that were tucked into combat boots with wool llama socks sticking out of the tops. These were all in neon shades blue, pink, green, etc. We chatted and she seemed as crazy as she looked, but it was cool that someone else was not into acting they were understanding what the guide was saying.

Tihuanaco - Stone FaceMy Amazon tour guide had been great. He let us know what everything was, but didn’t go into much detail. He let us be in the moment. I knew I wouldn’t be able to enjoy Tihaunaco as much with the guide’s incessant talking. So when we reached the ruins, I decided to take off on my own. I reveled in the in the color combination of rust-colored ruins and brilliantly blue sky. I ran my fingers along ancient walls made of multi-sized bricks that created beautiful patterns. I looked into the eyes of stone carved faces that had long lost their detail. I imagined what looked like its inhabited days.

Tihuanco - Hole in the Wall

Tihuanaco - Vanishing Point

Tihuanaco - StatueI eventually rejoined the group and maintained a safe distance from the guide. When everyone felt like they’d had enough of the ruins, we went for lunch at a restaurant nearby. I sat with the neon llama girl from England who’d approached me earlier, her French friend, and a Bolivian American guy. The two girls had met in Peru where they were supposed to volunteer. But Peru got worried about swine flu and closed all of the schools, so many people had to cancel their volunteering assignments. After that, they decided to travel together through Peru and Bolivia. The Bolivian-American was visiting relatives in the city of Cochabamba, and taking the opportunity to travel to other parts of Bolivia.

For lunch, we had a choice of chicken, beef or llama. I wanted to taste the llama but didn’t want to order it. The French girl let me try a piece of hers. It tasted like a cross between lamb and pork. We had a lively conversation over a long meal before heading back to La Paz.

Back in the city, we were dropped off at the Witches Market. I headed straight for an international call center to get in touch with my bank. The good news was that there were no extra charges on my account and I was able to cancel my card. The bad news was that there was no way I’d be able to get a new card before I left Bolivia. It was a Sunday so I’d have to wait until the next day to see if I could use my credit card to get a cash advance at a local bank.

The two girls I’d met on my Tihuanaco tour were staying at the same hostel and I met up with them to go out to dinner. The English girl had lost her ATM card as well, so our goal was to find something cheap to eat. I’d imagine we’d find a great local hole in the wall place, but we ended up on a street full of Bolivian fast food joints. We eventually settled on a place that seemed really crowded and like the place to be. On the menu were things like hot dogs, hamburgers, and popcorn chicken. There was a complicated ordering system that we didn’t understand. The workers saw that we were clueless and took pity on us and took care of us. We sat down to eat our burgers. I can’t say the food was tasty, but it was edible and didn’t give me food poisoning.

Back at the hotel, my obnoxious roommates had moved on and were replaced with two French women I’d seen on my bus from Puno to Copacabana. I slept soundly that night and hoped that I’d be able to resolve my monetary issues in the morning.

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