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Isla de Rain?

BOLIVIA | Friday, 30 November 2007 | Views [929]

We waited until this morning to buy our boat tickets to Isla del Sol, hoping for the cloudy, rainy weather to clear. It rained hard all night, so we thought for sure it would be sunny today. There's a bit of blue peeking through the clouds, so we decide to give it a go, but just for the day, as we fear the weather may very well repeat it's performance with a dreary day and night scene again. The boat drivers here must not be allowed to power their boats over five miles/hour. I can't imagine a slower boat. Luckily for us, this boat actually has chairs that are nailed to the floor and windows covered to protect us from the storm that inevitably decided to rain down on us minutes after taking off. Looking at other boats heading out, there are stacks of locals on the top deck, wrapped up in their wool gear, getting totally drenched. Not a fun trip. We arrive to the north end of Isla del Sol by 10:30 a.m., just two hours time, and we all quickly huddle into a small local eatery protecting our selves from the cold, rainy windy weather, drinking tea and hot chocolate to warm us up. I buy a plastic garbage bag poncho, while others around me snap up the local home made french fries drowned in mayonnaise. Something about fries and mayonnaise and Europeans... it's a comfort food for our European friends we meet, and the locals on this island have the addiction well catered to. Our hike across the island is supposed to take a 1/2 day, and get us to the south end in time to catch the 4:00 p.m. boat back. But we've been waiting hours while it continues to dump, not ready to head out into the foul weather. It finally breaks, and we make our way out of the warming hut. The vistas are beautiful. Crystal clear, blue and emerald water surrounds rocky, jutting coast line. It reminds us of Waiheke Island in New Zealand. We trek through sheep farms, school yards, through fishing towns and Inca ruins still in tact. we opt to take the boat back to the south, as we don't have time now to make the complete trek south and make the boat in time. On the boat, you can see a natural divide on the top deck between passengers. To the front of the boat are the gringo travelers, all of us "lite" backpackers with our quick dry clothes, sunglasses and day packs. To the back of the boat roof top deck, all clustered opposite us were the "hard core" backpackers... those who have been living on the island for weeks, some for months, and in Bolivia for over 7 months living on less than several dollars a day. They have dreadlocks, dirty, filthy clothes, and skin caked with dirt, sipping coca tea from a hand carry mate cup and eating freshly harvested raw potatoes. As we all sat for the ride, the hardcore hippies passed around their box of handmade jewelry they are selling. We exchange words in spanish, as their language skills are all quite advanced, but they keep to themselves for the bulk of the ride. We all get off at the south island stop, the hippies quickly setting up their handicraft stand near the locals, competing with the local women who are trying so hard to make an income to feed their families.... while the hippies are looking to continue to extend their travels, mooching off the land of the locals here. There was a loud fight between a "lite" backpacker and a hippie, over the practice of selling their wares and taking away business from the locals. The hippie has been here, living and camping off the locals land now for 8 months, not contributing to the local community or paying taxes to the government, and is now taking away potential earnings form the locals. The hippie response was quite culturally insensitive as well, "Oh, are you criticizing my life choices" she spits out at the "lite" backpacker questing the unnecessary competition with locals. What the hippie doesn't realize is how her actions disrespect the local community and undermine the locals ability to provide for their families, further fueling the cycle of poverty of these poor people. What she doesn't realize is that she's a guest in this country, and the land is the home of these people; she's trespassing and overstayed her welcome, taking, and not giving back. We had the chance to speak with a young women with four children, barely age 30. She's one of the few we've conversed with here who actually speaks Spanish, as well as her local language. She invited us to spend the night in her local village here, and we really wish we had not kept our hostel room in Copa; it would have been a real treat to experience a night in the local village. The women I've engaged in conversation here are so friendly, and eager to chat. This woman has a friend who moved to the US to go to school, and was so excited to talk about how proud she was of her friend, and anxious to learn about life outside of Bolivia. She says people here have a good life on the island, they grow their crops, sell and exchange products in Copa and get to have interaction with tourists. She feels she and her local neighbors are lucky, as her village is off the beaten path, so it's not so overrun with tourism like Copa is, and for that she's happy... local life has been preserved, but they also benefit from the tourism economy, selling their handicrafts in town. We bid farewell, and head back to Copa for a last night.

Tags: The Great Outdoors

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