And after all that stuff I said about Bolivia being landlocked, now I find out they have a navy??? I guess one should never judge a country by it's colours alone, or in this case, maybe I should have! You see, when we were at the Easter parade in La Paz, and we were watching all the military guys go by, I said to Kristine "A lot of those uniforms sure look like Navy guys. They are the black and white ones. That's weird." Turns out I should have trusted my gut, because they were in fact navy men!
Then I started to think that maybe the government was maintaining a navy in the hopes of one day regaining access to the Pacific, and that the psychological implications of keeping the navy around would help nudge world opinion in Bolivia's favour. Then I thought no, that would be a stupid reason to spend a lot of money on a navy when there are so many other structural problems in the country. Then, when we left La Paz, I finally got my answer!
I suppose that many of you out there knew that Bolivia had a navy, and I even think that someone told me they did a long time ago (and I forgot), but things became clear when we reached Lake Titicaca in Bolivia's far northwest corner. Lake Titicaca is shared by both Bolivia and Peru, and amongst other things, it contains a number of sacred Inca sites in both countries. The issue though is that Bolivia is still a bit upset over the loss of territory to both Chile and Peru in the past, so it maintains a small navy on Lake Titicaca to help protect it's borders. How's that for a story eh? A navy on a lake. That's probably the only one in the world. Anyway, the ships are not massive, and certainly the infrastructure is minimal, but the navy is there and operating as proudly as any other part of the Bolivian military system.
Bolivia. Will the surprises ever cease?
This is our last stop in Bolivia; the town of Copacabana on the shores of the lake. This country has been just fantastic, and we only scratched the surface having not descended into the Amazonian part of the country to the east. But I certainly think it would be worth a return visit. Actually, it's funny when traveling how the countries that are the least developed, the poorest really, are the most interesting to travel and contain the friendliest people. We heard a lot of stories about crime and such in this country, but so long as you're careful, it's really a pleasure to travel here. Maybe we'll be back here too!
And we've been thinking a lot about that lately too. Going back to places. With just a month left in our journey, and only 2 more countries to see, well, a sort of mixed nostalgia/homesickness is really starting to set in. In fact, looking at a map, it feels very strange to be this close to Canada, even though we are still miles away. It's all relative. We've started talking a lot about getting back to "the real world" (or is it the fake one....), the home we have to settle into, the car we have to buy, the jobs we have to go back to, the life we will have as we go forward. The best part about going back is going to be seeing people we haven't seen in months. That and slipping into a pair of jeans! I swear; I am getting pretty tired of wearing things that are multi-functional, micro fleeced, convertible, quick dry, velcro snapped, multi-use, warm when wet, and user friendly. Just give me some cotton!
More random musings. How many airlines will we have flown on this journey? I was thinking about that today. And it is a frequent flyer points nightmare. If anyone knows how to make a macro dump into Aeroplan - let me know. Here's the list as it will be when completed. Some were flown more than once:
Air Canada, Air New Zealand, Virgin Pacific, Jetstar, Virgin Blue, Quantas, Air Asia, Air India, Bangkok Air, Thai Airways, Royal Nepal Airways, Air China, Air Mandalay, Myanmar Airways, Philippine Airlines, Vietnam Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines, Aegean Airlines, Ryan Air, Hapag Lloyd Airlines, Emirates Airlines, South African Airlines, Malaysian Airlines, Aerolineas Argentina, LanChile Airlines, TACA Airlines, TAME Airlines, American Airlines.
That's 29. I'm not even going to try and count the number of flights, landings and takeoffs. That would be just too anal. But, I would like to see an agent cobble together a ticket like that (Spencer could probably do it actually...)! I have to make a country list too. I think that will be about 50. Save that for later.
Anyway, Copacabana. Last night we climbed up the hill over the town to watch the sun go down over the lake. Quite a beautiful place. The shape of the top of the hill is like the bow of a ship, so you really get the feeling you are sailing off into the sunset. Copa is also the site of a large religious pilgrimage for Easter that just ended today. Thousands actually walk the 158 km from La Paz to climb this very same hill and worship the surrounding crosses. Legend is, there was a sighting here of the Virgin Mary, and subsequent miracles, so the place has became a catholic folklore destination. Kind of overshadows the Inca ruins nearby. A beautiful cathedral has been built here as well.
But really, I think it is this amazing high altitude lake that is the real attraction. Especially with all of the other ones having dried up and gone salty; Titicaca is an oasis in the sky. It looks a lot like the Aegean Sea actually, almost Greek in appearance with the treeless high altitude shores tumbling into the clear fresh water. Serene, calm, and perfect. Our little hostel is up on the hill with great views of the beach and town below, and it's hard to imagine anything more perfect than just sitting and staring and watching life unfold in front of you. That is what it is all about.
And I'm not even going to get into the toilet humour I originally thought of with "Titicaca". Hey, I am 40 you know.