Tuesday, January 03, 2006

"Cruz de los Andes", La Paz, Bolivia

The new year rolls on, with or without me.

The hotel is SO comfortable, I could just spend the rest of the trip here (then fly home when the funds run out!)

But there's a break in the storm. I need to ride!

The streets are back to normal, with the rushing, pushing crowds and honking taxis and buses. With their metal doors rolled open, I now see that the small shops that line Calle Aroma, the street my hotel's on, are largely fabric shops.

I'm not accustomed to being bumped around in crowds, but here people are inured to the jostling. They are in a hurry and, in the often-too-narrow sidewalks, there just isn't room. We all just try to squeeze into the same space. It's uncommon to see someone step aside and let another pass.

The pedestrian traffic overflows into the streets, where the cars, buses and taxis rarely yield; you best get out of their way. Many times I've wished for a "billy club" to pound the side of some car that almost ran me over. (I actually pounded on one car that cut me off, rolling within inches of my feet. The driver was shocked, since he was just driving "normally".)

Walked the 1-1/2 or 2 miles to "Alexander Coffee Shop" for my morning fix (of coffee, sugar, chocolate and internet.) Checking their internet site, I saw that the DHL package was received into inspection this morning.

Called DHL at 2:00. The parcel was still in aduana. It normally takes 24 to 48 hours to clear, but the gentleman told me to check back late in the day. Returned to the coffee shop and a short time later, checked the DHL website. It stated my parcel had been cleared. Walked to a DHL/Western Union office several blocks away to confirm that it was indeed available, and to get directions to its location.

I was given an address in the "Obrajes" neighborhood, and told it was some distance away. I grabbed a taxi and asked the price. 10 Bolivianos. This taxi was unusual: well-maintained and apparently with most of its original equipment. I asked the driver about it: A 1992 Totota with about 150,000 miles. Probably one of the "youngest" taxis I've ridden in here, yet this is typically when an American would be looking to dump a car for being too old (if they hadn't done so sooner.)

When we reached DHL, I had enjoyed the ride so much (the driver was very relaxed, and had used the horn only once!) that I requested he wait for me. He asked how long I'd be. "Five minutes."

Inside the office, I asked the agent how long it would take to claim my package. "Three minutes."

Over half an hour later, I was still waiting for them to find it in the warehouse. When a young man finally carried it in, I learned that I owed $105 for customs duties and fees. I felt sick. In Bolivia, I could live for a week on that much money. Friggin' robbers!

When I emerged from "the ordeal", my loyal cabbie was still waiting (of course, I hadn't yet paid him.)

He took me back to the hotel. The total fare was about $3. Unpacked and admired all the parts (sorry, it's what we motorcyclists do): valve cover, gasket and hardware, face shield, turn signal lens, windshield mounts. Beautiful.

Immediately went downstairs and installed everything. I was ready to roll again!

Arranged to meet "Kiwis" Geoff and Nina for a drink this evening. We rendezvoused at the foot of "my" street.

As we stood chatting, two other travelers approached, acquaintances of Geoff and Nina. They introduced themselves, Australians Stewart and Kim (which immediately struck me as interesting: it reminded me of my Canadian friend, Kim Stewart.)

I listened on, a bit amused by the rapid-fire exchange between the "Kiwis" and "Aussies", as they caught up on the adventures of the past few days. (I alluded to "types" a couple days ago. I passively listened to the impressive accomplishments of these active types. In contrast, I had spent the last few days relaxing, eating, drinking coffee, blogging, downloading music. A completely different kind of activity!)

Geoff, Nina and I walked to the "Pizzeria Italia," and over the next few hours, shared pizza, beer and tales of the road. I do enjoy these times of reflection with friends. It suddenly strikes us how far we have traveled, and how rich the experience has been! (They began in Denver in April.)

Though some might say I'm on a "vacation", the sense of responsibility is still inescapable, even if it's difficult to define just what that responsibility is. There is still a sense of guilt associated with any lack of activity. Certainly, I should be doing something!

The conflict seems to result from ill-defined aims (assuming we indeed define our lives, versus the possibility - or likelihood? - that our lives are in fact defined and guided by some higher force.)

I guess one of my goals during this journey is to attempt to clarify that responsibility, both to myself and others. (I use the terms "guess" intentionally, as it conveys the ambiguity I feel.)

2 comments:

PAYNTERinFLORIDA said...

Resposibility is a very apt word.

The constant vigilance one must maintain for all things great as well as small and inconsequential while traveling in the poor man's lands of life. You must maintain equal vigilance for one's safety, one's belonging's, and more importantly-- one's life.

The tour is a reminder in how safe American society really is. Be it safe from fear of food contamination to safety of walking down a street. Or maybe just the simple safety of building codes we all take granted....or maybe even the safety in being able to at least assume you will not be shook down for cash on a traffic stop!

No Tim, you're doing something my man, feel no guilt, as your guard must always be up as you make your way through so many lands, people, and experiences. Enjoy that damn hotel and feel NO guilt what so ever!! As a matter of fact put a Johnnie Walker Black and soda on my tab...you earned it.

timtraveler said...

Thanks for the encouragement.

Now about that credit card number...