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Night and Day: Copacabana, Bolivia

Shortly after he got his bell rung by Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson said, “I guess I’m gonna fade into Bolivian,” which he did, until two Hangover cameos resurrected him like Lazarus. On the bus leaving Copacabana, I received a dome-crushing blow from my pack, which fell from the overhead rack on my sweet sleeping face. Whether Bolivia or oblivion; they’re both full of surprises.

The first hotel I stumbled into had a panoramic view of the sunset over Lake Titicaca for ten US dollars a night.  The sun dipped behind the horizon, lined with dozens of silhouetted boats, and framed in glacier capped mountains. I wandered the darkening streets looking for a spot to catch a bite and was approached by several dealers with consumable wares. Copacabana held the night and spit out the unwanted like a fit of bad indigestion; the icy June breezes stifled between buildings where people called out from the shadows. I walked into a seedy tavern that, hours later and inebriated, I fell out of.

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Barry Manilow’s Copacabana didn’t seem so sinister in the daylight. European hippies with dreads in batik sold hand made everything and tourists rode Flintstone style pedal-boats close to the shore. As I boarded a vessel bound for the Isla del Sol, I was pressed to admit that this body of water wasn’t the ocean.

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An hour and a half later, I arrived on the sacred Inca island, surrounded by rocky outcrops popping up like fingers through the water’s surface, the hills covered in ancient ruins and colorfully clothed little girls in straw bonnets selling woven blankets.  Lake Titicaca: sucking life from the Andes nipple, bringing life to the community in the form of fresh water and tourism, from travelers like myself.

While someone could fade into oblivion, they sure couldn’t slip out of Bolivia. It was just when the bag smacked my grill that I woke up to customs agents waving flashlights and semi-automatic weapons inside the bus. If Bolivia guarded their drugs like they guard their borders, the world would have a very different perception of the country.

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