Travels in Bolivia & Peru #2: Snake Vodka / Crossing Lake Titicaca

June 11, 2002


I'm back in New York, with a rediscovered appreciation for
hot showers, good plumbing, and other conveniences my
privileged butt generally takes for granted. Before these
wonderful muggy streets displace the images of ancient Incan
ruins from my mind, I want to write more about my trip. And
so, two quick stories from Bolivia...



Snake Vodka in La Paz

One night in La Paz, we walked to a touristy restaurant
(huffing and puffing unsatisfyingly shallow high-altitude
breaths) that live music and traditional dancing. We only
caught the tail end of the performance, but it was nice, and
the food was overpriced but fine.

After we finished eating, our waiter came by. He was an
stoic, wrinkled, stocky Bolivian man in his fifties, and I
got the feeling that bringing by the after-dinner liqueurs
was his favorite part of the job. He put three bottles on
the table. Anise. Mint. And inside the third bottle, which
was twice as large as the other two, a huge green-black
snake wound its way through a clear liquid.

I pointed to the large bottle. "Que esta?" I asked.

He looked back and broke his stoic expression with a grin.

My mom wanted the thing as far away from her as possible. My
brother and sister's mouths hung slightly agape at the sight
before them, their eyes big.

Having braved cobra whiskey with Elbert just a few months
back in Bangkok, I felt prepared for our toothy host's
generous challenge. "A shot?" I asked my brother and sister.
It's proof that my dad's blood runs through our veins that
they agreed without another moment of hesitation.

Old Toothy poured us three shots of the snake vodka and we
toasted to a lifetime of adventures together as brothers and
sister. And we drank up.

[pic] The bottle:


Crossing Lake Titicaca by Bus and Boat

At a certain point on the bus ride from La Paz to
Copacabana, we passengers were asked to get off the bus,
leave our luggage behind and get on a boat. Despite the
seeming idiocy of such a move, we did it, and on the boat, I
looked back, wondering what would become of our bus, and,
more importantly, the dirty clothes in my dirty backpack.

I had my answer soon enough. A "flat-bed" boat pulled up to
the shore, extended some planks wide and strong enough for
tires to roll on, and the bus pulled up onto the boat. Then
it floated on across the lake to join us on the other side,
where we got back on and went along our way.

You might ask, why not leave the people in the bus? I wonder
the same thing. Somehow, though, if the boat and bus drivers
don't think it's a good idea that the passengers stay in the
bus, I'm with them...

[pic] The bus on the boat: