Luke Melia


June 12, 2002

6/12/02, 2:00 am

A relaxing first day back at work, Thai food for lunch, a stroll up Museum Mile tonight with four beautiful women, my trip photos online, and an email to the travels list…


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. “Finlandia.”

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

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