Diary of The Travelling Seanchai :-

Caddies, Loonies and Mummies

2008-01-07 to 2008-01-16

Bolivia, having been forced into the stratosphere by millions of years of geographical pressure, pretty much has covered all bases in the Guinness Book of Records, `Highest XXXXX in the World´ Categories and golf courses were no exception. I set off with Adam and George to play the course after another big night in La Paz.

We paid our green fees, selected our clubs and then we were strongly advised to pay for some caddies to carry them as we were altitude. This was sound advice and soon we were introduced to Juan, Victor and Ruben who were to bring a whole new aspect to golf as we knew it.

Even if you are not a golfer, you can appreciate the sheer joy of partaking in an activity you love without ANY of the physical effort, it´s like gardening with an ice tea in hand and having someone else prune the roses!

At first I was a little self conscious about handing my club back to Ruben after a shot but after a while I got the hang of it and true professional style, was throwing him my ball to clean without even looking! We were building up quite a rapport and like when I discovered caddy cars, I wondered how I had ever played the game without them before!

And then I fell, hard! It seems that I am hardly happy on this trip to endure a single week without inflicting some damage on myself but on this occasion it had an unforseen benefit! I slipped off an embankment and in a vain, pathetic and ultimately pointless attempt to keep my clothes clean, thrust out my arm which only succeeded in jarring my shoulder out of place. Fortunately, (!), I hit it off something else on the way down and it returned to its position again.

After the initial laughter (mine included) had died down, we realised that I had hurt myself. But I was playing golf, on a truly unique course and with a caddie so I carried on. And (I am ashamed to admit this), my bust shoulder actually improved my game! Shots went straighter and even the caddies were getting a laugh out of me. Still, 4 holes later I was in the clubhouse getting some local ointment rubbed on it and some heavy painkillers but I played on.

Great day though, so much fun and we invited the caddies in for a drink but we could see that they were visibly concerned about this. We wouldn´t take no for an answer and they came in to the dead bar and sat as quiet as church mice, sipping their cokes as the bar manager gave them evil stares. Clearly, caddies belong on the course and not fraternising with their rich employers which angered us all.

The next day was my last in La Paz, so I ran around to see all the things that had eluded me in the previous three weeks. The Witches Market with the Llama foetus was a bit creepy though! It was sad to say goodbye to all the gang in the hostel, it had been a great Christmas there.

We (Casey, Naomi and Hamish and Caroline, Aucklanders and for some reason proud of that) took the bus to Copacabana which is the kick off spot for Isla Del Sol on Lake Titicaca (a name that has been entertaining juvenile minded people for decades!)

Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world (again Bolivia taking another Guinness honour) and we took a look around the Island. It had been overcast and wet for the days previously but true to form and hardly surprising for something called, Island of the Sun, it scorched down and caught us all unawares as people baked in the sun, none more than me.

My lips took the brunt of it for some reason so I went to a Farmacia for some medication. I had asked for some ointment for my burnt lips but in my not yet perfect Spanish it must have come out as, `Please, have you something that will make my lips explode bearing a not too dissimilar look to a Babboon with Scurvy?!´ Good God, they went septic but you will be happy to hear that I have brought them under control again!

Before we left Copacabana, we were treated to an amazing spectacle. About 60 or 70 cars, jeeps and even buses were lined up outside the Franciscan church, each one adorned with flowers and garlands all in search of a blessing. The engines were exposed for the blessing and offerings of food and drink were put in on top of them as the Franciscan priest came around, blessed the car, all of the extended family and then posed for pictures.

But he took off quick smart as the owners showered their cars in beer (or champagne if they could afford it) and they even doused it on their engines!! Now I have been accused in the past of thinking that beer is sacred but here was the proof. It was incredibly colourful, and LOUD as each car then was exorcised with a series of firecrackers which made children scatter and cause the older men to go even more deaf.

There was much hugs and happiness (helped on by the drinking of the excess beer) and as we looked at the offerings on the ground, it was cute to see that some had put little signs of `Internet´ because that was something that they wanted to get for the following year.

Hamish, Caroline, Naomi and I then crossed the border to Peru next day where I gave Eber, the shoe shine boy coins from all around the world that I have picked up on my travels. He had shown great enterprise and asked the customs officials where we were from while we were filling in our dockets and then came out and proceeded to ´guess´ what cities in each of our countries we were from. He got Limerick (frustratingly after Dublin and Cork) so hence the reason why I rewarded him. He was delighted although I wasn´t entirely sure what he was going to do with a coin from Swaziland.

We got to Puno, the town which is the jump off point for the floating islands but within a minute we had all looked at each other and collectively trudged back to the bus station and booked a ticket to Arequipa.

Arequipa is Peru´s second largest city, with lots of tourist activities. We went to the Colca Canyon for a day (the tour starting at 2:30am would you believe!) and saw the World´s Deepest Canyon, huge Condors flying wild, local kids doing a ceremonial dance in the town square at 7am for the tourists (poor things!) and had a snowball fight at 5000m.

Next day, we visited the mysterious Convent Santa Catalina, which before 1970, had been closed off to the public for 391 years. In the early days the nuns all came from rich families, had servants and parties and a rare old time of it by all accounts. But then a strict Dominican nun came in and sorted out all that nonsense and it was all business then. Still, it was a massive place, a city inside a city, with streets and countless little houses. It was truly an amazing place and we spent hours taking it all in.

Having dinner that evening we were pounced, beset, accosted (I don´t know how else to describe it) by Chris from `Cali´ which we eventually worked out meant California. Chris blurted out (without provocation) that he loved New Zealand, that he was going to write a thesis on the geographical differences between NZ and Iceland, pointing out to us that the latter was different because it was more northern and spoke a different language!!

George Bush was a jerk but so was `Mohammed Suharto´ the Indonesian President. Petrol was more expensive in the States that anywhere else in the world but it was really cheap in Egypt (being in the Middle East might help it in that regard). Reykjavic was the most expensive city he had ever been but Japan was the most expensive country. He was going to go to London and did I know anyone there as he only had $600 to spend in Europe. His mother had gone to Iceland when she was 13 with kids from her school but now she was a crack addict who had stolen all his money. Sleeping on the floor for one night of the week was recommended by most doctors. He had been to 10 countries in the world but none in Europe because his American friends wouldn´t be that impressed by that.

And on and on and on he went, all of us agog at how this guy couldn´t see that our meals had come and we couldn´t even eat them. When his meal came, we scoffed our meals, asked for the bill through mouths of food and ran from the place. We then skipped from shadow to shadow for the rest of the evening in a desperate attempt to avoid the madman!

Still, we had been with him for 15 minutes but he has filled hours of bus miles recounting his crazy rants!

We visited a museum which was dedicated to the Inca ceremony of child sacrifice 500 years ago. This was hardcore stuff. First, a child was selected at birth and brought up blemish free to be eventually sacrificed to appease the Gods before he or she was 16. They would be walked hundreds of kilometers first and then without any climbing gear and in only sandals for their feet, they would climb over 6000m up to the top of the mountain before the `offering´ was drugged and then beaten over the head before being buried.

Ice has preserved them perfectly and in the case of Juanita, the most famous of them all, her internal organs are still perfect. Save for the huge crack on her head, you would think it would be just a case of thawing her out, giving her a couple of thousand volts and she would wake up with nothing more than a pretty severe hangover!

Having delivered Naomi to her boyfriend in Arequipa, Hamish, Caroline and I set off to Nasca in the Peruvian desert to take to the air for a truly (and potentially) out of this world view!


Doing Lines in Nazca

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