From the Isla del Sol back to La Paz and beyond
Planes, boats and automobiles . . .
We were up at the appointed time, caught a good breakfast and packed what little we had in our day packs for the walk down the hill to the dock. We met Martin at 7:30 and were off to get the 8 a.m. boat to the mainland. The hostel is about half way down the hill so we were at the dock in no time and Martin started working the boatmen for a ride to the mainland. I do not know ho the pecking order at Yumani worked but Martin would walk from one guy to another shrug his shoulders and then move on. After about 20 minutes, Martin had found the boatman of choice and loaded our two packs aboard for the run to shore.
We played chicken with another boat coming through the narrow strait and then caught up and passed the boat that left Yumani before us, but without us. We arrived back in Copacabana and walked on up through town to check out the cathedral and do some souvenir shopping. The church is fascinating as it is built on the site of an Inca temple. Those conquistadors knew how to make a point, eh? The church interior is adorned with gold and after taking in the main sanctuary, go around to the back to the dark corridor where many locals light candles on long stone tables. Our next stop was souvenir shopping for G's employees as he needed to take something back for his crew at work. Me, I'm a tight fisted selfish kind of guy and I don't bring anything back for the folks at work. Regardless, G and I do the trinket purchase using the good cop-bad cop routine, I ask the price first, then tell G the amount, then he asks me to offer less, which I do once or twice and then I tell him in simple english, which every vendor selling to gringos understands , that the price is too high and that I've had enough. G then moves in an uses his pidgin spanish to cut the final deal as I stand off to the side, look disgusted and tell him to come on, we can do better right up the street.
We finished buying and went on up to the bus stall where would catch the tourismo bus to La Paz. Martin bid us adieu and we waited about an hour for the bus to arrive. We loaded up with a group of french tourists and were off through town and on our way to what I hoped would not be a repeat of a ferry crossing I once experienced in the Guatemalan lowlands. On that trip, my wife and I were in the typical central american chicken bus, filled to the gunwales, and riding across a river, complete with a resident crocodile population, on a flat deck barge with two gasoline tankers and a single boatman steering our destiny from a dugout canoe with a Johnson ten horse outboard. That was scarier than the 16 year old with the M-60 the year before.
Well, I visions of the same experience and I was not looking forward to it, not at all. We arrived at the dock and to my relief, the door opened and the bus drive told everyone that they had to get off the bus and ride across to the other side in a separate boat. Thank God. We paid the 18 cent fare for the ride across and were soon on our way as we watched the bus start its trip across the strait, with but the driver and a boatman to share the risk. We reloaded on the other side and rode another two hours to La Paz. The bus dropped us all off in the tourist zone at the top of Sagarniga and we caught a cab to the Calacoto. Sra. Berrios met us at the bus stop and wished us well for our trip back to the States. The cabbie dropped us off and promised to be back at 3 a.m. next morning to give us a ride to the airport. We had our dose of Argentine beef at the El Asador and then caught too few hours of sleep before we had to catch our ride to the airport.
The next morning we were at the airport bright and early and American Airlines' flight to Miami was on time and we were soon enough on board and en route to Santa Cruz. Our Santa Cruz layover was short and the ride to Miami was without delay or hassle. I thought things were looking up but actually "Act II" of our flying saga was just around the corner.
We loaded on to the flight to Dallas - Fort Worth and sat, and sat, and then sat a bit more while the pilot and ground crew inspected the engine. The announcement that there was a mechanical issue came and after a while the plane was declared flight ready. We were on our way but by the time we got to Dallas the weather had deteriorated and the airport was temporarily closed, so we circled in the holding pattern . . . until we ran low enough on fuel to have to divert to Houston to refuel. We landed in Houston, re-fueled and stayed on the tarmac for another hour before being cleared to head back to DFW. The flight to DFW is short and soon we were on the ground at a now closed airport whose last flight to Denver, our destination, had left earlier in the evening.
American gave us each a voucher for a night at a hotel and made arrangements to get us on our way to Denver the next morning. The hotel even provided a shuttle bus . . . that held about 8 people and their luggage. The only problem was that the hotel was kind of off airport and I figured it would take them hours to shuttle everyone to the hotel. We split a cab with another fellow and like I said, the hotel was close, about $50 close.
We got up early the next morning and caught the shuttle back to the airport and our ride to Denver. I managed to score the non reclining window seat in the last row, right next to the engine, for the ride to Denver. I guess . . . I'm just a lucky guy? Regardless it was a ride to Denver and I did not want to look this gift DC-9 in the engine . . . oh wait, that is exactly what I did for the next two hours. We arrived in Denver with a jolt and communal groan from the cabin as the first officer managed to drive home the old adage that any landing you can walk away from is a good one. No "Welcome to Denver" by this flight crew but instead just a long pause, like a half a minute and then the captain piped in with a subdued "Well, I guess you are all awake now". We exited the plane and were home.