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The First Seventy Years: 111 - Bolivia's Independence Day

... I arrived in the middle of Bolivia's Independence Day celebrations. In addition, I witnessed the traditional blessing of two new motor vehicles. This involved decking them with colourful garlands and pouring beer over them to the accompaniment of fire crackers...

Eric Biddulph was witness to astonishing events when he cycled in South America.

I decided to leave the capital for a more hospitable location given my condition. A 6 am departure by bus back to Capacabana by way of the Straits of Tiquina. A pleasant four hours ride to the ferry crossing and a further two hours on a somewhat hair-raising hilly earth road ensued.

I arrived in the middle of Bolivia's Independence Day celebrations. In addition, I witnessed the traditional blessing of two new motor vehicles. This involved decking them with colourful garlands and pouring beer over them to the accompaniment of fire crackers. Having successfully negotiated the earth road which had caused me so much difficulty a few days earlier I rode the 150Km along the tarred lakeshore road back to Puno in Peru. This was not without some minor difficulties which befell me in the shape of dogs which, as nightfall descended, decided I was fair game. Booking into the Hostal Los Uros I made the acquaintance of Bill, a young British ex-army officer, taking time out prior to taking up a civilian career. We agreed to make a trip together to the Isle de Taquile. The crew of the boat which took us out to the middle of Lake Titicaca were dressed in traditional clothing. There was some doubt in my mind whether we would ever reach the island after witnessing frequent bailing out operations. It was with some relief that ninety minutes later we found ourselves walking up the quayside and then a very steep hill to the main square on the island. We bought beers which we drank whilst gazing out over the Lake towards the peaks of the Andes. We were shown to our accommodation which was an earth based hut with two reed based beds. We were given a bucket and shown the water supply some 400 metres distance. I rose at 5.45am the next morning and was rewarded with a wonderful photo opportunity of the sun coming up from behind the mountain peaks throwing a wonderful reflection over the Lake. We spent the day exploring the island on foot. There was a total absence of vehicles providing experience of a silence rarely encountered today. Later in the day we boarded the boat for the return trip.
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This turned out to be a bit of a rollercoaster and my stomach continued to remind me of my inability to 'ride the waves'. By the time I had showered in the hotel in Puno I had recovered sufficiently to enjoy a good meal. Bill and I got up at 6 the next morning to join the queue for rail tickets for Cusco but to no avail. We retired to a cafe to re-assess our travel plans; was a bus a viable alternative? On the off chance we called into a travel agency to ask about train tickets. Much to our surprise we were able to acquire some seats for the early train the next day. The journey was not as scenic as had been expected as it rolled across the Aliplano for most of the day. We met up with a couple of Brits on the train and by the end of this long journey knew each other well enough for the four of us to seek out a shared room.

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Eric’s book The First Seventy Years can be obtained for £10 by contacting http://mary@bike2.wanadoo.co.uk or telephoning 01484-658175.

All the cash raised by the book goes to a water aid project in Malawi.

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