As I left off beforehand, we were leaving Sucre to fly to La Paz. We flew in first thing in the morning in El Alto, the outskirts of La Paz. My first impression was that it reminded me a lot of Quito; all the graffiti, the architechture, the homeless. As we drove through El Alto, we stopped for a good aerial view of La Paz, since it's situated in a snug little valley in the mountains. It is a maaaaassive city (even though it has less inhabitants than scz) that spread out all over the place.
When we got to the hotel, our guide Shirley mentioned that we were going to a restaurant that was "100% natural". Looking across the street, we realized that this was a pretty vegetarian restaurant. Sarah and I couldn't believe our eyes, since we'd been struggling pretty hard to get some nutrition into ourselves over the trip. Not to mention that Rotary hadn't really made too much of an effort before this to accomodate the vegetarians. But lo and behold, we feasted on VEGGIE BURGERS, the first since Samaipata, my second in Bolivia... and boy what a treat :) Afterwards, we went to this building that was about 6 museums in 1 (everything from miniatures to war paintings) before we went to La Calle de las Brujas, the witches' street, where all the touristical shopping is done in La Paz. For dinner, we even convincd Shirley to take us to an Indian food restaurant, which was pushing my opinion of food in La Paz towards heavanly.
First thing in the morning, we packed our bags and took off for the drive to Lago Titicaca. It was a three hour drive to the lake, then a 30min ferry ride, and then another two hour bus ride to Copacabana. After the carsickness was over, we all realized where we were. The lake was absolutely beautiful! After a lunch of trout, we hopped on another boat to take us to La Isla del Sol, the sun island (which also has its counterpart, the moon island). It is here in Incan legend, on their respective islands, that the sun and moon gods were born. We took a tour of the few ruins on the island and then hiked to the village, where we would be spending the night.
Shirley had forwarned us that our hostel wasn't as... nice as we'd had before. More modest, with a nice view she said. As we approached our hotel, we realized she's bluffed a little. It was a gorgeous hostel with a view from every room. Definitely the nicest of the trip. Afterwards, we had freetime to explore the island. A few of us decided to hike up to the top of the mountain to catch some shots of the setting sun. I forgot to mention that it was Sarah's 19th birthday, the night we spent on lake Titicaca. We ran into some little girls, who with some convincing, let us borrow their llama for the evening, and we gave it to Sarah. Everyone absolutely loved it! Shirley then pulled me aside, and told me plans to surprise Sarah (my involvement of course involved the distraction of Sarah). I'm not too good at this, but with the help of Dalton, we wandered her around the island for a good hour and then surprised her with a nice dinner and cake!
The next day we started our long hike back to what we thought was the boat launch, but instead was to la fuente del Inca, the fountain, also known as the fountain of life (as I type this, I remember watching the movie the Fountain, and am SO stoked that I went there). We got to bathe in the clean yet freezing water and everyone took a sip for its healing powers. We then walked down to beach, and realized that this was our last chance to get to swim in lago Titicaca. Everyone stripped down to their underwear (Dalton got naked) in front of all the tourists, and then jumped off the pier. It was so cold that my chest started closing up, and I could barely get out of the water. But I had swam in the lake! My one goal I had set long before I had plans to come to lago Titicaca.
We then took our freezing asses back to the beach, scrounged for towels and then took the many hours of bussing back to La Paz. We had more freetime, for shopping and such.. but I had started to feel kind of sick, so I didn't go all out. For dinner we went out to a Thai/Japanese/Indian food restaurant, with further improved my opinion of the food and then back to the hotel for the night. I woke up in the morning sick as a dog. I felt naucious, and every muscle in my body ached. But we were heading to Cochabamba so it was off to the airport we go.
Arriving at the airport, we found out our flight was delayed for three hours, so we decided to just hang around. I realized that my sickness wasn't going away. In fact, it started to get worse, and I was getting a fever. After waiting three hours (me feeling like I was dying) we found out the flight was delayed even more. Shirley, the guide, got all up in the airlines faces and ended up getting them to pay for our dinner. After dinner, I decided that I was on the verge of dying (even my eyelids were burning up) so I took a nap on the floor. I woke up to find out that we had dropped the idea of going to Cochabamba (since we were only going to go for the day, and had spent that day in the airport) and were going to just take a flight to Tarija at 10pm. Then that flight was delayed. I ended up taking some Tylenol to bring my fever down, but still felt like crap. In the end, with a lot of fighting and drama, we got on a flight to Tarija at 3am. It had to have been the single most exhausting day of my life.
Arriving at 4am, we crashed into our beds with only four hours to sleep. Waking up nice and early, we went out for traditional food, which was definitely not breakfast food (but smelled pretty good, nice and spicey). Then we checked out a winery and did some wine tasting, where you could buy a bottle for 20 Bs... evening out to about $3.50 Then we checked out a huge water dam, which freaked me out since there weren't any guard rails, welcome to Bolivia! Tarija all in all wasn't too great, since we were only there for a few hours. But I could tell that it was a gorgeous city. The architechture reminded me slightly of Santa Cruz, in that it was newer than the other cities we'd visited.. but it was a lot cleaner, and prettier overall. It's definitely somewhere I want to go back to, to fully visit the city.
We hopped on a flight back to the horrible airport of La Paz, where we had another three hour layover, and then left for Santa Cruz at 930pm. As we got closer and closer to the city, I realized how excited I was to be back home. I even used that word when I was talking to my real parents. I now feel like scz is my home. As we landed, I realized (amongst the cheering) that there were quite a few other exchange students that felt the same way. It was also quite the change of spirits compared to the first time any of us had flown into Santa Cruz, as scared little exchangers on the first leg of our journey. I now realize how far I've grown the past five months... I'm starting to adjust, and feel comfortable, fully at home. Who knows what I will do with the rest of my four months!