We topped the ridge on the dirt road and began dropping quickly on our mountain bikes into the valley. We all knew that it’d continue to get warmer and greener as we descended from the Bolivian highlands, but our thoughts at that moment were mostly focused on what awaited us at the end of the ride. For each person, those anticipated rewards were different- a warm bath, a cold beer, hot coffee, a dry room. And so, we thought of those things and little else as the town of Sorata came increasingly into view.
The names of places……
The various names that are attached to places are intriguing. Some that are acquired are obvious, since they either reflect some sort of location characteristic or simply commemorate an individual who was important to the place. But, others not quite so. Regardless of how or why, the names all tell a story in a few short words—some less straight-forward than others, but each worthy of knowing. Here’s a few such stories that I’ve heard. Listen, and maybe you will, too………………..
Climbing Huayna Potosi in Bolivia without a morning cup of coffee.
It was cold and restless sleep at our high camp on Bolivia’s Huayna Potosi. As I think back, it was actually more like quiet time, except for the constant banging of the tent flap out in the frigid, high altitude night. When I’d gone out into it briefly, I’d marveled at how clear and full of stars the sky was. But that marvel was tempered by my personal acknowledgment that ultimately the clear skies would just mean even colder temperatures. At least, I reasoned, since there was no threat of snow, I wasn’t going to have to get up and shovel any of it away from the tent in the wee hours of the morning. Over and over again, I pushed myself deeper into my minus 25- degree bag and several times checked to make sure that it’s hood was cinched tightly down around my head. That checking and tightening, along with a persistent need to go outside and relieve myself, periodic dozing off, and a mental organization of the rope-up logistics occupied the bulk of my supposed sleep time.
An inadvertant broken window in Yumani, Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca.
I stutter-stepped, planted my left foot, and then exploded past the 9-year-old defender to his right, and took the open shot. I hooked it hard and missed, at least the goal part. The ball did hit one of the dining room windows in the small combination Isla del Sol house and hotel and shattered it into more pieces than I wanted to count. The game stopped, and we all stood, frozen in place as we tried to determine the next move. Our goal keeper’s mother had already been outside, scolding the kids about being careful not to break anything. And so, I was prepared for her wrath, although I was not clear about whether or not I’d be lumped in with the other soccer players since I was actually older than her.