Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ojo del Inca

As cool as Saturday was, Sunday was absolutely incredible, probably my favorite day in Bolivia
Laundry hanging up to dry, and in the
background people washing their clothes.
thus far. I went to Ojo del Inca, this amazing naturally heated lagoon on top of these beautiful hills. I had a lot of fun getting there. I went to a tour agency and asked how much it cost and they told me 80 Bolivianos, which I thought was way too much. So I found my own way by taking the local bus, which only cost 4 Bolivianos. I told the driver where I wanted to go, and after about thirty minutes he pulled over on the highway, pointed at me, and said Ojo del Inca. So, there I was, stranded on this Bolivian highway all by myself. I quickly saw that on the other side of the river there were a lot of people. So I wandered on over to find out that it wasn't Ojo del Inca, it was just a hot spring where people were doing their laundry– it was a Sunday after all. Laundry day!

I asked someone where Ojo del Inca was and he told me to walk uphill for a kilometer. I think he was lying, it was way more than a kilometer. Either that or I am just really out of shape. I walked up this dusty road surrounded by the most beautiful mountains. On second thought, maybe the reason why it took me so long to get there is because I stopped so many times to take photos and just appreciate the beauty around me. When I finally arrived at Ojo del Inca I was the only tourist there– awesome! This nice man named Freddy came over and explained the lagoon to me, and told me I should go swimming. Well, I had my bathing suit with me anyway so I thought, why not. Once I had changed he told me to dive in. Dive in from the shore. I said, I won't hit my head? He said no. So I took a leap of faith, or a dive a faith, and went head first into the water. I can't even explain that feeling of being suspended in the air for that split second before entering this amazing lagoon. It was incredible, I just felt so at peace. When I did hit the water I was shocked to feel how warm it was–86 degrees! And, I didn't hit the bottom. Diving from the shore into this lake, well it was quite amazing. I just swam around and relaxed taking in the amazing view around me. I was so happy at that moment. Sometimes, I just can't believe how beautiful this world is and how lucky I am to see and experience these amazing places. Besides the view, swimming in a naturally heated, almost perfectly circular lagoon was also incredible. It was so strange to swim in the warm water because the air around me was so cold. Whenever I lifted my arm out of the water I got goosebumps. Eventually, I made my way out, dried off, and continued to explore the area. There were a few more pools that were actually boiling hot. Literally.
A beautiful view
I started the slow, dusty descent back to the road where I waited until a bus going to Potosi rounded the corned and I waved it down. I left Potosi feeling very happy– all in all it was a great trip.

I read somewhere, or maybe someone told me, that in Bolivia the lower the elevation the nicer the people because they don't have to deal with the harsh conditions of a high altitude. In the case of Potosi, I can't think of anything more untrue. I found the locals so incredibly friendly and helpful. For example, when I got into Potosi at 8:30 at night (stupid to arrive in a strange city when it is completely dark out) someone from my bus helped me find my hotel. I had asked the woman sitting next to me if we were near the street where my hostel was and the man sitting in front overheard and said he lived nearby. This was one of those situations where I was like, okay should I trust this complete stranger. I made him show me exactly where we were on the map and then payed close attention to every turn we took, and eventually we wound up right at my hostel's front step. Mom, don't worry: it was well lit and there were people around me the whole time. If he led me down some dark alleyway I obviously wouldn't have followed. I find that one of the most difficult things about traveling: when to trust people and when to know when someone doesn't have the best intentions. This man clearly was just a very helpful person. He was so nice, we chatted the whole way. Then, when I was leaving Potosi I asked this couple walking down the street what letter micro goes to the bus station. They told me, and then waited at the bus stop with me until the micro came and I was onboard. Isn't that just so nice?! Gosh, I love Bolivians.

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