Thursday, March 23, 2006

I Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Bolivia

You have to visit to understand the title to this post.

When a person such as myself is light-headed, strolling around at 8,000 feet, the mind does funny things. "I ain't talkin' bout Bolivia" runs through my head like a munching earwig out of a sci fi horror story.

How many times do we get the words wrong in a rock n roll song? The website above is devoted to this universal problem. You can look up the lyrics to a song and record your own mis-readings (or just read others' and have a good laugh).

Go to the website above and search "I'd Really Love to See you Tonight", where the lyrics can be found. I mistook the line, "I'm not talking about movin' in.." for "I'm not talkin bout Bolivia," but of course, that's just too preposterous for a love song, so I guessed (for years and years) that the right words were "I'm not talkin' bout believing ya". Then I went to this amusing website and realized that I had a double "mondegreen."

Anyway, someone named Betsy Gordon had the same misreading of the line.

bolivia... I'm not even THERE.

* * *

Which brings me to South America.

I just arrived in Quito, Ecuador, which looks modern and clean and green from the sky (in a landing reminiscent of Hong Kong's old Kai Tak Airport). But it is actually a little grotty around the edges, yet a chipper town with a fair mix of ethnic groups. The mountains are within view of my little desk at The Magic Bean, which is a kind of backpacker nexus in the Mariscal Sucre.

Jay and I got a little room here with private bath, and we look out over the lavanderia which is hopefully not destroying my 3 kilos of expensive North Face FIT wear.

Big welcome from the harried but capable Miguel Garcia, who got us booked on the Angelique sailing boat around the Galapagos next week. I have been inside only three buildings here, and I am already seeing a type of beautiful plank with large gaps between... definitely some sort of exotic hardwood.It seems that the traveler is drawn to these backpacker magnets like this 'hood, or the old town of Cuzco, Peru. I guess it takes some effort to get away from these places, because it is mighty convenient to stay there.

With Cuzco as our base, we trekked the Inca trail and soaked in Machu Picchu; then we trudged through mosquito-infested rain forest to see toucans and caymans in their natural habitat. In true backpacker fashion, we met up with Lai Chee and her traveling companion Bret. We looked like a thousand other moneyed gringo travelers who are playing explorer.

Winawayna is a not-to-be-missed Incan town on the outskirts of Machu Picchu. I can see why the prince made his holiday home at Machu Picchu, but if you want mystical magic, check out Winawayna. It is an agricultural settlement with tons of terraces stretching downwards in a funnel fashion on a mountainside. A couple of modest temple buildings are there, as is a priest's house. Homes for support folk are there, too, and it must not have been a huge town. But what a setting. Jagged mountains with permafrost are directly across from the settlement, giving the feeling that you are embraced by the security of the terraces and the mountain spurs but held aloft in the top of the world. It is impossible to sit there and not feel as if you are in the presence of majesty. And yet you are held warmly, like riding on the shoulders of an adult when you are a child.