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Day 8 - A stranded boat and a machine gun.

The day started out in the lap of eco lodge luxury’s on Sun Island at “La Estancia” Ecolodge La Estancia - Isla del Sol the best hotel on the Island. Everyone on the team indulged in beds, private bathrooms and warm hospitality from Gabriella, the manager. Even Flavio and Valentine took the day off from cooking, as everyone enjoyed a fresh three course dinner made on site. After a lazy morning, we walked along the spine of the Island to the Inca sun temple before meeting our boat to Escoma across the lake. In fact, the route from Sun Island to Escoma was more an exploration and was really the first navigation for everyone involved, including the boat driver. We were heading across the lake in search of lost Inca roads in route to Santiago de Okola.

What started out fine enough as we putted across the lake in a humble motorboat eventually turned into an adventure no one was expecting. After a few hours of navigation and within 50 meters of the shore, the driver took us onto a sandbar, apparently knowing he was just about to run out of gas. This maneuver served as an anchor of sorts, keeping our small boat from drifting out back out into an inland sea with a cold night and harsh winds approaching.

After everyone pitched in trying to figure a solution, it became clear that someone had to wade ashore in frigid waters, taking the empty gas tank with them. The driver, taking responsibility for the situation, went in with his skivvies in search of gas. He fought his way through the thickets of totora reeds toward a small outcropping of houses on the Bolivian altiplano. By this time, the team began to work through various scenarios. Most present in my mind, was how to stay warm sleeping on this boat. But in a heroic move by the driver, he miraculously showed back up thirty minutes later in a rowboat, and a full tank of gas! He was quickly rebuilding his reputation, as he got back to the boat shivering. Eventually we made it to a nearby makeshift jetty as night descended, everyone relieved to be on dry land at last.

We quickly loaded the two 4x4’s that had been waiting for us on shore and headed to our camp. The Bolivian military must have been watching us in what looked like a secret landing to move contraband under the cover of dark. It wasn’t long before one of our cars was stopped by a roadblock made by a plain white station wagon. Immediately, three military police in full fatigues and with a machine gun loaded and aimed got out of their vehicle and quickly approached our car. As one officer went to our driver Tomas, the other circled around the passenger side with his gun aimed right into the car.

Tomas, our driver and partner in Bolivia, explained to the officer what was obvious at this stage, that we were just a bunch of tourists happy to be on dry land. The gun was lowered, and we continued on our way.

Curious to see what tomorrow brings!


Nick Stanziano