Very few countries today can say that they are one nation.
So many parts of our world have been screwed up by colonists creating “imaginary” boundaries that make no ethnic, linguistic or historical sense. Africa’s horrors have much to do with that.
Canada’s First Nations have been shamefully hard done by – experiencing a long, drawn out “drip drip drip” of painstaking genocide masquerading as “civilizing” missionary work combined with fraudulent treaties and the outright takeover or pollution of unceded land. Countries that simply exterminated their First Nations or chased them into neighbouring lands stand out, but I am not sure which process is more cruel.
A Honduran child fleeing horrid local violence who ends up facing foreign persecution enroute northward to “safety” would not consider Central or North American borders imaginary.
Occasionally when one is traveling between culturally close countries with the same language the impression is received that the border is imaginary because the people seem the same and the neighbourhoods are similar. A naive visitor might make this mistake.
I remember a taxi ride in Caracas during the unrest in late 1966. Our small group – a few Canadians headed for a nightclub – was stopped. A policeman shoved a machine gun through the window and suggested, “Passaportes, por favór.” Glad we had ’em with us, like good foreigners.
In southern Ecuador in September, 1967 the group I was traveling with were forced to stay overnight in Huaquillas, a small border town, after entering from Peru. We strolled around the main square after eating supper and I took a photo of a statue dedicated to the Friendship of the People of Ecuador and Peru. Apparently there had been a “falling out” and a policeman took my camera, removing the film. Luckily I got the camera back.
These are minor things beside the very real problems people displaced (by those who disregard borders and land rights) and people-on-arbitrary-lists have, but they point out that borders (even arbitrary ones) exist and are something with which one should not trifle.
On September 1, 1967 I and my four Peace Corps traveling pals, who had finished their 2-year assignments in Uruguay, left Lima by bus. We were headed for the Ecuadoran port of Guayaquil. To backtrack, I met them while traveling by train from Buenos Aires to La Paz. We enjoyed each other’s company and had stayed together journeying through Argentina, Bolivia, sailing Lake Titicaca to Puno, train to Quito, Machu Picchu and Lima. The map of my whole trip follows:
We arrived in Puno c. August 26 by boat from Guaqui, Bolivia’s port on Lake Titicaca (elev. 12 500 feet). In Puno (or on the overnight voyage) I learned the joke, still popular among Peruvians today, that Peru claims to have the “Titi” end of the lake. Continue reading “South America Trip.9 – Peru”
Departed Buenos Aires by train for La Quiaca. The trip to La Quiaca took, if I remember, two nights on the train, during which time we climbed to 11, 293 feet. My sheepskin coat came in handy. While I’m not sensitive to altitude, carrying my heavy bag from car to car on the train caused me some huffing and puffing. Starting out alone, I met four American Peace Corps volunteers on the train. They had, like I, just finished their two-year assignments. Theirs were done in Uruguay. There was a married couple and two single women in their group. I particularly remember a Japanese American named Jo Ann from Chicago who was either a Ph.D in Chemistry or on her way to doing one. She later visited me in Montréal. They all were fluent in Spanish and great company for me, alone since I let my companions George and Ian go ahead while I spent extra time in Rio de Janeiro.
We did make it to La Quiaca, crossed into Villazón on the Bolivian side, and took a second train up through Bolivia to La Paz. This was a further 16 hours or so and about another 1000′ of elevation.
Left Rio de Janeiro Sunday, August 6, 1967 by bus for São Paulo at 8 AM, arriving 4 PM. Stayed overnight. It was my first experience of the custom of blaring one’s horn for the entire time one is tied up in traffic. Incomprehensible to me why someone would want to make a bad situation intolerable. The cacophony was even audible from my tenth floor hotel room with the windows closed.
São Paulo is where all the men from Manaus went to find work, leaving their women unattended. São Paulo had the air in 1967 of economic boom. 5.5 million people, crowded, cool, hectic with fine shops offering beautiful items for sale.
George, Ian and I traveled from Salvador, Bahia to Rio in a Greyhound Bus. The trip took 28 hours. We left Thursday, July 27 at 10 AM and arrived in Rio on Friday, July 28 at about 2 PM after a fascinating (at first) and later grueling trip in which I sat, innards churning, over the rear wheel. We passed some sugar cane, later cactus, isolated farms and even adobe homes shaped like igloos. Passing through Minas Gerais at night we were offered very cheaply priced precious stones by street vendors. Sheepskins dyed and pure were priced at about $4 each.
The following upbeat letter and another one to Anita was written lying on Copacabana Beach on Saturday facing Sugarloaf Mountain while George and Ian chatted with some attractive, bikini clad, women during which time George got his pants stolen and had to go back to our hotel in his bathing trunks, a no-no on public transport in Rio in those days. Wonder, given the fleshy excesses of Rio’s mardi gras, if these ancient strictures still apply… We laughed at ol’ George in his comic predicament, despite our great concern and sympathy. Guys do that.
There are so many great shots to choose from (ruins, mountains, plains, colourful local people, birds, sea lions …) but this one, taken almost at the end of our holiday in Puno Airport, delighted me by its unpredictability. Waiting for our flight to Lima, we were charmed by a group of children wearing uniforms that said “My first camino.” All the adults were hypnotized by this group of expressive innocents. Wish I’d found out where they had come from or where they were off to…
Part 5 of our 1967 South America trip took us from Belem to beautiful Salvador, Bahía.
Fortaleza: On Saturday, July 22 at 4 PM, after two nights in Belem (if I include the first night we spent still on the Lobo D’Almada in our hammocks) we left by plane for Fortaleza. We asked the airport taxi driver to take us to an inexpensive but good place. Maybe we got our signals crossed, because the place we ended up at charged by the hour. It was yet another red light district. We paid less than $2 for a room with three clean beds and, judging by the interesting noises, paper-thin walls. Can’t remember how much we slept, but we were up early enough to be ready for our 5:45 AM airport taxi on Sunday morning.
The airport taxi (10 minutes ride) cost us 2000 cruzeiros – about 75 cents!
Fortaleza seemed a pretty forgettable place in every respect other than the hotel. Things change, of course. Friends of ours recently took a very long cruise around South America. It included a visit to Antarctica, a return to Florida via the Panama Canal and a cruise up the Amazon River to Belem. Their ship stopped at Fortaleza on the way south to Rio and they were pleased with the look of the place. Continue reading “A 75 Cent Taxi Ride – South America Trip.5”