Sweeping away my sorrow with beer, cigarettes and San Pedro

When I finally got to my hotel, I just wanted to forget about the whole false taxi & false cop experience, have a meal, a beer, and go to bed. As I was eating my pasta, a feeling started to grow inside me. I hadn’t really checked my small backpack to see if anything was missing. They just handed it over to me and it seemed heavy enough to assume that the content was complete. But I had this intense presentiment that I just might be wrong. So after finishing my meal in the bar and before having the free beer I was entitled to, I went back to my room to have a proper look. I opened the drawer beneath my bed, opened my backpack I had put in there… and sank to the ground with a heavy heart: my reflex camera was missing. My baby. My precious. My everything.

Since the beginning of my trip, and even before that, I had kind of prepared myself mentally that this could happen. But at less than a month before flying back home, I thought I was safe, that I had learned how to avoid the tricky situations. But only a few seconds of distraction are necessary to get you in this kind of unwelcome situation. 60 $ was nothing. It was just an unpleasant experience. But which can easily be overcome. But my camera?? How could anyone be so heartless and cruel?

In a way, I also felt guilty. For not seeing it. For having played their game all along. For being so naive. People told me afterwards that this “false cop” trick was something they warned about in every travel guide book and on every blog about La Paz. I hadn’t read any of them.

Somehow, after having a better look at the situation, I came to the conclusion that it actually had been much better for me to be completely clueless. If I had suspected anything, I might have gotten nervous, have refused to hand things over to them. And then god knows how they might have reacted. In the end, the camera too was only material. Expensive material but material all the same. I still had my computer, my external hard drive… and my back up camera, a small compact one. Only two days of pictures were missing. It could have been much worse.

However rationally I tried to analyse the situation, I was still feeling tense. And a bit depressed. Now, I could certainly use that free beer. And a cigarette.

The latter was a bit of a problem since I more or less stopped smoking when I was in Bogotá, more than three months ago. I had heard some of the smoking guys in the bar speaking French. If I told them my story, maybe they would pity me enough to invite me for one and let me join them for the evening? I didn’t feel like sitting there sipping my beer with my blues as only company, so it was worth a try. And as few travellers are closed people, I was invited to join the group of 4. I remember there was a girl. And two guys from Lyon. But the only one whose name I actually recall   is Yann. But then he was also the one with the craziest travel stories. He left his IT job a while ago to explore the world with his motorbike. He had already travelled part of Europe and Asia and had been in South America for only a few weeks. Seeing him like that, he rather looked like the quiet type. But still waters run deep. You can discover his own adventures here: http://pimpamjournal.com/. Many nice pictures too!

We had good fun together and, soon, there was no one but us left in the bar. Literally no one. Not even the barman. However, not one of us wanted to go to sleep. Desperately looking for something that would keep us happy for a few more hours, we wondered if anyone  had any pot. The answer was negative. But then I remembered I had the San Pedro, which I had bought near Cusco and hadn’t taken on the Isla del Sol as I had originally planned to do. I vaguely remembered I had been given some advice before taking it. But at this advanced hour, I couldn’t exactly recall what it was.

The quantity I had was for one person but we were about to use it for five people, so I didn’t expect it to have a great effect on me. The little pocket of powder I had in my possession had to be diluted in hot water. We did that. And the mixture we got as a result was green and thick. I thought this looked like what could be cactus juice. Which isn’t really surprising given the fact that this is what a San Pedro actually is: a cactus. We each in turn took a swig of the beverage. But the further we got, the thicker it became. The more disgusting too. The mere texture started to make me feel sick. I don’t know where the French guys found the courage to finish it. The whole experience was a bit disappointing for everyone, so we all went to bed. I woke up during the night to go to the bathroom and I remember the floor seemed to be moving under my feet. That’s the only effect I had from the San Pedro. Or was it?

On the following morning I  remembered the advice I had been given before taking  the mixture: clean your body of unhealthy food, don’t eat meat during the 3 days before,… that kind of things. As I didn’t do that “pre” cleansing, it seemed to me that my body was now doing an automatic “post” cleansing, on which I had absolutely no control. During the two following weeks, it was necessary to keep the toilets close.

What looks like an innocent cactus could bring you high. Unless you decide to share with some French guys.
What looks like an innocent cactus could bring you high. Unless you decide to share with some French guys. Image from http://www.sacredcactus.com/may_04/san_pedro_cactus.jpg.

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