Somehow a dog-eared copy of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (Feb. 14) had crept into my briefcase when I took off for Latin America. Ten days later I was sitting in Caracas' Hotel Tamanaco devouring a brief story titled Trout in the Clouds. What had me breathing heavily was an accompanying photograph by Fenno Jacobs showing a Bolivian Indian boy on the shores of Lake Titicaca clutching to his breast, and practically buried under, a huge rainbow trout.
I reread the story to make sure that Senator Hickenlooper had actually caught a 34-pounder a few weeks earlier. I also rechecked schedules to satisfy myself I had four days of a long weekend free before my next conference in Santiago, Chile. A quick glance at the map of South America showed La Paz, Bolivia, the jumping-off place for Lake Titicaca, not too far off the route to Santiago. And a conference with the airlines people revealed that I could get to La Paz Friday noon by flying to Maracaibo, Barranquilla, and then overnight from Panama City to Lima.
So here I was Friday morning sitting in a DC-4 togged out in an oxygen mask, flying the uphill course over the deserts, jungles and Andes of Peru to Bolivia's Altiplano. In the classic expression of other intrepid voyagers into the unknown, "little did I realize"—either from Brother Jacobs' eyecatching pictures or their accompanying blurbs—that to snatch those rainbow beauties from their ethereal waves was to require a bit more doing and quite a bit more fortitude than I had planned on.
The oxygen equipment discouraged serious reading and gave me plenty of time to speculate. Remembering the exhilaration of three-and four-pound squaretails and salmon taken on a light rod at Dana McNally's island camp at Portage, Maine, I found it difficult even to imagine the pleasures of hauling in on light tackle one of the Brobdingnagian beauties ahead. Of course I had no tackle whatever with me. This seemed a minor handicap at the moment. The Man-from-Mars getup I was sporting as we sailed along at 18,000 feet past the snow-capped Andes might have been a warning of altitudinal problems to follow. But I had successfully weathered the 7,000 feet of Mexico City without getting the customary " Mexico City stomach." The 12,700-foot altitude of the Bolivian capital wasn't worrying me a bit.
Arriving at the La Paz airport about noon, I cleared customs, bought a few bolivianos at 2,500 to the dollar, and grabbed a cab for the Sucre Palace.
The road down from the Altiplano to the city 1,000 feet below had me clutching at the seat of the battered Chevrolet. I got only a fleeting glimpse of the majestic saddle-backed Illimani towering over the city like a patron father, being much too busy applying body English to assist the driver around the hairpin turns. After settling in at the hotel, I came breezily down to the tourist agency in the lobby to inquire about renting transportation, gear, guide and boat for a fishing expedition I confidently expected to start that afternoon. The gal at the agency gave me my first jolt. Her ignorance of fishing on Titicaca was colossal.
Well, there were big trout in Titicaca, weren't there?
"S� se�or, hay muchos peces grandes."
Well then, how did one go about killing them?
"No se, se�or."