At the Copa...

Trip Start Jan 31, 2005
Trip End Mar 30, 2006

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Saturday, May 7, 2005

From Arequipa we took a bus to the small city of Puno, located on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca, hoping that we would have time to catch another bus and cross into Bolivia the same day. The bus ride was tediously long, though, so we decided to rest in Puno for the night before carrying on the next day. It ended up being a nice stop - we had heard mixed things about Puno but ended up liking it pretty well. Touristy, but the lake is pretty and the town is sort of picturesque as it is built on a hill overlooking the lake.

The next day we took a tour bus across the border to the little Bolivian village of Copacabana (not to be confused with the Brazilian beach town of the same name...) We found Copacabana to be even nicer than Puno - it is smaller (more quaint?), more laid-back, and cheaper (yea, Bolivia!). We spent our first day walking around the village and then sitting by the water front trying out Bolivian beer. We found in the first afternoon that we could feel some differences between Peru and Bolivia. The Peruvian tourism industry takes a pretty in your face marketing style (having reps from five restaurants follow you down the street all simultaneously showing you menus, telling you about your options and offering you free drinks is a common occurence - although they mean well and are friendly, it gets wearing) - things are a little more low-key in Copacabana.

The next day we caught a ferry to a nearby island (Isla del Sol), which is one of the prime attractions in Bolivia, both for being really beautiful and being the legendary birthplace of the Incas. The ferry dropped us off at the south end of the island and the two of us hiked across the top ridge of the island to the north end where we stayed for the night. The hike was really beautiful - the lake's water seems to be constantly changing colors as the sun moves through the sky, and a range of snow-capped Andean mountains are visible across the water further into Bolivia. It took us about 3 hours to walk to the little town where we had planned to stay the night, and we ended up hearing it before we could see it. Yup, walked into another indigenous Catholic celebration. There were bands marching through town, all sorts of people in colorful costumes, tons of dancing and drinking... We watched for awhile and then found a place to stay. After picking a place and checking in, we asked for a recommendation for a place we could get some dinner. The guy who gave us our key sort of paused a second and then told us he didn't think anybody was working. "They are all drinking," he said in Spanish. Despite this we managed to find a place that was semi-open and happy for a little business. We were hoping to go enjoy the fun after dinner, but it started raining while we were eating, which cleared out most of the party for the rest of the night. So, we headed back to our place and made it an early night.

We got up the next day and saw that the festival seemed to be continuing, at which point we learned that the festival had been going on all week. We think it was for the same occasion as the fiesta in Cabanaconde in the Colca Canyon... We had until about 1 p.m. to walk around the town and the surroundings before we had to get on a ferry that took us to another nearby island and then back to Copacabana. The rest of the day ended up being peaceful, though a little dull, as the primary attractions for the rest of the "tour" were some minor Inca ruins on the islands (we are a little ruined out), interspersed with long periods slowly moving across the lake on the ferry. We got a lot of reading done.

After spending the night in Copacabana we got on a bus bound for La Paz... Pretty smooth ride (one of the few Bolivian highways that is paved), which was memorable for a stop at the edge of Lake Titicaca where we all had to be ferried across the lake. Passengers had to get off the bus and onto little speedboats, but the bus was driven onto a huge barge. We have a sort of amusing photo of our bus being floated across the lake. The stop was also memorable because there was a swimming competition going on at the time we crossed. All sorts of seemingly insane Bolivian teenagers were swimming across the lake followed by little motor boats - insane because it is incredibly cold, being at very high altitude, and they weren't wearing wetsuits - just a good layer of Vaseline!
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