Onwards into Bolivia via Lake Titicaca
Trip Start May 05, 2013
41Trip End Nov 06, 2013
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We arrived in Puno bus station just as dawn was breaking over Lake Titicaca ( yes, a bus station with a view!). After the horrendous journey in a cramped, uncomfortable and hot bus, surrounded by people snoring, coughing and farting all night, we were rewarded by one of the most beautiful sunrises we had ever seen ( and there have been quite a few!).
As soon as we entered the bus station we were immediately accosted by a guy from the Panamericano bus company who would take us on he next leg of the trip to Copacabana. He pointed us to the desk where we had to exchange our tickets and then we waited. This guy was terrific, he was buzzing around the station picking out his passengers and directing them to the right places and he even came on the bus with us to Copacabana, a journey of around 3 hours through some pretty desolate countryside, giving us instructions en route on how to get across the border, deal with immigration and the police on both sides etc., all in Spanish and English. We had heard many horror stories about crossing the border from Peru to Bolivia, but this one at Yunguyo was a piece of cake ( the one at Desequero is apparently a nightmare!)
Arriving in Copacabana was a very pleasant surprise. Set on a bay, right on the shores of Lake Titicaca it is a delightful place, a little like a quaint Cornish fishing village, if you ignore the snow capped mountains, the Bolivian women in their bowler hats etc...
Carolyn had booked us into to nice Hostal called Las Olas. Of course, it has to be one of the highest in the town. Despite the total lack of street signs we manage to find it after consulting a few locals. Turns out they don't know either, but within minutes of asking a couple of people, a guy on a bike chases after us and points us in the right direction, up a very steep hill. Even though we have been at high altitude for quite a while, Titicaca is even higher than most places we have been at 3850m asl and we really notice he difference as we walk up the hill
We spend some time wandering the streets and markets just taking it all in and already we as beginning to love this country. We find our way, by accident, to the Cathedral which dominates the town with its colourful domes, tiled in the Portuguese style. Inside is equally impressive, in fact, although it is not the biggest, it is certainly one of the most beautiful churches I have seen anywhere in the world! Definitely worth a visit if passing through.
Having shopped for produce in the market for dinner tonight we book a boat trip on the lake out to Isla del Sol, which according to Inca legend/ religion was the birthplace of the sun. Because of the altitude, Titicaca gets clear blue skies and brilliant sunshine most of the time but this doesn't stop it being really cold, especially out on the lake. As we sit on the top deck of the boat on our way out, I don't think I have ever been so cold
Isla del Sol was to be frank, as expected, a bit of a tourist trap. We had the opportunity to walk up to the top of the island to have a look around the ruins, but having seen so many ruins over the last few weeks we were "ruined out" and, instead decided to just sit on the grass and watch the islanders unload the boats and load up their donkeys to cart their supplies up the very steep cobbled paths to the top of the island.
On the way back to Copacabana we get chatting to a couple of students from the USA who are working in La Paz as part of their masters degrees in community health. They are a mine of information on what to do, where to go and what to watch out for in the capital city. They recommend some places to stay which is really helpful as wifi is all but no existent here and we haven't been able to book anything. This is not usually a problem for us as we are happy to find something on arrival but, prefer to at least have a vague idea of where we are going on arrival in a big city in the late afternoon.
All things considered and despite the awful bus service, we are glad we chose this route into Bolivia rather than stopping overnight in Puno which is not the most attractive of Peruvian cities ( although great for visiting the floating island of Uros etc.). We could easily stay a lot longer here but Bolivia is a big country and there is a huge amount to see.
Sunday morning and we make maximum use of our cooking facilities before leaving for La Paz. Carolyn cooks eggs tomatoes and chorizo which we eat whilst looking out over Lake Titicaca below. Sunday brunch doesn't get much better than this!
The wifi in the hostal is not working so we head off to an Internet cafe before catching the bus as we haven't anywhere booked in La Paz and we will not arrive until late afternoon. We fail in our quest to secure a bed for the night and will just have to find somewhere on arrival.
The bus trip from Copacabana to La Paz must surely be one of the most spectacular in the world. As we climb out of Copacabana back into the mountains we get a true idea of the size of this lake. It seems to go on forever
Never before have I seen so many minibuses. They are everywhere jamming up the roads in and out of the city. Eventually we get through and continue on to the centre of La Paz and start to descend. Only then do we appreciate the spectacular setting of this city, set as is on the sides of mountains. I don't think I have ever seen as impressive a cityscape, there actually audible gasps from the passengers on the bus.
Eventually we arrive at the bus station. Time to find somewhere to sleep tonight...