Copacabana, Isla del Sol, La Paz

Trip Start Jul 31, 2005
Trip End Feb 18, 2007

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Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Another Day, Another Border, Another Drugs Search!

From Puno we take a local bus to the border town with Bolivia, Yunguyo. It was only a two hour journey, but we spent most of it worried that it might start to pour down, as the sky was full of threatening dark clouds, and our uncovered rucksacks were on the roof of the bus. A lot of Bolivia is more than 4km above sea level and gets very cold at night, so it's not exactly somewhere where you want to be stuck with a case full of wet clothes.

When we get off the bus, a cycle taxi driver offers to take us to immigration for 1 Sol, so we agree to go with him. After about 3 minutes cycling, he stops at the bottom of a long hill and says that immigration is at the top and he doesn't think he can get up there with the weight of two Gringos and their luggage. So he introduces us to his "friend", who just happens to be waiting at the bottom of the hill with a motorcycle taxi, and will charge us just 2 soles to take us up to immigration at the top of the hill. It's at this point where we normally start our frequent Latin American customer service argument, but today we got up at 6am and we're tired, plus 1 sol is only about 15 cents, so we just say "whatever" and jump in the motorcycle taxi.

When we arrive at immigration, a policeman gets out of the hut opposite and asks us where we are from, Patricia answers "Spain" and before Marc has even had the chance to answer, he asks us to go over for a customs search. They checked our pockets and our Day Sacks, asked us if we smoked Marijuana, filled out some paperwork, and let us go. We have met some other Spanish people who were also pulled over, so if crossing this border, it's probably best to say you don't speak any Spanish, then they will probably see you as being too much work.


We walk over a surprisingly calm border crossing, get our Bolivian entry stamp, and get a taxi to Copacabana, a small Bolivian fishing village on the edge of Lake Titicaca.

The rain which has been threatening all afternoon eventually starts, and it is so cold that we realize we're going to have to shop for some warmer clothes. We purchase a locally made fleece and a woolly hat which helps immensely in sheltering us from the elements. That evening, when the rain had stopped, the additional clothing enabled us to sit out by the lake and down a few cold beers whilst watching the sunset. Something which would have otherwise been impossible.

The next day we take a day trip to the Isla del Sol (Sun Island). The boat leaves us at the top of the island where we are met by a guide who takes us to view an Inca Labyrinth. After that, we embark on a three hour walk to the south of the island, where we descend the Inca Stairs and meet our boat. On the walk we enjoyed some nice scenery of both the island and lake Titicaca, but at this altitude the walk was tough, and we frequently found ourselves gasping for breath. The Isla del Sol made a nice day trip, but it is nothing like the uniqueness of the Uros on the Peruvian side of the lake.

La Paz, the Highest Capital City in the World

From Copacabana, we take a bus to the capital La Paz. About midpoint in the journey, they put the whole bus on a long wooden barge to cross part of the lake. For safety reasons, the passengers had to get off and pay to travel in a different boat. After seeing the state of the wooden barge that they put the bus on, we were only too happy to pay to travel separately.

At between 3250 and 4040 meters above sea level, La Paz is the highest capital city in the world. Most of the city centre is fairly chaotic, where every pavement seems to be crammed full of stalls selling everything imaginable. In fact, trying to walk along the pavement gets so difficult that most people give up and walk on the road instead. As the city itself seems like one gigantic street market, there's little need for shops here.

We made time in La Paz for two sights, The Witches Market, where they sell Llama Fetuses for Aymara Rituals. They are pretty disgusting things to look at, and don't even ask us about the smell. After that we visit the Coca Musuem, which has an informative display about the history and significance of the Coca plant.

We've only been in Bolivia a week, and it's amazing to see how different it is to other Latin countries which we've visited. Here the influence of western civilization is very limited, the people are of mainly indigenous decent with few mestizos, and for a westerner, a bout of food poisoning or diarrhea is almost guaranteed! mmmm, maybe it's not so different after all:-)
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