Bolivia Birthday Bonanza

Published: May 23rd 2008
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A few days before my birthday, Megan and I were in Lima trying to map out the rest of our week, and I saw the city Copacabana on our map, so we immediately changed course and headed to Bolivia! We arrived in Puno, the last stop in Peru, at about 5pm and had missed the last bus to Bolivia, so we hired a private taxi to zoom us around the lake and take us to the border. We arrived at the border about 15 minutes before closing and were super surprised to find out that entry to Bolivia was going to require a $100 visa! Thank goodness megan had cash on her, and we were able to squeeze into the country at the very last minute! I have to say, it was my first time crossing a border on foot, and it was super F U N!

We rolled into town right at sunset, and right away we knew we made the right choice! Copa is a city that you can fall in love with in an instant! Built on a sloping hill, every place has a great lake view and the center of town in lined with awesome cafes and shops lit up with twinkling lights and packed with laid back travelers and locals. The city is at an altitude of over 4000m (12,000 feet!) and after walking 3 blocks with our bags, we were panting and heaving for air! WHOA, what a difference an altitude makes! Now we know what a 70 year old smoker feels like after walking up 9 flights of stairs! Our first night we ate at the most lively eclectic place we could find where every nook and cranny was packed with a plant, or a glowing grape vine, or oodles of local handicrafts and art! (indian dreamcatchers seem to be popular here!) I was SO excited to find Mexican food on the menu! FINALLY! I had a most amazing chicken taco that was loaded with cheese and....carrots and corn? But seriously, it was AWESOME! This started my three day binge of anything Mexican! Tacos, enchiladas, and homemade guacomoles that rivaled my own homemade versions!

The next morning we set off in town to find a new hotel (we picked a good one the first night, freezing cold, a shower with wires sticking out everywhere and only cold water, and a free breakfast that consisted of coca tea and....bowls of marmalade with no bread?) We walked around Copa all morning and everytime we approached a hill we would have to slow it down to half speed just to catch our breath! After we found another place with a great view (and the promise of hot water, although 2 days later we were still waiting for the water to heat up....) we went to catch our boat over to the Isla de Sol. We were on a slow boat to China (and the engine cut out a few times) but luckily we were sharing the ride with some really interesting and awesome people! Our favorite was an older couple from Canada who were traveling around SA for 3 months, had just been to Belize, and were also hitting the Inca trail in Peru next! (Of course we ran into them again in Cusco!) Since the boat ride was so long, we had very limited time on the island, so instead of hiking straight uphill in the limited oxygen environment, we decided to enjoy a beer, the llamas, and the view of the Andes across the lake! Everyone in Bolivia was loving my Ecuadorian hat/fluffy birthday tiara combo and i think the locals were excited to see a visitor embrace their hat-wearing lifestyle! (Every woman in town wore a colored bowler hat that was at least four sizes too small for her head.....usually tipped to the side and behind for maximum fashion!)

That evening we went to see the live reggae music at one of the local pubs, and we were the hit of the party! Not only were all the tourists staring at my blinking (bolivian flag colors) tiara, but the two crazy dreadlocked musicians sat down to hang out with us after impressing us with their super advanced bongo skills! Not only did we give them a tip, but we also dropped a couple disco balls in their basket as well! After their performance we headed to another bar that was "not just for gringos!" and of course met a bunch more people! The reggae band members soon found us again at this bar, as well as a guy who tried to get my autograph thinking i was......Bjork? Apparently this was the place for all the locals AND gringos, because the next day we were the most popular people in town - our new friends were selling jewelry on the corner, playing guitar by the lake, or making us our tacos for lunch! We officially knew everyone in town after only 2 days!

Our last day was spent shopping for our knitwear to keep us warm on the Inca trail. We both got awesome hats with maximum dingleberry action, and I also got a pair of llama legwarmers - a fashion I'm hoping to bring back to the States! As we were around town we noticed that a lot of the cars were decorated with fresh flowers and pinwheels of color! Later at the church we learned that it is a weekly tradition to go to the church entrance and get your car blessed and decorated! I love it! We also discovered about 15 iron foosball tables lining the beaches of lake Titicaca! It was a Sunday and every table was full of action of all ages! Apparently they are all free and you just have to bring your own foosballs! Luckily i had a disco ball in my pocket and we were able to use that for a while (until I scored a goal and the ball never came need a special metal poker to reach in a retrieve the balls, so the next person that played on that table got a great disco ball surprise!) Our last night in town we found an excellent bar with games and good music, and played about 45 ConnectFour games in a row - megan and I went back and forth with wins and finally after about an hour we TIED, no winner, and figured, That's It, Game Over! And Three Cheers for Bolivia! Absolutely heavenly place, cannot wait to visit again!

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Happy Bolivian BD to me!Happy Bolivian BD to me!
Happy Bolivian BD to me!

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