Walking Across the Border to Bolivia

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South America » Bolivia » La Paz Department » Copacabana
November 22nd 2008
Published: December 4th 2008
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Day 601 (19.11.08)

Once we woke up and packed up we had a quick wander around Puno. There's not much to Puno itself other than the lake but its fascinating to watch the ladies in their local dress go about their business. With full layered skirts covered by pinafores and small bowler hats perched jauntily atop heads sporting two waist length black plaits it makes for a great sight.

After a morning spent in an internet cafe it was time to head to Bolivia. We´re always amused by how easily this slips off the tongue "tomorrow we´re going to Bolivia", and how quickly you can become accustomed to moving from country to country.

We were soon at the bus station and on a bus headed to the border at which point we all had to get off the bus and were herded to a couple of small offices for passport stamping purposes. We were then directed to walk across no-mans land into Bolivia (although filled with locals grazing their sheep this was not the type of no-man's land you'd expect!). A very relaxed wave from the bus driver towards another office and we were stamped into a new country in the most blasé manner we've experienced so far.

Back on the bus we made the short journey to Copacabana which sits on the shore towards the southern end of Lake Titicaca. We found ourselves a place to stay in the usual first night confusion of "Is this a good price to pay in Bolivia or are we being ripped off?!" and set out to find the cashpoint only to find that it wasn't an international one. Oops, we should have read our guide book a little more carefully! Thankfully we'd changed a few remaining Peruvian Soles into Bolivianos at the border and had 18Bs (about 1.50 pounds) to try and buy ourselves dinner and some water.

After trawling the backstreets to find a local eatery we managed to get a hearty and tasty 2 course meal and some water with 1B to spare, we love a challenge!

Day 602 (20.11.08)

After a trip to the bank for a cash advance we were ready to go. We stopped in at the market for some breakfast supplies and sat in the square in front of the magnificent Moorish style cathedral that is the centrepiece of this small town.

At around 10am every day at the gates of the cathedral are the Benediciones de Movilidades, or blessing of automobiles. Locals bring along their car/bus/van, decorate it with flowers, petals and colourful wreaths and perform a ceremony in front of the automobile. This seemed to involve the group of locals working their way thorugh a crate of beer and singing songs together. It was fascinating to watch.

We went into the cathedral to look around and then found the Capilla de Velas or Candle Chapel where hundreds of candles flicker in the darkness and locals use the wax to put messages on the already caked walls. We also bumped into a crowd of Peruvian school children we'd met on the previous day's bus and felt like we were back in China when they all wanted their picture taken with the gringos!

We spent the afternoon taking in the sun on our hostel's terrace and doing some more Spanish lessons from the iPod. Once it had cooled down a little we began the steep and breathtaking (in more then one way) climb to the top of Cerro Calvario, a hill at the north of town. At 3966m the views over the lake and the town are spectacular. As we sat and waited for the sun to set over Lake Titicaca we chatted with an British couple, Geoff and Sian and, leaving the summit before it got too dark to tackle the uneven steps back to town, we all headed to a hostel on the hill for a beer on the balcony to enjoy the last of the sunset.

Back in town we found a restaurant for dinner where we all tucked into some trout, a local specialty with the trout being farmed in the lake. A great day in Copacabana marred only by the fact that we hadn't met any showgirls called Lola.

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