Bolivia - Copacabana

Published: April 18th 2017
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Suzanne here...

On the bus journey from Puno to Copacabana we finally started to get some idea of the scale of Lake Titicaca. The trip was about four and a half hours long, and still we followed the lakeshore. The border crossing was easy. Stamp out of Peru, short walk, stamp into Bolivia. There was a slightly dodgy moment when we were asked for a two boliviano or soles fee to enter the city. We'd used up all our soles and didn't yet have bolivianos. The fact they gave up easily when we told them this makes me wonder how official the fee is.

Copacabana gave us a much more favorable first impression than Puno. Lake Titicaca looked stunning. This is what we'd expected in Puno, but there we'd been disapointed. Here was just what we'd been hoping for. After a quick ATM visit we were solvent again, and went in search of our hotel.

Hotel Ultama was fine. Nothing flash, but not bad. We soon settled in and went off to take a proper look at the lake. Unlike Puno you could get right down to the shore. So, being us, we found a shop and enjoyed a beer or three looking at the view. A rather nice afternoon actually.

That night we succumbed to the excellent reviews of a little pizza place called Pan American. It's owned by a couple from the USA, although they put a lot of the profits and their energy into local community projects. We got talking to a Canadian couple and were able to advise them on Cusco. Then the pizza arrived and we stopped talking. For me, it was absolutely lovely but very 'homemade' rather than pizzeria style pizza. I'm certainly not complaining though, and I'd recommend it. David thought it was one of the best pizza's of the trip so far. We chatted to the lady owner afterwards, a lovely person. So warm and kind. We'd have liked to chat more but it was closing time.

The following day we got up early and got to the shore to get tickets for the 8.30am boat to Isla de Sol. The Canadians had warned us that the north was shut due to some dispute the local people had with some tourist developments. So instead we took the boat that made a stop at Isla de Luna first. It was small, but nice to see the ruins of where (we were told) sacrificial virgins were kept. We'd been sold a guided tour of the ruins, as well as those on the other island. We had asked if the guide spoke English and he said 'a little'. Well it was a very little! Rather cheekily he roped in a Spanish girl on the tour to translate for him. We felt slightly guilty but she did a good job and were were grateful.

Next it was on to Isla de Sol. We were dropped off at a small set of ruins (more translation favours needed) then took a walk over the hill to the port, about an hour away. The views were stunning. We even got to see the fountain of youth, but declined to drink the three litres of water we were told were necessary. We had a beer by the shore, then it was back to the boat. This time on the open top as the cabin was full. It was a good day and I'm glad we did it, but we were on the boat longer the the islands. It's probably better if you can do the standard north to south walk.

We got chatting to the Spanish girl (Cristina) and her French boyfriend (Nicolas) on the boat, and back in Copacabana we all popped for a drink. They were nice people and good talk to, although not overly positive about Bolivia. To be fair though, they had really suffered with altitude sickness, despite ascending slowly. It made us glad we'd taken the meds.

The restaurant we'd planned to go to in the evening was shut, and wi-fi was down at the hotel. So we ended up somewhere random and forgettable, neither very good or very bad.

The next day day there was still no internet and, more annoyingly, no electricty, so I had a bitterly cold shower. We really wanted to get an early morning colectivo to La Paz, of which there were many. But we read so many warnings about express kidnappings (where they keep you for several days and empty your bank account) with the complicity of the van driver. Nomally we'd take this with a pinch of salt. But the warnings were so numerous. Plus, we'd both been withdrawing the maximum amount of money we could each day as we had to stockpile cash to pay for our upcoming Amazon trips. A large wad of money on a notorious robbery route did not seem wise. So reluctantly we decided to get the safer tourist bus, which did not leave until 1.30pm.

We spent the morning walking along the lakeshore. It was a nice walk, but we inadvertently picked up doggie friends along the way. At one point we had six dogs accompaning us. We had no food, but still they still kept with us. After a bit of effort we managed to reduce the number to one, who stuck with us to the bitter end.

We bumped into Cristina and Nicolas as we left, such a pity they were going the way we'd just come. Then we were on the bus and on our way. It was a scenic journey. At one point we had to get off the bus and cross the lake on a boat, our bus following on a barge. About 20 minutes before arriving David realised that the bus had wi-fi. Annoying that we hadn't know before, but at least he managed to check in for our next flight. On a bus. This amused him greatly. The descent into La Paz was stunning, the whole city below us and mountains all around.

We arrived in La Paz at about 5.30pm. It was about a 50 minute walk to our hotel, so for once we were not going to be stubborn about getting a taxi. Especially in a unknown city, and at high altitude. I'd done some research on taxi safety and knew what to look for. Unfortunately things took an unexpected turn when they refused us at the taxi rank saying the traffic was too bad and we should walk! Normally we're hounded by taxi drivers. But, we had no choice but to set off on foot, just as it began to rain.

We were expecting a nightmare journey. But the rain stopped, the route seemed safe, and it was mostly downhill. In fact the walk was much better than expected and we got to our B&B just before it got properly dark. It took us a few moments to find the place as there was no signage, so we had to rely on the number. Luckily we were at the right place. Casa Skyways B&B was cheap and quite basic, mainly rooms with shared bathrooms. But we'd sprung for the room with a private bathroom. Ok, so the bathroom was terribly dated, and the bed not the most comfortable, but the room was huge with a great view over La Paz.

One of the first things we asked about was printing our boarding passes for the next day. Annoyingly they could not print them but directed us to a place nearby. Unfortunately when we got there, their PC was broken. We wandered round a bit to no avail, so decided to go for dinner instead. A lackluster meal at Blueberries Cafe later, we went in search of a local rock bar I'd read about, but we couldn't find it. We decided to cut our losses and go back to the room, especially as we'd not had wi-fi for a couple of days.

Back at the room I tried to find out how much Amazonas would charge to print our boarding passes. I was slightly horrified to find that apparently they would simply not let you embark. Now this seems unlikely, but you can't rule it out with low-cost airlines. By this time it was gone midnight so there was little we could do but set the alarm for early the next morning.

After a night that seemed to be made up of one long dream about traipsing the streets trying (and failing) to get our boarding passes printed, we got up and went out to do it for real. We wondered if a hotel would help, so stopped at the first one we came to. To our extreme joy and gratitude the guy on reception said yes. Disaster averted, and we even got back to the B&B in time for breakfast. Then we asked them to book us a taxi and by 10.30am we were off to the airport.

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