My vacation in Bolivia and Peru (Part 2)

Published: November 23rd 2014
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Day 6 (La Paz- Lake Titicaca)

My friend Madeleine who was also a volunteer in Cochabamba arrived in La Paz in the morning. And by morning I mean like 4am... She had just come back from another trip and now joined us for our Peru trip. Since our bus to Titicaca wasn't leaving until a few hours later, she squeezed into my bed with me after shortly introducing herself to Nellie and we tried to sleep for a couple of hours. Since it was quite uncomfortable laying in the tiny bed with two people, I got up pretty early and packed my stuff. We arranged with our hostel to leave Nellie's suitcase there for the time we were away. I had told her to bring a backpack, but she didn't listen to me, but quickly realized that a suitcase would be indeed very inconvenient and stuffed some of her belongings into her small backpack and I took some things into mine. Excited about the real beginning of our adventure we boarded the bus and Madeleine talked about her experiences on her other trip (she had been to Argentina and Uruguay).

As we got close to Titicaca we had to cross a river and everyone was told to get out of the bus. The bus was then transported seperately over the river on a little wooden boat that looked like it would sink any minute. The passengers got to ride on a way safer looking boat and surprisingly we both made it to the other side. From there it was another 30 minutes or so until we reached our destination: Copacabana (yes, Bolivia also has one). There we went to our hostel "Las Olas". As another volunteer put it: "You absolutely have to stay there. It is the best thing ever!! Even though it is a bit more expensive it is absolutely worth it" (I'd like to add that "a bit more expensive" meant 15€ per person) I had looked it up beforehand and made a reservation, it is almost impossible to get a house there on short notice (if you wanna stay there, here's their website

I hadn't told the other two anything about the hostel, only that it was the one luxury we will have on our trip. The receptionist took us to our house (yes, thats right, you get your own little house with a view over the lake) and as we entered we were absolutely amazed. We were all speechless, just standing there admiring the view and you could see the receptionist was feeling a little uncomfortable since noone was saying anything. He left us alone and after standing there for a few more minutes we decided to go down to the city center and buy some food, because we had our own kitchen inside the house and would have to cook for ourselves. After that we returned and made some lunch, hung out in our hammocks that were right outside the window and enjoyed the beautiful day. Madeleine started feeling a little sick, she probably had the altitude sickness, because she just went from sea level to almost 4000m in three days.

So Nellie and I went to Copacabana on our own. First we went to the port to get tickets to the Isla del Sol for the next day and we met a little boy with lamas, who offered pictures with them for a small fee, so we took one with them. He asked for 3 bolivianos for a photo and was really sweet taking multiple pictures to make sure we had one we were happy with. We thanked him and gave him double the amount he asked for because he was so nice to us. We then walked to the church which is really pretty and there must have been some kind of feast as there were a lot of people selling colorful decoration. Copacabana is known for car baptisms, which means people decorate their cars in various colors and drive them into the lake so the drivers would be blessed on all their journeys in those cars. There is one time of the year where lots of people come together to do so, but we missed it. However, we were lucky to see a couple of cars on their way to the lake. The church itself is a very nice building and it has kind of a backroom which is designated for putting up candles which is something I have never seen in a church before.

It started getting late and we walked back to our hostel. On our way we ran into four little kids and I asked them if I could take a picture of them. They looked at each other and one girl (she was no older than 4 years) said that it would be 5 bolivianos. Even the littlest Bolivians were trying to get some money off of us, so I told her that I had changed my mind and didn't want one any more. We started walking again and the kids came running after us trying to bargain and offering a photo for only 3 bolivianos. Since I had already taken one long before they approached us and I don't like that brash behaviour of having to pay for everything just because I'm blonde we ignored them and returned to the hostel where Madeleine was waiting for us. She was feeling better and it seemed that the Sorojchi pill I gave her (it is used for the altitude sickness) had worked. We enjoyed the evening with a glass of wine in the hammocks and went to bed early since we had our Isla del Sol trip planned for the next day.

Day 7 (Isla del Sol)

In the morning we had breakfast with a beautiful view and as we had fallen in love with the hostel we asked the manager if we could stay another night (we had originally only booked one). Turned out he was German which explains the houses were so well taken care of and the service was great. I noticed that whenever a business was owned by foreigners the service was much better, especially in touristy areas. Most Bolivians seem to only think in short terms, they see the money the tourist brings at the moment and want to have it. Foreigners are more likely to think in longterms: when a tourist likes the service, he is likely to come back or recommend the place to his friends. The manager tols us that unfortunately our house was already reserved for other guests, but there might be another one. The guests have to be at the hostel at a certain time or at least tell the reception when they will arrive. If they fail to do so the reservation expires. Since we had to leave for our island trip we left our backpacks at the reception and the manager told us that if the other guests don't show up, we will get the room and they will put our stuff in the other house.

The boat trip to the Isla del Sol took about one hour and from there we had a guided tour through part of the island. It started at a little museum and continued on a path on the coast of the island. We arrived at the north of the island where a spiritual leader performed a ritual to bless us and we had the chance to ask him about his religion. We walked on and visited some ruins where took pictures. The rest of the time we strolled around the island and then went to our boat to go to the next stop: floating islands!

These islands are made out of reef and we were brought to a touristy one where we had the chance to get some lunch. We walked around the small island and also checked out the reef boat which was next to it. On the island next to us there was a couple taking wedding pictures, which was quite funny to observe, because the woman was posing on the boat while right next to her tourists sat at tables eating fish. The fish were in basins right inside the islands and when you ordered one, they got the fish out and it killed and prepared it right away. Now that is what I call fresh!

After everyone from our tour had eaten our boat brought us back to Copacabana. We had told Madeleine about the lama photo we took the day before and she wanted one, too. So we went to the spot again, but this time there were two fat cholitas sitting there with two lamas. Madeleine asked how much a photo would be (we told her it was 3 bolivianos and you always have to negotiate the price beforehand so you don't get screwed over) and one of the cholitas said 3 bolivianos. Perfect! Madeleine started posing with the lamas and I took the picture. Once we had the perfect shot Madeleine approached the cholitas again, who hadn't moved an inch and chewed coca the whole time, to pay for the photo. She gave them the 3 bolivianos and the cholita looked up at her and said: "Oh, it's 3 bolivianos per lama." Seriously?! Again, because we are gringas (that's what foreigners in general, but especially white people are called here) we had to pay more. You know the simple equation: white skin/blonde hair=lots of money. Madeleine started laughing in disbelief, but paid and we went to a restaurant to eat something. We hadn't eaten on the island, because Nellie is a vegetarian and they only served fish and it would have been rude to make her watch us eat, so we decided to eat together later. We found a little restaurant that played one song on repeat and I ordered their lunch menu which consisted of a soup, a main dish and a dessert. The waiter must have been new to the business, because he brought me the main dish first, then the dessert and in the end brought out the soup. I was quite confused since it wasn't like I had just come up with some crazy meal combination, but ordered exactly what they offered for lunch. After three months in Bolivia this didn't surprise me anymore and we had a good laugh about it.

We returned to our hostel hoping we would be lucky and get the house. And ideed, we were! The very nice receptionist gave us a warm welcome and showed us the new house. It was a bit different than the other one, but just as awesome. We had hammocks inside and Nellie and I enjoyed our glass of wine there.

Day 8 (Copacabana- Arequipa)

We got up pretty late and decided to use the time we had left in Copacabana to explore the place a little further and get Madeleine to some of the places Nellie and I visited earlier. We walked around the shopping street, but decided not to buy anything, cause we would have to carry it around for the rest of our trip. At the church we saw some more cars being decorated for their baptism and it is kind of absurd to see how much effort is put in making the car look pretty for its big day. Well, I mean in Germany there are also a lot of people obsessing over the cars, so I guess it's not that weird. Also, in Bolivia it at least has a spiritual background and is believed to keep the people, who travel in that car, safe.

I had originally planned to take a night bus over to Peru and arrive in Arequipa in the morning, so we would have time to find a hostel there spontaniously. However, that wasn't possible and we would have to travel during the day, arriving in Arequipa around 10pm. For me that was a little late to be roaming the streets in an alien city in search for a good hostel, so I decided to book a room in a party hostel over the internet. I wasn't too fond of party hostels, but they are mostly run by foreigners and have websites where you can book a room in advance, which sounded better than running from door to door in the dark with all of our belongings, asking for a free room. We found a café with wifi and I made the reservation. A little later we boarded the bus which brought us over the Bolivian/Peruvian border.

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