Saturday, August 24, 2013

We made it to Bolivia!

We went the tourist route instead of taking a minivan to a minivan like the locals. It made our lives much easier to pay for a bus with Panamericano, and to have a reliable bus attendant who spoke Spanish and a little English. The bus ride from Puno to the border was two hours. What's interesting about tour buses here is that if they are not full, they will stop and pick up Peruvians who flag it down from the side of the road. My back has been doing great, even with the long bus rises.

The actual border crossing experience was insane. We had to get off the bus and walk across the border. We had to go to three different offices. The whole time the bus attendant kept seeing us wandering aimlessly, not sure which office to go to and in what order, so he'd scream at us, "I told you the one to the left!" The first two offices were fine, but once we crossed into Bolivia to go to the third, we had many issues. First, we didn't have a photocopy of our passports because nowhere was that mentioned. Then they were insanely strict about the condition of the twenties that we gave them. If there was any sort of tear or fold, they refused to take it. I had two spare twenties on me, but they refused to take three of our bills. Eventually, he told us that he would take our money, but we would have to come back and give him a different twenty when we returned. Right. They refused to even take a ten dollar bill from Ali, so she ended up paying ten dollars less than the required amount. Then, we had to search for our bus, which had crossed the border without us, and had all of our belongings on it. Luckily we found it pretty easily. Glad that's over.

We stopped in Copacobana for lunch, which was not delicious. Then, we switched buses and were off to La Paz. It was nice to get out of Copa because it was rainy and even colder than Puno. It's funny how just a couple of days ago we were in the middle of a desert, lounging by a pool in bathing suits.

But the respite from the rain didn't last long for some people on our bus when they realized the rain was leaking through the emergency exits in the ceiling and onto their seats. This was the first time that we were the fortunate ones on the bus because we were one row behind the dripping water.

The dryness didn't last long because we  soon had to pass over Lake Titicaca. In order to do this, we all had to get off the bus (which took a different boat made of wooden boards that couldn't support the weight of both the bus and the people) and take a sketchy boat packed with too many people across the ever increasing rapids. Ali and I clung onto each other, paralyzed with fear every time the wake from another boat made our boat shake. You could see the waves reaching the edge of the boat. Looking across the lake and seeing the bus cross on the boards was like nothing I have ever seen before. Once we reached the other side, it was like the amazing race because no one knew where to meet the bus, but everyone wanted to be first on so that they didn't have to sit under the dripping ceiling. Luckily, Ali asked a Boliviano where to meet the bus and we were among the first back on. After that adventure, it didn't much matter if we got even more wet, I guess, but we felt very accomplished.

Ironically, the bus stopped leaking after the boat adventure. Figures.

All said and done, it took more than 11 hours to get to La Paz from Puno. Unpaved roads with no specific lanes for travel and no lights to direct traffic are highly unpredictable. On the bright side, our bus didn't break down today, but we got there much later than the predicted 3pm. Fortunately, we are staying for 4 nights here.

Our hostel in La Paz seems pretty awesome so far, we have a top floor room with a view of the city from the window. We'll explore the city tomorrow.

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