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Copacabana... no, not that one.

Written on: Tuesday December 11th, 2007

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Location: Copacabana, Bolivia

Author: Julie 


We had an early morning departure from Puno to the small town of Copacabana, in Bolivia. With the help of Silverio, we booked cheap bus tickets to La Paz with a stop-over in Copacabana. The bus was intended for tourists so it would assist us with the border crossing and money exchange. It was packed and most of us fell asleep for the 3 hour journey to the border. We were woken up to the announcement that we were at the money exchange bureau where I received 140 Bolivianos for 58 soles. Next we were marched to the police office where our exit forms were stamped then to the immigration bureau of Peru to get our passports stamped. It was very simple and no one was hassled. Our of the immigration office we went, passed the chain barrier and into no man?s land towards the Bolivian border. We were greeted by smiling officials who stamped our forms and passports in a few seconds and we were now legally in another country. I?ve heard that some border crossings can be stressful with demands of bribes, withholding of documents, and long waits to be processed. Luckily, we haven?t experienced this yet but I?m sure it will happen at some point. The best thing to do, like at all border/immigration checkpoints, is to be nicely dressed and not look like a bum and be polite to the official, yet firm in your refusal to be bullied.  

We all loaded back on the bus and an hour later we were in the Bolivian town of Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca. It had more of a resort town feel than Puno had, which might account for the large amount of gringos and touristy restaurants that abounded along the shore. We checked into a hotel around the corner from the bus stop which we had found by looking at the brochures a tout had shoved in our face. It seemed to have the basics of hot water, clean room and comfortable bed so we took it and the best part was that it would cost a total of 40 BS a night. That?s 6 American dollars! We dropped our stuff off and headed out to find some food. As we walked down the main street towards the lake shore, we spotted Mark and Maxine from our island tour the day before. We joined them for lunch and had a pleasant couple of hours talking with them about travelling. They were getting on the connecting bus to La Paz so we made plans to meet up with them at one of the squares of La Paz a few days laters. Our hunger sated, we took a quick nap since Kevin was started to feel a little rough. Quite a few people on our bus from Cusco to Puno had been sick with colds and were coughing all night. Kevin had a girl behind him who coughed without covering her mouth and it now looked like he had caught her cold. 

In the evening, we ventured back out to find it had gotten cold quickly. We walked the streets of the cute town and stopped at one of the piers to watch the sunset. It was one of the most beautiful we had seen since starting our trip. Strangely, there were two other people sitting on the pier and one of them turned out to be Marie-Claire, a girl from Aylmer, we had met a few weeks earlier in Huacachina. She had been there for the week, lulled by the relaxing vibe of the little town. We made plans to meet her and her travel companion for supper. First, we had to exchange traveller?s cheques since there were no ATMs in town. We stopped at a money exchange house which refused to take our cheques because they were in denominations of 20s, they only accepted 50s and 100s. I don?t understand what the difference was since if I cash in five 20s it still comes to the same USD amount than if I was to cash two 50s. Anyhow, it worked out for the best since they were only offering an exchange rate of 6.9 when the next place we went took our 20s and gave us a better rate of 7.2.  

With money in our hand, we had a pleasant evening out with Marie-Claire, her travel companion from Peru and other friends we ran into as the evening progressed. We all sat around drinking cheap Chilean wine bought for 20 BS a bottle. It was past midnight when we finally banged on the locked door of our hotel to be let in.  

The next morning, Kevin was starting to feel worse and we didn?t sleep much that night with the loud noises echoing in our hotel from a party in one of the rooms a floor below us. We were supposed to take a day boat to the Isla de Sol for the day but Kevin wanted to leave for La Paz as soon as possible. We took the 1 PM connecting bus and arrived five hours later in the capital. The gringo bus was a bit of a scam. As we arrived in La Paz, one of the bus attendants walked around handing out pamphlets to a hotel near the bus station. We already had an idea of where we wanted to stay based on recommendations from friends so we passed on staying there. But, and this is where the little scam comes into play, the bus didn?t stop at the bus terminal but in front of the hotel they were advertising. So all of our bags were dumped on the street and we were let off there. Not that big of a deal, but still a bit frustrating given that it was a busy narrow street with limited taxis. We finally managed to flag one down and had it take us to Adventure Brew Hostel. This hostel comes highly recommended by everyone who stays there and the best part is that it has a micro-brewery behind its bar. For every night you stay there, you get a free bar. It also has started a beer hot tub where you sit in a big porcelain bath filled with beer and heated by a fire underneath. Unfortunately, we had waited too long to make reservations and all they had left was beds in a dorm in an annexed building two blocks down from the main building. We took the beds for one night to see how it would be before deciding on staying there or not. Kevin was feeling pretty rotten by then so we ate some quick take-out food ordered by the reception and crashed really early in bunk beds.