After paying the exit tax we climbed on our bus that left Cusco at 10pm. we had cama seats ( Fully reclining) and we settled in to a few episodes of our breaking bad series.
At about 6.30am we were woken up by a guy shouting copacobaba so we got our stuff together and quickly got off only to realize we were on the high way in the middle of nowhere. Luckly its the "gringo trail" so there were a few other tourists doing the same route as us.we Followed some Isrealy girls and English guys into a mini van that took us to the Peru/Bolivia boarder where I found out I needed a Bolivian visa (cost40 USD). luckily we had american dollars on us (they have come in handy a few times in south america ) so we exchanged some money while waiting for the immigration to open at 7.30am. As far as boarder crossings go, it was quite easy. passport stamped on Peru side then walked over to Bolivia where everyone had to wait for me because I was the only one who needed a visa, typical when traveling with SA passport! on the bolivian side we got into another minivan and were dropped off in the town of copacobana.
the town was freezing and dead so together with the two british guys we found a hostel that was open and had a typical Bolivian breakfast which consists of average coffee and a white bread roll with strawberry jam. The hostel was recommended by the lonely planet ( which we have given up on now(useless South American outdated version) so we asked if they had a free room with hot water as we hadn't showered in 2 nights and were desperate for a good shower. The guy assured us the room met our demands and gave us the key. When we got to the awful room we left the water running for about 20mins and when no warm water came out I was close to tears so we put our bags on our backs and went in search of somewhere better. We found a lovely little Eco hostel that was 3 times the price but SO worth it. We had a heater, hot water and a tv for £20 for both of us which included a nice breakfast. It's amazing what a hot shower can do to your mood.with our spirits lifted we went walking around town which had now woken up and loads of tourists appeared. This town relies solely on tourism, it's a very popular spot for everyone going between Peru and Bolivia.
Copacabana is the main Bolivian town on the shore of Lake Titicaca which by volume of water it is the largest lake in South America. It is often called the highest navigable lake in the world, with a surface elevation of 3,812 m. We bought tickets for a boat tour to isla de sol that afternoon. We weren't aware though that the time was one hour ahead so we missed the boat but luckily another company let us get on one of their boats. We sat on top of the boat and chatted to some Argentinian guys for the hour and a half until we got to the island. On the island are some inca ruins but the boat was leaving again in 30mins so we just decided to have lunch instead. It was a very strange tour and basically it was just a slow boat ride on the lake but still enjoyable!!!
That evening we walked up to the top of the hill in the town. It's only about a 40min hike up but because of the hectic altitude (3800mts) I was exhausted and totally out of breath at the top! the view was stunning and we watched the sun set from up there. That night after dinner it was so nice to have a decent warm room to go back to.
The Next day morning while packing our things my tooth broke (had root canal before we left Amsterdam and the filling came out)! We had panned to head to la Paz that afternoon so we searched online for a decent dentist. Our hotel called and made an appointment for the next morning at the lady recommended by the us embassy and other tourists. So thankful for the Internet and other people's travel forums!
Our bus to la paz was due to leave at 1pm. we got to the bus stop half an hour before the departure time and there were already lots of people sitting on the bus. Byron ran off to get some food (tuna sandwiches which were so gross we didn't touch them ) and I tried to get our bags on the bus but it was chaos and the driver kept saying wait, wait. When we eventually had our bags on the bus and got on there were no seats left. A aussie guy told us that they had oversold tickets the day before too (obviously happens everyday) and he had to stay an extra night but I was in pain and desperate to get to la paz to see the dentist so i started shouting at the bus driver but he just looked at us blankly and then said " get off, full" so we got our bags off and ran around asking if there was space on another bus. we found 2 seats on a bus and they accepted our tickets so we didn't have to pay again.
The bus trip took about 4hrs with a unusual stop to cross the lake.There is no bridge so all the passangers get ferried over on a boat and then so did the bus.
Journey to la paz
We arrived in la paz and after wandering around for a bit we found our hostel which was close to the san fransico cathedral. We stumbled across a great spot for dinner. It was called benais and it became our best friend. We went there 3 days in a row and ordered starters, mains and dessert! it was so nice to have reasonably priced food that wasn't average pizza or pasta. La Paz is located 3,650 m above sea level (the city is built on steep hills), making it the world's highest de facto capital city with Quito being the highest legal capital. The altitude really has an effect and you feel out of breath all the time.
Early The next morning we got a cab to the dentist on the other side of town. I felt relieved when I saw we were in a fancy residential area. The dentist spoke very little English but I managed to explain the problem to her. After 20mins and £50 we were out of there and I was pain free! That afternoon we wandered the streets sorting out our travel for the next 2 days. (booked our bus to Oruro, the train to uyuni and a tour for the next day.) then we we went up to a beautiful view point ( killi killi) that overlooks the whole city as well as the towering triple-peaked Illimani, which is always covered in snow. As the city of La Paz expands it climbs the surrounding hills, resulting in varying elevations from 3,000 to 4,100 m .
View of La Paz
The tour we booked to Valle de Luna And Chacaltaya mountain was a full day trip. In typical Bolivian style The bus was half an hour late to fetch us and by the time we had fetched everyone else from various hostels around town, we set off at about 10am instead of 8am!
The drive to the mountain was 2hrs up narrow windy dirt roads. Besides for a kiwi and a Scottish guy we were the only english speaking people on the bus but the tour guide tried her best to tell us interesting facts in English. On the way she told us little facts like how a llama got its name ( someone asked "come se llama" which means what is its name in Spanish ?the local repeated llama over and over, the tourist was confused and started calling them llamas).
From the top where the bus could go no further we walked about 150mts up to the peak which is the second highest point in Bolivia at 5395mts above sea level. Its rather hard walking at that altitude so We had to take it very slow. The view at the top is supposed to be incredible but unfortunately for us it was a total white out and all we could see was mist. It was freezing and snowing up there and when we got down we could hardly feel our toes. the Valle de Luna was another 3hr drive from there so we decided to skip the next part of the tour and go somewhere for a warm lunch instead. we told the tour guide we were sick so she wouldn't get offended and got dropped of in the center of la Paz. Us and the strange scots man who belongs to couch surfing.com found a cozy coffee shop which was run by a Swedish lady and spent the afternoon there!
In la paz we also visited the witches market, learnt some interesting facts at the coca museum and tried to go into the San Pedro prison.
Gross llama fetus that they use for medicine at the witches market.
Coca museum... Did you know that coca cola use coca leaves as one of their ingredients, same stuff cocaine is made from
If anyone has read marching powder you will know about San Pedro prison. We couldn't get in but we still went to check it out.
on the last day we embarked on our long journey to uyuni....