The Border to Tahoe's Sister City

Trip Start Oct 16, 2010
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Trip End Aug 01, 2011


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Where I stayed
Hostal Utama

Flag of Bolivia  ,
Friday, January 28, 2011

Peru to Bolivia Border


We left on the 10pm overnight bus from the Cusco terminal to Copacabana. We had paid for a direct bus with the company Litoral but once we got there to turn in our ticket voucher, they either had stopped doing direct buses or they never did. (it was hard to understand) Either way the guy set us up on a connecting bus in Puno to finish the trip with only a 30 minute wait. Ha! There is a 1.20 Soles charge to get thru the turnstiles to the bus. So we waited for the Litoral bus to open the doors but when they did it was not only the wrong bus but the wrong company. Litoral booked us on the San Luis bus to Puno and the Panamericano bus from Puno to Copacabana. How strange! Good thing the San Luis bus was late otherwise we may have missed it or been on our way to La Paz on Litoral. The wait time in Puno was 1.5 hours and not 30 minutes. So after 7 hours of not sleeping well, we had to wait for a new bus to take us to the border. Once on the bus and after 2.5 hours we stopped for a bathroom break and to exchange money into Bolivianos. (There are NO ATM's in Copacabana)
Peru side of the border
1st building they look at the entry card and sign it but no exit stamp
 2nd building they take the signed entry card and give you an exit stamp
Walk 100 meters to the Bolivian border.
Make sure you have a copy of your passport for the Bolivian government.
The entry is $135 for a Visa for all US citizens - and bring fresh bills because imperfect money with pen marks or slight corner tears are not excepted; "no en Bolivia" we were told over and over. With the visa you can stay 90 days every year for 5 years without having to pay again. But make sure they stamp it perfectly otherwise you can have problems returning to the county.
Note: Bolivia is 1 hour ahead of Peru.
Once we got our entry stamps/visas, we headed to the bus to move our luggage from the bus to a minivan for the rest of the way to Copacabana. All in all, it took just over 12 hours.

Copacabana

So far all of Bolivia is filled with question marks. There seems to be potential everywhere but the resources to make it happen are yet to be found and tapped. Copacabana has attached to it one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. It's definitely been travelled through being on the gringo trail and many have stopped to take advantage of its beauty and location as can be noted by the nice restaurants and performing hippies in the area. However the lack of any real Internet connection or an ATM indicates that there is plenty of room for progress.  The town claims to have 15,000 people but it feels much smaller. It is safe and the lake water is fairly clean away from the boats in the little harbor.

Lake Titicaca sits at about 12,000 feet so oxygen is an issue, especially when visiting some of the local miradors for observing the local islands and Peru. The days are fairly warm and the nights are cool. All and all it is a very nice place to relax amongst the Cordillera Real Andean mountains. The Incans knew this as they believed the sun and moon were born in this area.

Looking to do some good in the world? This might be the place. The area needs public infrastructure and serious trash clean-up. The population could really use an organization or some activists that care.

If visiting remember to bring enough cash. The only way to access money in the city is with a Visa or Mastercard cash advance at the local bank and there are plenty of money exchangers that give a pretty good rate (at least for dollars).

Copacabana day 1

After the eventful Bolivian border crossing a minivan dropped us of at Plaza Sucre. We walked down the hill towards the Hotel Mirador. DO NOT STAY HERE!!!!! It is dirty and has horrible service. Theelectric heater  shower actually shocks you when you touch the knobs. To fix this, the staff only put electrical tape on the ends so that you will only get shocked if you touch the metal. Did I mention, DO NOT STAY HERE!!! There may be potential in the perfect location and attractive building, but it is not there yet. It is scary!!!!

On an entirely different note, Lunch at La Cúpula Hotel is outstanding. An amazing view and the best $7 Filet Mingon you will ever know.

The town, while small is quaint. It only takes a couple hours to see the whole thing including the Moorish-style Cathedral and famous Virgen de Copacabana. This day, alongside the church, cars were lined up, being blessed, and adorned with flowers, while the owners drank beer and champagne – of course pouring one out for my homies with each sip.

After naptime, we had a cafe at Nimbo Coffee Restaurant Bar. This is a total hippie jungle lounge with interesting decorations. This was just one of the many restaurants that appear to be put together and run by hippies that were passing through but never made it past the lake city. This is a very accommodating spot with good music and great cocktails. This is the first place we had seen Coca liquor so we ordered a drink and it tasted like any other sugar cane alcohol.

This was also where Henning introduced us to a German saying, arsch frisst hose, or "ass eats pants. The reverse camel toe.

Our next stop, La Choz restaurant right off of Plaza Sucre also has good music and happy hour. Again lots of hippies and great decorating. After a few libations we decided to do a little grooming. We hunted for some usable scissors so Bee could trim up Henning and Raymie. Along with haircuts in the room we enjoyed some Pisco, Vodka and orange juice drinks. We decided you can substitute Pisco for ice anytime.

The Huanchaco Restaurant later provided us some great soups before Henning, Bee and Raymie checked out Nemos Bar to hear an awesome live samba band and watched people dancing and smiling before making a move to Waykys Disco for a little of our own dancing. This later spot was packed with fun filled people that were also a delight to meet and they had great Latin dance music such as Manu Chau.

Copacabana day 2

Our primary mission today was to switch hotels from that horrible rathole we spent the previous night in. Our first choice was taken but we were pleased to end up at the Hotel Utama. The yellow ambiance threw us off at first but the rooms are really nice and the price is right. The service here is the best we have encountered on our travels so far.

After checking in, we walked back to our old hotel to meet Henning and Kathrin for a couple last hours before they took off to La Paz before heading back to Switzerland. We took a nice walk along the lake and had lunch at Pueblo Viejo. Little did we realize that we would need at least an hour to get the lasagna we ordered. This all pressed up against the bus departure as it came out in just the knick of time and it was excellent. Rain and screaming hail also met us but pulled up for a comfortable walk to the center of town where the buses pick up.

And Henning and Kathrin are off. It was an amazing trip we travelled together and we will surely miss them.

We relaxed the rest of the day literally only leave the room once (Movie night with peace and quiet) to get dinner at Mankha Uta - not really Mexican food but they serve a good Moscow Mule drink (vodka, lemon and ginger ale).

Copacabana day 3

How wonderful to have no reason to get up before noon. The rest is wonderfully needed.  The day is a bit chilly but a clear day to see across the lake. We found the one place in town there is wifi, Alax Pacha. The lunch is OK, the Wifi is free, but bring the device charged because power is not available, as we were told while searching for an outlet.

This afternoon we walked up the nearby hill to el mirador Cerro Calvario. We had to stop every three minutes to gasp for oxygen but we made it. At the top there were vendors selling miniature objects for the Festival of Alasitas - the objects are blessed so that the real thing will be attained or protected throughout the year. Climbing the hill presented the stations of the cross, and at the top there were many people building candles, setting up small remembrances and memorials, drinking beer and of course “pouring one out for their homies" with every swig.

The view from the top is literally breathtaking. We could see the Islas del Sol and Luna, Peru, the entire city, and the mountain across the way “which we weren’t going to climb”. We enjoyed the view with a cake break before trekking back down.

Once we reached the bottom we toured the backside of the city before reaching the path that leads up to the rocky mountain of Nińo Calvario (the other mountain). Even though we thought of the absurdity of climbing this thing in the limited 13,000 ft breath-less oxygen, we ended up going for it. It was definitely worth it. The amazing rock formations led way to the Horca del Inca astrological observatory of the Incas. We took a load of pictures and lost our way while descended the mountain. No problem, we made our own path like a couple of mountain billies just in time to watch the sunset over lake at the Onkel Inn on the water front with a well-deserved beer. The Onkel Inn is a new sister hostel of the La Paz one that is under construction. It looks like the beginning of a brilliant water-front concept that, if designed and ran properly, could be a boon for the city and community. We would love to be involved in such a project that could be used to help clean up the environment and help the people.

At 8pm there was still a little sun left as we checked out La Posta for pizza and wine. This is definitely the best pizza we have had in South America thus far. Good food and great sevice. High Recommendation.

Copacabana day 4

The breakfast at the Hotel Utama is amazing, including pancakes, eggs, cereal, yogurt and fruit – all included with the room. We were informed by the very nice family staff that the Fiesta de La Virgen de Candelaria starts on February 1st but they start celebrating early with bands around the plaza. Therefore we decided to stay in the city a few more days to check out the festivities.

Raymie was starting to feel a little under the weather – he probably got some faucet water in his diet and therefore we stayed in most the day blogging away.

Copacabana day 5

Of course, a great breakfast again and the city is starting to come alive. There were booms coming from the nearby hills and bands marching down the streets. Too bad Raymie is still sick. We made it out to Pueblo Viejo for a little Internet time and coffees before naptime.

In the little time we could get out to the festivities we saw parades, beers in streets, popcorn, bells jingling, dancing in the streets, and bands across the city. We also found a great jersey with Inti Raymi (meaning “sun party”) on it. Of course we bought it. "I am the Raymi"

Dinner at Copacabana Cafe included funny French-Peruvian music videos with amazing trout tacos with fresh green beans and carrots. It was very fresh and deliscious.

Party, party, party in the streets. We enjoyed some of the bands and dancing and drinking in the streets. Fireworks burst high in the air from the center of crowd. Ashes were hitting our faces and nearly setting the insane crowd on fire. It was an all night raymi party.

Copacabana day 6

We had no Lake Titicaca tour today because Raymie was even sicker. Bands have been playing all night with short breaks when the rain pours down. We spent the majority of the day with more Wi-fi and blogging ending the evening with a beautiful walk along the lake towards Peru - beautiful views of the landscape and city. The parties across the city where still going and getting stronger. Most places are closed for the festivities which was difficult when all we wanted was a relaxing place with a nice soup. The soup in the city is amazing and surprisingly you can choose from at least ten different kinds in nearly every restaurant. After not getting service in a two restaurants the third restaurant finally helped us within 10 minutes so the quest was accomplished. To our delight, we also tried Peru Libres (rum and Inka Cola) – Yum.

At this point the party was starting to go sour from an outsider’s perspective. The native partying people were turning the city into a toilet – guys and girls peeing and shitting everywhere and not even hiding it. It was like a cat staring at you while doing their business eweweeeeeewwwww!!!

We had to leave the parties because it was getting disgusting. The only bar open was Nemos with a great live Samba band but it was too packed, therefore we bought a bottle of rum to take back to the hostel.

Copacabana day 7

Raymie up early again with a sick belly so we had breakfast, watched some Cheers, packed our belongings, did a little blogging and jumped the bus for la Paz at 1:30pm. Only about $8.
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