The last leg through Peru was a cold, wet, and snowy one with lightning striking all around us. But I wasn’t turning back to Arequipa. And there is no where worth stopping until Chucuito, which took us through some of the nastiest weather on the trip so far.
So against better seasonal judgment, but we just happen to be so close, Deb and I decided to cross into Bolivia for exploration during the rainy season.
Being Australian, Deb has the advantage of not holding a US Passport. Literally when I pulled up to the border, I could see dollar sings in the officers eyes. “Americana? Tienes Visa?” That’s right, as an American, I have to pay $135 USD to enter Bolivia. (Note: despite what the repeatedly outdated lonely suggests, you do not save any money by trying to get a Visa before the border. In fact, when I was in Puno trying to do just that, they pretty much told me they didn’t want to do it since it was the same price and easier at the border.) I was afraid it was going to take hours, but he was right, it was easy. I believe I actually bothered them from their computer game, which they were way more interested in than me filling out a form and handing them money, well maybe for me handing them the money part. Even getting the official stamp was more effort than they wanted to provide.
I heard afterward from Deb that she had to pay her first bribe to an officer at the border. They wouldn’t let her pass without greasing the gate a little. Luckily she only had to hand over about $30 bolivianos (approx. $4) So I had to wonder which was worse, knowing you have to pay a hefty price before you reach the gate or getting a little extra sprung on you in the moment?
Once into Bolivia, I rounded Lago Titicaca to meet Deb at Copacabana.
The town was alive with Costumed dancers and Marching Bands for the festival de la Virgen de la Candelaria. After sorting out a camping spot at a hostal with a great view of the lake, we excitedly walked to town to watch women in full colorful skirts dancing around the square, followed by tubas and drums, and men in bird costumes. I haven’t seen that much glitter and gold lame since my days in San Francisco. I was impressed with the ornateness of the costumes.
The next day we headed to La Paz, and it was only then I realized how big Lake Titicaca is. We spend most of the day riding around just half of its circumference. And went for a ferry ride across it.
Apparently they like giving speeding tickets in Bolivia. We lucked out by knowing enough bad spanish to say we will be more careful and somehow they decided to not write us up. So we continued on, slower, along the road that leads to La Paz…
A notable mention for the hostel we stayed at in La Paz: Pirwa Hostels La Paz BackPacker (Montes Ave No. 641) has a lovely courtyard to park (and if need be work on) motorcycles. And the dormitory accommodations aren’t bad either.