Category - Bolivia

Copacabana

6 Sep

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As we headed South East from Cusco to Puno, which was just a single night stop over, before we hopped on a bus to head across the border into Bolivia, I couldn’t have been more terrified. I have no doubt that South America is a place where you can get in some serious trouble, sought out or not, and doing “research” prior to an endeavour such as overland border crossing between Latin American countries, can reveal the worst of stories. You pretty quickly work out that the reviews you find online about airlines, bus trips and hotels, are only bad – people only seem to comment when they’ve had a terrible experience, and need to vent. We, however, couldn’t have been luckier. While Puno was a bit of a let down, our hotel was fantastic, and they organised our transfers with a company who were very organised, and helped us the whole way. The country side and scenery was incredible, and the ride was comfortable and smooth (nothing like the horror stories of chicken buses) as we climbed yet again in altitude. At the border crossing we all piled off the bus, lined up on the Peruvian side, got our stamps, walked our selves across the border and lined up on the Bolivian side for our stamp in. As per usual with border towns, there were endless shops, and people selling all sorts of food and trinkets. And as per usual with us and new destinations in Latin America, there seemed to be some kind of national holiday, that meant the bus had to drop us on the out skirts of town, and we had to drag our bags through town – Copacabana, a tiny town on Lake Titicaca. By the time we reached the other side of town, I had had a mini break down. I couldn’t breath because of the altitude and dragging our bags through town, and of course our accomodation was at the top of the hill. So while I sat with our bags and sulked like a baby, Josh soldiered on and returned 15 minutes later with a huge grin saying, “Just you wait until you see our accomodation. It will be worth it.” We had been lucky enough to get the last room, in a place that felt like heaven on earth. It was reminiscent of what I can only imagine buildings on the Greek Islands look like. It certainly felt that lush. Stark white clusters of buildings, with highlights of deep blue were nestled into the hillside, and little pathways leading between each of the buildings, each boasting beautiful views of the lake. Our little private villa was perfect. We had our own front lawn, complete with lawn chairs, beautiful bay windows and skylights, wooden floorboards, endless blankets for the chilly nights and our own fireplace.

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We spent a few days discussing, researching and making some tough decisions. Our finances were somewhat tight at this point, having spent so much in Peru and not wanting to miss out, and we had a tough choice ahead. Do we try to squeeze in the Amazon or do we put it on the “next time” list, with the possibility there would be no next time? With so much to do and see still ahead of us, we decided to indulge in our luxury at “Hostal La Cúpula” and extend our 3 nights to 10. We felt so happy and at home, we found ourselves relaxing, reading, roasting marshmallows and strolling the streets. The food situation was dire – there were no supermarkets, just tiny tiendas carrying all types of junk food and canned goods, and a market full of rotten fruit and endless root vegetables for sale. We lived off roasted vegetables, a tiny jar of pesto we carried with us from Peru, and used oil to really extend it, tinned tuna and whatever fruit we could find. The hostel had private rooms and dorms, communal areas and gardens with sun chairs and hammocks, and a restaurant, where we would treat ourselves to a meal every few days to break up our bare bones meals.

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The hostel was really a haven – a world away from the town below. Our days were full of warms days, sun and blue skies, until one morning we awoke to snow covering the ground. We were told this was a good sign… that summer was really on its way. We rented a motorbike on morning and just explored the back roads of Bolivia. We drove past tiny Incan towns, a cave where locals gathered for ceremonies and saw the island of the moon and sun from the shores of Lake Titicaca. We found views of the Andes heading south and found the crisp air dizzying. One morning we decided to do a hike to the top of the hill behind our hostel. It was the slowest hike of my life, and probably the highest altitude I’ve ever been at. Easily over 4000m above sea level at this point, the air is thin and crisp, and breathing becomes difficult. I found my bones ached, and when we did finally make it to the top, we took our photos and quickly descended, the ache in my head dissipating with each meter down.

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Although it was a bit of limbo time, the set up of the hostel meant we met many other travellers, had lots of great chats, and it got us excited for the next leg of our trip, because at this point we still had a bit to go before our return to Canada. We finally paid up for our last night and booked a bus to head to the Bolivian capital, La Paz, for our last stop in the country before we flew to Brazil.