October 7-10, 2015
We bought tickets from Puno to La Paz (with a stop at the border and another one at Copacabana). Once we got to the bus station a man switched our tickets to another bus, which I didn't like too much but Sylvie had told me she had read about that happeneing. After I calmed down and paid the bus tax of $0.50 we tried to sign in for the bus--the guy tried to prevent us from getting onboard by saying, "oh, you're American...no Americans allowed, sorry". I basically said fuck that and insisted I get onboard. He tried to explain how it was much more complicated for Americans to cross the Bolivian border (we need Visas, everyone else can just walk across and get a stamp). I told him, "Well, It looks like you'll have to work harder for us then" as I grabbed Sylvie and got on the bus.
On the bus we saw a Dutch couple that we had met while hiking the Salkantay--what a small world! We arrived at the border and got our stamps out of Peru without a hitch, changed money, and then walked over into Bolivia..this is where all the fun began. We thought we had everything we needed for our Bolivian Visa:
Copy of Passport
2x Passport Photos
Yellow Fever Card
$320 Cash ($160/per)
After waiting in line we learned we had to go to the Visa counter, so we ended up waiting in line for nothing. Once at the counter we learned we also needed:
A Copy of our Yellow Fever Card
Larger Copy of our Passport
Hotel Reservation (for each of us)
Transportation Out of Bolivia
To our convenience, but probably theirs, a copy'eria' (aka Copy Store) was adjacent to the immigration office. After attempting to use bluetooth on my phone, a USB stick, and my Macbook Air I finally managed to print out a copy of my Booking.com reservation for that evening. We also made copies of our documents. He quoted us at 1 Boliviano per copy. We made 5 copies, he charged us 10 Bolivianos...sounds about right. We were not able to print out our flight information and I was just banking on that we could 'talk' our way out of needing it. Sylvie went out to make sure our bus was still there since this entire process was starting to take some time and everyone else on the bus had been waiting to leave. I went to the counter again to learn that we needed another copy of the hotel reservation...ugh this will never end!
Sylvie had been gone for a little bit so I went out to check on her. She was walking back saying that the bus was going to leave and meet us in Copacabana and that we can get our bags there...after we had to take our own taxi to get there. She tried hard to talk to the bus driver and was very frusterated. I said "Fuck That", to the situation, not Sylvie, and stormed to the bus. I jumped in front of the bus as it tried to pull away. The driver stopped and stuck his head out of the window to yell at me. I interupted him and told him, "You are going to wait on us"! He said we can catch a cab to Copacabana. I said if you're going to leave I want my luggage. He continued to tell me I could pick the bags up on the other side. I kept demanding that he either turn off the bus and get our bags underneath in the storage compartment or wait for us. He wasn't in the mood to search for our bags and he was getting angry, but I stood there blocking his way. Finally another man (employee) got off the bus and walked with me to join Sylvie in the Bolivian immigration office. It looks like the bus is going to wait on us! Damn straight. The guy tried to tell me that Americans are too much work and I just told him, "well too bad, you shouldn't have sold us the tickets". I had no sympathy.
We were almost in the clear when the Visa officer said that 1 of the $20 bills we had paid with was "No Good". The bill had a small pen mark on it. Here, as well as in many countries, USD money is only accepted when pristine. We were finally back on the bus with our visas after an hour...the Dutch Couple clapped to tease us for holding everyone else up.
Copacabana was nice, very different than Puno. It was extremely touristy and overrun with gringo runaways refusing to accept responsibilities in their home countries. We had a short hour here and were back on another bus (a Bolivian one) heading to La Paz. We had to take a ferry to the other side of Lake Titicaca. Our boat was equipped with 8 safety vests, but we were 20. Our boat made its way across the lake on a little barge, just a few feet wider than the actual bus itself. Sylvie fell asleep as soon as she was back on the bus!
The had morning started at 7:00am and we didn't arrive in La Paz until after 6:00pm. After such a long day we weren't really happy to walk almost 3km to our hotel on the other side of the city. We had heard too many stories of taxis kidnapping and scamming people (tourists and locals) so we just walked, each equipped with our day bag, backpack, water, and food bags. Finally at our hotel just after 7pm.
We spent much of our time in La Paz going to markets, out to eat, and just walking around town. We've found Bolivia to be much safer than expected (so far).
We found the Witch Market to be something else...gotta love the llama fetuses!
Sylvie gave me my first haircut in 10 weeks! Looks pretty good, huh?
Tomorrow morning we leave for Rurrenabaque, Bolivia (via flight). From there we will take a 3-day tour to The Amazon and then another 3-day tour The Pampas.