Saturday, September 12, 2009

Easy does it.

Oh, to wake up refreshed and not sitting upright in a chair. It really does do wonders for the spirit and psyche and we would need it because today it was time to cross border number ten to get to country number 11, Bolivia. We gobbled down the hostel breakfast in just enough time to meet our minivan for our tourist transfer. The van picked up other travelers from other hostels and then dumped us at the bus station to catch our cross border transportation. The driver gave the directions in Spanish and I was surprised that out of everyone on the coach I was the only one that seemed to understand what he was saying. I’m just not used to being the one with the best Spanish skills. But then I remembered how many newbie backpackers start in Peru and Copacabana, Bolivia was just a two trip over the border. Still, I expected there to be someone who was actually Spanish-speaking around. I was about to translate for the puzzled van load when another tour rep came on board and gave the instructions in English.

With our baggage checked, we were put onboard and this new rep began to carefully explain every step in the border crossing experience. After all our roughing it across borders, Adrian and I did feel a little spoon-fed by it all. It was icky but it was also kinda… nice. Yes it was nice to be entering a country without having to worry that every person is going to con/steal/rob you. This was especially true at our first stop the casa de cambio (currency exchange). The rate wasn’t bad and the bills were real. A huge improvement on our Ecuador/Peru exchange. Then it was back on the bus to the border. We were guided into the police station where our exit cards were stamped and then the immigration office where we were stamped out of Peru. Our guide led us up the small incline across the border and I could really feel the altitude. (After building up our tolerance in Huaraz we’d obviously completely wiped it out during our stay in Lima.) On the Bolivian side we were all quickly stamped in with 30 day visas. Technically we were all supposed to get 90 but when one of the Brits tried to get his, the border official just shrugged as if it say so. But he should consider himself lucky. The two Americans in the group had to fork over $135US in reciprocal fees for a visa and we had to wait while they were processed in. They did however get 90 days. I guess money talks. And that was it. We were in Bolivia and we hadn’t been conned, robbed or scammed.

Well that was short lived. Just before we got to Copacabana the bus stopped and we were all instructed to pay an entry fee. It was only about $1 and since the man didn’t have change we only paid for one of us. But seriously, a town entry fee. Oh well, I’ll take a $1 entry fee over $150 in fake money any day. The bus then entered the small town and let us all off. We were a bit further from the hostel then I would have liked and as I eyed the hill ahead of us which I feared was the location of our hostel.

We slung our packs on our backs and fronts and began the slog up the hill. We were quickly passed by the rest of the bus passengers all running off in search of the best and cheapest rooms. We had a reservation and good thing because with the altitude it takes us forever. But thankfully the hostel is only halfway up the hill, so we get the view of the town(photo above) without the walk up the hill. And double that thankfully, because La Cupola hostel and the room were great – just like they were online, maybe even better. We had definitely picked the best place. It was so nice that we decided to skip the mountains of Sorata and spend more time around Copacabana and Lake Titicaca before we head to La Paz. To make sure we have enough money, we head to the market where pickings are a bit slim this late in the day. But we managed to find enough for dinner. So rather than head out to explore the town we headed back to the hostel for dinner and a movie, courtesy of the laptop.

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