Greetings from La Paz!
Hello to you all! Thanks for any well wishes you sent our way. The strike in Peru had actually ended, and we had no problems getting a bus out of Cusco. We decided to pass on Puno since we were so eager to get out of Peru and move onto Bolivia. Country 14 for me! Woohoo. Instead we headed straight to Copacabana, which is on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca.
We may have missed some of the larger reed cities, but we did see some on the Bolivian side. They were smaller and more to show tourists what the cities had been like. But just 5 of us, Tim, me, and some people we had met on the bus from Cusco, were being shown by a local in a completely non-tourist area. He took us out on his own boat, and while out there, showed us his trout nets. Later he introduced us to his cows and sheep and showed us how his daughters and wife made little dolls to be sold in town.
That was the major thing we did our first day in Copa- in an outskirt town I can’t guess how to spell. Tim was finally over his fever, but now I had come down with a decent chest cold, including a constant drip, deepening cough, and fading voice/sore throat. It’s actually quite amazing how many travelers are sick. Not surprising with the weird manifestations of altitude coupled with dramatically changing temperatures and pushing one’s body to extremes. During our route to Machu Picchu, we had slept outside in freezing temps at the foot of Salkantay and trekked through the jungle getting bitten by flies and mosquitoes. (Side note to say we saw and held a monkey at one of the campsites on the trail. It was a highlight for both of us!!) One would also be surprised at what level of cleanliness they can become accustomed. Don’t worry, mine is still decent but I avoid cold showers at all costs.
Our hostel in Copa is our record low at $12 a night for both of us with a private room and bathroom. It was actually an awesome room with two windows on one wall and one huge one on the wall viewing Lake Titicaca. I watched morning break and the sun set through that window.
After a lot of sleep, we headed to Isla del Sol, an island out on the lake that held significance for the Inca. I believe the first Inca came from here and that the sun and moon would rest at the sacred rock on the island. Our tour was not very good, and it was mostly a long walk across the island. But the views were beautiful. The visit included an 90-minute boat ride both ways that was pretty cool as well. That was yesterday, and Tim and I got a lot of sleep again last night. We’ve both really needed it.
Today I feel a bit better, though my voice has taken flight. We woke early this morning, and I had time for three cups of tea before we headed out. We walked to Cerro Calvario, a small mountain overlooking the town on which the stations of the cross are set. Pilgrims climb the rocky path and stop to pray. The natives would buy a bag of small rocks or corn (? it was hard to tell) at the bottom of the hill and then toss one onto each cross statue as a remembrance of their prayer. There were gorgeous views of the lake and the town and mountains at the top. Tim and I said a rosary together. Following the lead of locals, we bought a small candle and put it in an alcove with a prayer for our marriage and future.
Then we got on the bus and came to La Paz! We are excited to be here, but are taking it easy tonight. We went into a hotel right where the bus dropped us off in the middle of town. We had decided to splurge on a nicer hotel while the prices would be so low, and we are quite contented. Our hotel has a space heater, very hot water, wifi, cable tv, and warm beds. All for $22. I promised everyone we would splurge from time to time, it being our honeymoon and all. Tomorrow we will root around the capital city a little.
I should also mention the border crossing before I finish up. It was wild. We were on a bigger, nice bus for 12 hours or so before being let off and into a smaller collectivo van heading to Copa. The bus was headed to Puno. It stopped at the border where we went through an exit process with Peru. Then we walked with our things across the border. Tim and I had been aware of the extra Visa fee Bolivia charges to just Americans, but the price was $135 each not $120 like we somehow thought. We were a few dollars short and took borrowed money from busmates. We were still concerned over whether they would take it, as some of our bills had small tears and creases. You would be amazed how they treat the dollar. It has to be in perfect condition. They did end up taking the money, but they also insisted on copies of our passports and yellow fever inoculation cards. The guy reluctantly let us slide by without presenting photos of ourselves on a red background for them to keep. Oops, I guess we hadn’t thoroughly read through the crossing instructions. But do note, they didn’t ask for passport copies from any other nationality. So when you go to Bolivia, remember they don’t just rip you off, they also nitpick like crazy. I know they do this because of something Americans require of them, but the $270 we paid to get into the country is A LOT of money down here. No comprendo completely.
Happy Independence Day!