Week 65 - Lakeside Chilling in Bolivia
We left Puno late in the morning as we'd decided we'd take it easy and get to the border after lunch. It was actually quite busy with people milling around, but fortunately the actual Migracion and Aduana offices were quite quiet. Maybe the locals don't bother with formalities?! We also met a group of three Argentinian lads who were doing a trip on their 125cc bikes with back packs tied on for luggage. They were just ahead of us which slowed down our crossing but it was no bother. I went to get our money changed, bought some snacks and chatted to the Argentinian guys a little. They were planning on a maximum of 5 days in Bolivia before crossing into Argentina.
With all of our paperwork in hand, a new 180 days TIP on the bikes and 30 days in our passports, we set off back to La Case del Sol. We were greeted with a big smile and shown to our room, which was actually a little bit nicer than the last one we'd been in. We quickly made ourselves at home and made a fuss of the two dogs. Luna had grown a little since the last time we saw her but was still a complete lunatic.
We took a walk down to the lake front and we were surprised at how busy it was. It was a vast contrast to our last visit which had been very quiet. Instead of the bare shores with only a few street dogs wandering up and down, there were groups of people hanging around, shelters were being set up for what looked liked were going to be small restaurants, and there were lots of inflatable things near the water. It was coming upto the weekend and then we found out it was a big festival weekend in the La Paz region, which included Copacabana.
The weekend was soon upon us and it was crazy busy. We were so glad we were staying in a hostel away from the centre and the lake. We had the best of both worlds; a tranquil hostel to chill out in and only a short walk to the plaza and the lake. We walked down through the busy Main Street to the lake, which was now full of kids playing, adults sat around chatting and lots of eating and drinking going on. The children were quite happily entertaining themselves with table football, push bikes, clambering into inflatable balls and being towed out onto the water, or just running up and down. There was even an area where some guys were hiring our motorbikes, from little monkey bikes up to Honda XR250's. It was all happening! Despite the volume of people it was actually a really great atmosphere, with most of the tourists enjoying the shore area being from Bolivia. The festivities went on all day and into the evening as the sun went down over the lake. It was so beautiful.
We ended up staying several days in Copacabana just chilling out before heading off to Puerto Perez for three nights. Puerto Perez was on the Eastern shore of lake Titicaca and a lot less populated. The route there took us out and above Copacabana, giving a great view over the town and the lake. We noticed that it was a bit windier than normal on the day we left, and this wouldn't normally be too much of an issue except we had our first "ferry" crossing to do. I thought being on a lake it may be ok. I was wrong. We got to the edge of the lake and waited until a man waved us onto the boat, which was like a flat barge with planks of wood as the floor. These planks didn't all meet up very well and in some places they were completely missing. We gingerly rode onto the boat and I needed Kelvin's help to get off my bike because either side of me was a hole and my legs weren't long enough to stable myself. Luckily my stand hit on just the right spot so it was ok. We had seen people's photos and footage from this crossing and it looked like a breeze...not this time.
As the boat left one shore and headed directly across the lake, broad side on to all of the waves, I was not a happy camper. I clamped my hand down on the front brake as the boat rolled from side to side, at one point the whole front end lifting off the floor. Kelvin couldn't help me as he had to stay with his bike, so I just held on to mine for dear life hoping it wouldn't fall over or worse, go over the side. Luckily we made it to the other side unscathed, although my forearms were killing me from holding on so hard. We got the bikes off and then watched as the boat was reloaded with more vehicles, one of which was a full sized coach! I wondered if many of these "boats" sank every year, and then decided not to think about it. We'd likely have more of these sorts of crossings in the year ahead so those thought are best buried.
We made our way to Puerto Perez, initially taking the GPS route and ending up in the middle of what appeared to be a farmers field. I looked at the map and got us onto the right track, and from there it was easy. The town was very small and not overly cared for by the looks of it. We'd paid a little more than normal for the hotel, but it included all of our meals so it actually worked out well. We rode our bikes into their private car park and unloaded our stuff, before being shown our room. We were impressed! I think if you paid a lot and expected a top of the range hotel you'd be disappointed but for us it was perfect. The view from the room looked straight out over the lake, the first proper lake view room we'd had in our several stays around the ginormous Lake Titicaca. Also, the room came complete with a heater (essential we found out later), a huge bed, a small bath and 24/7 hot water. I made the most of the bath, even if it was a squash...no chance for Kelvin!
There wasn't much to do there other than walk around and relax, but we didn't mind. Our room was large, warm and comfortable and it meant I could get on with some writing and revision for my upcoming volunteering stint, along with a beautiful view. Also, the meals that they gave us were really tasty and huge, so there was no chance of us going hungry durning our stay.
We decided to leave on the Sunday morning to hopefully make our trip in to La Paz as easy as possible. This is great in theory, however we woke up that morning to a blanket of snow covering everything in sight! Yikes, my nerves kicked in. I did not relish the thought of doing a long tarmac road with other traffic in the snow, but we decided to give it a go. Our bike covers were caked in snow, so putting those away was fun and froze my fingertips. We set off at a snails pace, blinded by the fog and anxious about potential ice. We made it to the main highway and that was a lot clearer, although there were long sections still covered in thick fog, which made it a little scary at times. The worst was the bridges because they all seemed to have arches of ice from where the cold air had passed over and under. We slowed right down for these and I only felt my back wheel slide a little once or twice, but nothing too bad. We got to El Alto, the area above La Paz, and we saw plenty of minibuses parked up here and there, then pulling out or darting back in. We stayed in the lane furthest from them all the way to the main ring road that snaked down into the city.
Getting through La Paz was easy, and we made it to our Air BnB about 30 minutes ahead of time so we stopped at a tiny shop around the corner for some bread and drinks to wait. The lady tending the shop was really lovely and happy to sell us more! We then went on to our home for the next four to five weeks and met Hernan and his wife Yailin and daughter Samara. It was a a warm welcome to La Paz and we were happy to have chosen this as our new temporary home, plus they had a lovely dog called Wanda who was very happy to have the extra attention.