Last weekend Caroline and I had the pleasure of hopping over to Bolivia for a quick 24 hours. The thing about Peru is that plane tickets are expensive. There is also no extensive passenger train system, so the go-to mode of transportation is by bus. Because Cusco is in the heart of the Peruvian Andes, it also takes forever to get anywhere. From Cusco to Lima, a one hour plane ride turns into a 21 hour bus ride.
Being a U.S. citizen, travel to Bolivia comes at a price: $160 dollars for a Bolivian visa. To get this visa, you also need to provide a gaggle of paperwork, including two copies of your passport, two passport photos, a bank statement, proof of lodging in Bolivia, and proof of departure from Bolivia. Fortunately, we chose to travel with Bolivia Hop, a slightly more expensive bus ticket to Bolivia that’s designed for tourists. People help you throughout the journey. Caroline is pretty well-versed in the South American bus transportation system, but for me, I needed a little hand-holding.
Our journey started Thursday night in Cusco. We were told to get to the Bolivia Hop office by 9:30 p.m., so in true Peruvian fashion, we showed up at 9:45 p.m. (because nothing happens on time in Peru). We found everybody waiting patiently for the bus to arrive. The bus arrived a minute after our arrival (perfect timing!), and we were off to our first stop, Puno, Peru.
We arrived in Puno around 6 a.m. and were whisked off on a boat to the famous floating islands of Lake Titicaca. Caroline and I are both from the coast, so we were very excited to see a big body of water, and even more excited to take a boat ride! We had about 45 minutes at the floating islands. The locals showed us how the islands are made and graciously let us into their one-room home made out of reeds. The islands are constructed with a series of dirt blocks with stakes in them to connect the blocks to each other and to anchor with ropes. They then layer reads on top which gives the ground a very squishy feeling with every step you take.
We headed back to the mainland to return to the bus. Next stop, the Peruvian/Bolivian border! After about three hours we arrived, got off the bus with all of our belongings, and walked across the border. I was pretty nervous that something was going to go wrong, but everything went smoothly thanks to our Bolivia Hop representative, Mauricio. Mauricio was definitely our favorite character we met on our trip. He’s a fabulously hilarious, gay Bolivian with a British accent, tattoos, a plaid hat, suspenders, and black leather booties. After spending an hour waiting for everybody to make it through customs, we hopped on another bus and were only 15 minutes away from Copacabana,our final destination.
Once we arrived in Copacabana, we quickly checked into our quaint hotel, ate a lunch of fresh trout from the lake with rice and potatoes, and then we were off on our next adventure: Isla del Sol. We took an hour long boat ride (yay!) to the island, where we hiked around for about an hour and experienced incredible views of Lake Titicaca and the Bolivian Andes. We were exhausted after our limited hours of sleep on the bus overnight and our 6 a.m. adventure in Puno, but the hike (and the little nap on the boat ride) rejuvenated us. The views definitely made the entire trip worth it.
The next day we departed Copacabana around 1 p.m. and found ourselves at the border once again. Caroline and I went to separate border agents, got our stamps, and then met up again. Hallelujah! This reaffirmed to me that my Spanish is improving. When I first got here, I was unable to stand up for myself, because I didn’t feel capable. Now, between arguing with the P.E. teacher from another school who wouldn’t share the court with us at Mantay, telling the boys at the Santoni public court to move their game elsewhere while we have class, and my successful border hop, I proved to myself that I have the confidence in my Spanish to stand up not only for myself, but also for our girls.
We continued to Puno where we spent a few hours and boarded another night bus en route to Cusco. We pulled into Cusco at the tender hour of 5 a.m., and I was so relieved. There’s nothing like returning from Bolivia to make Cusco feel like home.