We’re learning quickly that crossing a border any other way than by airplane is going to be an adventure one way or another. Each unique and frustrating in their own ways. The morning after we toured some islands of Lake Titicaca, we left Puno for Copacabana, Bolivia. The trip was only 3 hours by bus, which stopped at the border for paperwork formalities.
First, our bus stopped at a money changing office. A conversation of ours went down like this…
Wendy: “Don’t forget to get enough Bolivianos for our visa.”
Dusty: “Maybe I should keep some in dollars, in case we have to pay for the visas in dollars?”
Wendy: “Why would they do something stupid like that?”
Dusty: “Because it’s South America and things often don’t make sense.”
Wendy: “I’m pretty sure they’re going to want Bolivianos in Bolivia.”
Wrong. We got our exit stamps on the Peruvian side, walked across to the Bolivian side, tried to pay our $136, 5-year (90-days at a time) visas in Bolivianos and were quickly denied. We were then directed to a casa de cambio, a teenage boy, who would change our Bs back to USD. During our second attempt at acquiring visas, the border official disliked one of the bills because the serial number began with CB. He shook his finger at us. “No CB en Bolivia.” Interesting since we just got the dollars in Bolivia. So, we took it back, traded it for a non-CB serialed bill and we were good to go. We tried very hard not to think about how much mula we had lost in those two cash exchanges.* Also, it should be noted that you only have to purchase a visa like this if you are from the United States. Welcome to Bolivia!
Once in Copacabana, we dropped our stuff at our hotel and took a stroll around town. Copacabana was beautiful, however, it doesn’t have much except a ton of tours, tourist crap and litter. We decided to escape said crap and set off to climb what looked like a trail to the top of a nearby peak (pictured on the right of the first picture below). We knew there was a way to get up there, we just didn’t know how. As usual, we “wung it” and decided to just try to climb the mountain on our own.
Fortunately, things turned out in our favor. It wasn’t THE trail but it was A trail…of sorts. A little climbing and scrambling later, we reached the top but got some great views of Lake Titicaca along the way. When we arrived at the top it was littered with tourist stands and the real path (steps) that we were supposed to take. We were glad we didn’t find the steps up, because our route was beautiful and were able to snap some great pictures on the way up.
We didn’t spend much time in Copacabana. There are islands to see there but we were burnt out from the island tours on the Peruvian side. Can’t see it all!
*An American girl behind us in the visa line also had an interesting transaction. She went to the cash exchange boy to change her Bolivianos to USD, he didn’t have enough $20 dollar bills so he went to the border official and broke a $100 for some. He then gave the $20s to the girl who passed them back to the border official to pay for her visa. He didn’t like two of the bills even though he’s the one that gave them to the boy to give to her. She tried her hardest to not “let him have it”.
We took a lot of great pictures during our climb, check out the full set on Flickr