A bus, a boat and a bribe and I’m finally in Bolivia

My journey to Bolivia started in Cusco, where I got on a bus at 10pm only to find my Polish friends from Machu Picchu also on the bus! The first thing we discussed was the ways in which people steal your things on buses. We got no sleep. We arrived in Puno, on Lake Titicaca, at around 5am, only to be told there were miner strikes and they were blocking the road to Copacabana, the lake town to where we all had onwards tickets. As the hours passed a crowd of travellers gathered and we tried to come up with a plan to get to Copacabana – usually just a three-hour bus ride. Bribing the miners; walking past them; taking a different route – all ideas were quickly shot down by various officials. So we went for a walk to ask around. There was no way it was gonna happen, and the strike was apparently going to last for two or more days. Puno is not a town you want to get stranded in. Not because it’s dangerous, but because it’s so damned boring. The Poles had flights to catch and I simply wanted to get to Bolivia, so we decided to walk down to the port and ask a kindly fisherman to take us to Copacabana. “Of course I’ll take you! That’ll be $700.” And the longer we waited the higher the price went. Also, the journey was going to be about 10 hours long, and we didn’t want to sail in the dark, so we had to get moving. To lower costs we ran back to the bus station (not close) and gathered a few more stranded tourists. In all there were 16 and a half of us, from all over the world: England, America, Germany, Poland, Argentina, Brazil, New Zealand and Sweden, plus a little boy with no front teeth and the longest eyelashes I’ve ever seen.

So we all boarded the boat and settled in for the long ride across Lake Titicaca. It was a gorgeous journey, on sparkling blue water under the hot sun (which I fell asleep under and burnt my hips – not good for carrying a heavy backpack). We drank beer, ate bread, napped, chatted and generally laid about. Then it got dark and we realised the drivers had no idea where they were going. After about an hour of turning round in circles and hitting reefs, a little fisherboat finally came out to rescue us (at a price of course) four at a time and deposited us on a farm in the middle of the night. A trek through long grass and past curious cows, we eventually got to a road and cheered for streetlights (we’d gone a bit stir crazy). We made our way straight to the border, where the police told us we could go through but Bolivia wouldn’t stamp us in until the morning so we‘d have to come back. They then suggested they would only let us go through if we gave them money. Which they took. And still didn’t let us through. By this time we were crammed into the boss’s office drinking sweet tea and being offered vodka, in the most random of situations. Eventually I had a brainwave, which really should have been the first thing everyone thought of. I looked in my guidebook for hostels in the Peruvian border town. A short phone call later and we all had a bed for the night, two minutes down the road. We arrived at the hostel to be greeted by a baffled family as we ordered two rounds each of fried egg sandwiches and tea, then had much-needed showers and hit the hay.

Bright and early the next morning we headed back to the border, sailed through in minutes and were soon on a bus to La Paz. The Poles had to race off to another town to catch their flight and the others also had other places to be, so soon it was just me, Sam the American (Batman in my photos) and a German guy Henrik we’d picked up in our brief moment in Copacabana.

We went out for a much-craved Mexican, then the boys went to a British pub to watch the football while I ran back to the hostel with a bad Mexican belly. Later, we picked up Sam’s friends Dave and Kim from England (they‘re from there, we didn’t pick them up from there, just to clarify…), and went out to a steakhouse (it was really crappy, just like all eateries in Bolivia). We then bedded down for the night, as the next morning we had to get up bright and early to conquer the World’s Most Dangerous Road!