At breakfast, both Simon and Ang were excited. With Puno’s proximity to the border with Bolivia, they knew they would soon be heading south. Both thought that Bolivia, with its outdoor activities would be likely to provide great racing.
Stomachs full, the team prepared themselves for the challenges that lay ahead. A clue was handed to them and they commenced racing, first to the bus station. Arriving they quickly secured tickets, but they were then forced to wait three hours until two pm. Annoyingly they were forced to listen to a bus tout screaming Arequipa Arequipa over and over again. Ang got justifiably frustrated as the Arequipa bus wasn’t scheduled to depart until 4pm that afternoon and there is only so many times you can hear ‘ara ara ara areguipa’ and not go mad.
Thankfully, the team’s bus company finally organised a minivan to take the small number of passengers three hours south around Lake Titicaca to the border with Bolivia. Driving out of Puno, both Simon and Ang were glad to leave as while there wasn’t really anything bad about the place, there was anything nice either.
The drive was relatively uneventful with the team taking in the beautiful lakeside scenery and listening to the remaining passengers, who were mostly Argentine, talk about everything from construction through to musica.
Arriving at the border, the team first had their departure card stamped and collected before they walked back to the passport control office in a separate building. There they cleared immigration and walked back past the departure card office and up the hill towards an arch way. Crossing into Bolivia, they completed customs formalities and were soon in a collectivo heading for the town of Copacabana. Both Ang and Simon agreed that the whole experience was rather relaxed and laid back, and had the added advantage of pleasant scenery to look at while walking between control points.
|Entry portal to another country
Arriving in Copacabana, the team walked up the hill and checked into their accommodation with wonderful water views. Their clue required the team to visit the fabled birthplace of the Incas, the Isla Del Sol. However, the ATM in Copacabana had issues accepting the team’s cards, meaning they would need to change USD (for a relatively bad rate). After the day’s travelling and waiting, the team decided to have an early night and rest up.
Waking early, the team went down to the dock. After a quick breakfast and a second attempt to withdraw money from the ATM, the team jumped onboard a super slow launch bound for the Isla Del Sol. Simon was briefly concerned that the Island of the Sun would actually be the Island of the rain, as it showered for most of the journey north. The boat itself was so slow and potentially overloaded that it took an inordinate amount of time to reach the northern village. When they finally did arrive, the team headed further north on foot as their clue required them to walk the island from north to south to receive their next clue.
|Happy pig on the Isla del Sol
|Dock panorama on the Isla Del Sol
After 20 minutes of walking, they arrived at a gate. There they were stopped by a guy wanting them to pay 10 sols for entry into a ruins site. Both Ang and Simon agreed that while interesting, this was not part of the challenge and would only delay them. Plus, they only had 14 sols with them after payment for breakfast and the boat so they could not afford to enter. Instead, followed by a friendly Frenchman and Argentine girl, the team scrambled up a nearby escarpment and walked around the fenced area to the north.
After a further twenty minutes of walking, the group came to a junction. There the lead Frenchman was asked to pay for entry to the ruins (which were directly ahead). He politely refused, and along with the Argentine, Simon and Ang turned to walk south. The rocky path followed the ridge line and was spectacular.
After about an hour of walking, the team spied a check point. There two locals were manning a ticketing station alone on top of a hill. They wanted to charge 15 sols for each person to walk along the path. Simon and Ang didn’t have that amount of money due to their ATM and exchange issues and the guidebook making no mention of any fees other than boat transport. After politely saying they had no funds, the two locals gave Simon and Ang entry tickets for five sols each (student rates) for the remaining 14 sols they had.
Simon and Ang continued, though annoyed they didn’t have the funds to pay, but grateful they were still able to do the walk. They walked past a forest of introduced eucalyptus trees and covered the 10 kms to the next community in rapid time. There they met the next check point, this time to enter the southern town on the island. At first the lady didn’t seem to understand, but once Simon showed they didn’t have enough money on his person, she let them pass. They walked through the southern village down to the dock in time to meet their return boat to Copacabana.
|Inca statue to great travellers arriving at the Isla del Sol
|Temple of the Sun on the Island of the Sun
Racing back at less than 4 knots, the boat eventually returned them to the Copacabana dock. There they received their next clue directing them to La Paz. Unfortunately, after trying the second ATM in town, then reluctantly changing some dollars, they were only able to buy bus tickets for the next day, meaning they would need to spend the second night in Copacabana. The rest of the afternoon was spent walking around town, enjoying a drink in the warm sun and then dinner.
|Boating on Lake Titicaca
|Panorama of the Copacabana foreshore
Waking, they witnessed the car blessing festival and enjoyed a leisurely brunch before they boarded the second of two buses bound for La Paz.
|Square in the middle of Copacabana
…To be continued.