Posts Tagged Copacabana
Posted on May 19, 2011 by jason
After lingering much longer than expected, we finally left the peaceful shores of Titicaca. We had no idea that these little communities would 1) be so endearing and 2) mask how difficult the rest of the country will be.
The day started easily enough. First, check the freshness of our flowers – still perfect. Then, stop to fill up the tank. There was a line of about 20 cars at the one gas station in town. Hmmm, small town, we figured. “Should we get in line or take our chances?” Take our chances. Besides, you get charged twice as much here if you have foreign plates (Bolivian gas is 1/2 price compared to Peru, so they charge extra to discourage border-hopping fill-ups.)
We hit the road and drove up a 4300 meter pass and the views continued to be stunning. We were headed to a ferry at the end of a peninsula and on some sections we had panoramic lake views in all directions. Titicaca is BIG.
The ferry crossing was simple enough – just drive right on to a little wooden barge. Angela suggested we shouldn’t share one with a big autobus… right as we were directed onto the one with a big bus. Cozy.
It’s an impressive one-man operation. First, out come the big sticks and the barge is manually steered from shore. Then, a little outboard motor slowly pushed us across the lake. Twenty minutes later we pay the guy 30 B’s and we’re off. We ask around for gas and we’re pointed down the road.
We find a station – no line – and pull in. The attendant looks at us like we’re fools. He’s got diesel, but no gasolina. He suggests we look for someone with a sign in front of their house and buy from them. Huh?
Our gauge is on “R” (empty), so I manage to find a house with a lady washing potatoes in her front yard and ask. Yep – she’s got gas – for 10 B’s per liter (about $1.50 USD, and even steeper than Peru.) Quite a markup. We’re desperate, so I give her 50 B so we can keep searching. She pours it in from a dirty plastic can into a dirty funnel.
We make it to the next sizable town – passing multiple closed gas stations – and it’s the same story. A few people suggest we just start asking around at tiendas. We waste gas driving about town, but nobody has any gas. We covered the entire town. It seems odd asking for gas at a tienda selling chips and sodas, but you do what you gotta do.
While we’re stopped, I pour in the little bit of gas I have left in my stove and a few drops from our empty mini-jerry can. Things aren’t looking good and we decide to make a break for the capitol of La Paz instead up north to the little town of Sorata. We are a little disappointed to leave the lake – we still snicker every time we say “Titicaca” – but we’ve learned that we will eventually drive past Lake Poopo.
Later, we get to a toll booth and the guy won’t even look up from the paper to collect a toll. I get his attention and he says we can get gas in 1 km. No toll. A few kilometers later, there are more gas stations, but the same story. No gas.
The needle is way below the “R” and we assume we will sputter and stall at any minute, but have no choice but to keep driving. We slow down each time we see a station, but have learned not to stop until it’s obvious the pumps aren’t covered in plastic. Still, no gas. Almost to La Paz and amazingly, Angela spots a tiny “Hay gasolina” sign hanging from the doorway of a welding shop. It’s a relative bargain at 6 B’s per liter and I buy all 10 liters. Enough to coast down the hill into La Paz – the highest capitol in the world.
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Posted on May 17, 2011 by jason
For us, this place is the Betty Crocker of towns. You can’t not like it.
Posted on May 15, 2011 by jason
One of the things that makes Copacabana unique is that the local church performs daily blessings for vehicles. People come from all across the country (and even Peru and Chile) to get their cars blessed – sometimes even entire fleets of trucks show up.
We’re not particularly religious, but we figured it couldn’t hurt.
The vehicles start lining up an hour or so beforehand and it’s tradition to deck them out in fresh flowers and trinkets. Ladies selling all the necessary gear have conveniently set up stalls right outside the church. We shopped around and figured about $10 USD worth of decorations would be enough to get us noticed from above. Bode went off an bought some flowers on his own. He got a good price.
I saw another overlander drive by and stick their head out in confusion (a Land Rover with French placas) so I explained in my best Spanish what they were missing. They quickly jumped in line and pulled out their wallet.
Right on time, the show began. Religious amounts of holy water was sprinkled over each car – including the interior and engine compartment. We even got a little shower ourselves. A few words were said in Spanish (no clue) and that’s it – we were blessed.
Our white-robed padre stuck out his hand and we were told that 10 Bolivianos were in order for the privilege. He slipped the propina into his vestments faster than you can say ‘hail mary’ and he was off to the next car.
People celebrated with fireworks and spraying cheap champagne all over their cars. How better to celebrate?
Posted on May 13, 2011 by jason
For some reason – namely, no customers – today’s boat back to Copacabana was not going to run. Fortunately for us, there were enough Rainbow folks gathered and willing to go that we managed to get our own boat. We just had to leave from the shore instead of the municipal dock – very unofficial.
When we got back to Copa, our plan was pretty clear. Head back to our spot and enjoy it some more (a local hotel watched the bus for free while we were gone).
Around here (and in Peru too), the local water source seems to be freely used by everyone for just about anything and everything. Need to wash your car? Just drive it into the lake and start scrubbing. Laundry? Throw it in the lake.
While we watched everyone go about their business, we decided to join in. We were getting a little ripe after a few days on the island, so we jumped in the lake with our biodegradable soap. It was cold, so timing this for the warmest part of the day was critical.
I was getting a little scruffy, so shaving was an obvious choice. Angela declined this one. Doing the dishes was next. Red Beard was filthy, so I made a few trips back and forth with a bucket of water – not willing to drive right in.
Somewhere in here we managed to have Bolivia Brilliant Idea #2. We noticed that exactly right behind our favorite boondocking site was a little ‘se vende‘ sign nailed to a tree. Five levels of rock-terraced gardens and a tiny mud-brick shack right on the lake. It could be all ours. We would start the “Keep Titicaca Blue” campaign (Mantener Titicaca Azul?), clean up the lake, and cement our Bolivian Legacy. At least it beats the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid option.
Right after we figured it all out, we were surprised to see another California Westy pull up behind us. Out hopped Gary and Karla. “You must be the BodesWell gang! Where’s Bode?”
Posted on May 11, 2011 by angela
The 1:30pm boat to Isla del Sol leaves around 2:15… or whenever it fills up. Then, once it gets going, it will turn around and head back to shore to pick up a few more passengers. Bolivia time.
Luckily, we got there early and could sit inside, out of the cold wind. The trip takes 2 hours, though it is mostly due to a very slow moving boat. Our friends had come and gone in a single day, and suggested we might prefer to spend the night. The weather on Lake Titicaca is fickle. At 3800m it can be frosty at night or when the wind blows, but if you are in the sun during the day you are likely to get burned.
When we landed at the pier on the north side of the island we were greeted by pigs and donkeys. We looked at a few rooms (all basic) and decided for the hospedaje a little above town with a great view. 2 beds and a concrete floor. I was a little worried about the cold, but the mud bricks heated up in the sun and kept us warm all night (warmer than Red Beard). Total cost: 30 Bolivianos. About 4 bucks.
We enjoyed the sunset before heading back into ‘town’ for dinner. There are a few restaurants but only one will be open at a time. Bode quickly found an Australian 6 year old, Luca and questioned her about how she lost 5 teeth. Luca and her mom, Zeph (Zephyr Lightwind) travel 3 months a year, but this trip ends in a couple of weeks. They were with friends they’d met at the Rainbow Gathering in Argentina. The town was full of Rainbow folks playing instruments and spacing out on the beach. In our minds, it’s like this all year.
Posted on May 10, 2011 by jason
It hasn’t taken us long to decide that we REALLY like it here. At the edge of town, it’s completely peaceful and stunningly beautiful. We are able to visually block out the garbage on the beach. And, only a 25 minute walk back into Copacabana if we need anything.
At 3800 meters, the sun is burning hot and the shade is chilly and cool. When the wind picks up in the late afternoon and after the sun sets, it’s bitterly cold.
There’s a visible Argentinian hippie population that walks up and down the beach selling things like fresh-baked bread and veggie sandwiches. They’re mostly based even farther down the beach and we’re on their way into town – makes things pretty effortless when lunch get’s delivered to the bus.
The kiddos spent the day throwing rocks into Titicaca, building forts and whatnot. I had to wonder where this will fit into Bode’s memory bank when he’s older. Camping and playing on the shores of Lake Titicaca.
This will be our last day with Regine and Fred and the kids (really this time) as they have to hurry to Buenos Aires to ship their car back to France.
We’ve also had our first Brilliant Idea in Bolivia. It has to do with all the disused swan boats lining the lake. We’d make the owners an offer they can’t refuse and then ship them all back to California to sell at the Alameda antique fair. We’ll make a killing. Another thing for the list.
Posted on May 9, 2011 by jason
We were pretty eager to get out of Puno, so we filled up the tank and took off for Bolivia. The frontera was only about two hours away.
Once again, we were running out of time on our tourist permits and had to split. We managed to spend almost 3 months in Peru – nice place. Next time, we’ll have to make time for the jungle and Amazon basin.
So, we circled around the bottom of the lake hit the border near Yunguyo. A quiet little town with zero traffic.
On the Peru side, there are four buildings grouped together and everything is easy. First to the police to make sure we’re not fleeing justice, then to the aduana to get stamped out, then to the SUNAT to cancel the vehicle permit. All easy.
Then, there was one last ‘check’ at a different police building – they guy that controls the gate. Here, I was surprised to find that the old-timer was looking for a little propina and started hassling me. He wanted to see all my papers and insisted that my California driver’s license wasn’t valid in Peru and I was in big trouble. Uh, what? We’re LEAVING the country! We’ve been stopped by police almost every single day and had no problems (except one time when another cop tried the same game).
We went back and forth a few times and I attempted the above logic. I’m guessing this scam hasn’t worked for him in quite a while, and I wasn’t budging. He didn’t seem to have the energy to really make a game of it, but he gave it a shot anyway. Eventually, he just gave my papers back and told me to get an international license the *next time* we come back to Peru. Right.
They lifted the gates and we drove a few hundred meters to Bolivia. This is where I was expected trouble, but everything went very smoothly. It helped that we were prepared.
If you want to come to Bolivia and you are from anywhere else but the US, you just come in and get stamped. No problem. If you are from the US, you need a tourist visa that happens to cost $135 USD each – payable in cash. Thanks, W.
We had our visa applications all ready (get one here) with color photos, yellow cards, fake hotel reservations (required, though not necessarily fake), and copies of all sorts of other things required with the application. You can get your visa in advance, but I hear it can be difficult as the embassy folks are real sticklers for the details.
At the border, they hardly even looked at our paperwork and just took our pile and pushed it aside. The US cash was the important part – and it has to be new and crisp bills – they check carefully. For our $405 USD, we each got a sticker in our passport with lots of stamps and scribbles. We walked across to another desk and they entered us in the computer and gave us more stamps. This gives us permission to be in the country for any 90 days over a 5 year period.
I’ve heard of people skipping the entire country because of the visa expense. Again, pretty ridiculous considering the grand scheme of things. I figure it averages out to just over $1 USD per day to see another amazing place. Besides, you’ll make your money back after you see how barrato the country is – a traveler’s bargain. Trout dinner for $3 USD. Big beer for $1 USD. Hotel room for $6 USD!
After our visas were complete, we walked next door to get our vehicle papers – again very easy. They will give you 30 days by default, but you can ask for 90. Once again, there was one last stop at a police building where a guy wrote our information on a ledger and insisted we pay him 10 Bolivianos (about $1.50 USD) for the pleasure. It’s another scam – it’s not official and you won’t get a receipt. I heard about it in advance. I even asked at the aduana if it was required and they just shrugged – it’s just the way it is. I give him his propina and the gate opens and we’re officially driving in Bolivia.
Less than 10 km down the road is Copacabana, where we find a spot to camp on the lake at the edge of town. There also happens to be a German couple camping down here in a tricked out classic Mercedes truck. A few minutes later, some Australians pull up in a shiny Land Rover and pop their top. A little later, we’re surprised to see our friends Fred and Regine roll up in their T5. After sundown, the stars appear to hang right over the town in the distance. Clearly, this is the place.