We have another 6am start to get to the bus station. Early starts have, much to my disgust, become something of a habit on this trip! We pay our departure tax and are left with 11 soles to our names, so we blow it on some typically junky bus snacks! We drop our bags with our bus company, Pan Americano, which looks pretty dodgy from its bus terminal stand, and we are wondering if the hostel has put us on a less than desirable bus. As we wait for our departure time, we are surprised to see tourist after tourist turn up to the desk and leave their backpack. So it would seem we are on a fairly popular bus then and with a bus full of tourists, we are sure it will stop at the border for us all.
It's a short ride to the border, maybe just over 2 hours, never far from the lake which is dotted with trout farms close to the shorelines. At the border we pile out and swap $165 US for $1100 Bolivian soles. Then we head into an office where our tourist card is stamped. Into another office and they put an exit stamp in our passport. Then it's a stroll over the border, where we fill in a form to say we don't have thousands of USA dollars with us. Finally it's into a second office on the Bolivian side where we get our 30 day stamp in our passport. That's all us NZ'ers get, but at least its free.
From the border it's a short 8km ride to Copacabana where we pay a couple of soles to enter the town. The bus drops us near one of the plazas and we set about finding our way to Hostel Sonia, our chosen pick from Lonely Planet. We snag ourselves a nice colourful room on the top floor for 60 Bolivian soles.
Having settled in, we head out to explore the little town of Copacabana. The lake front is not overly picturesque so we head back up the main street and browse the many jewellery and clothing stores in town. We have lunch at the coffee shop. Then it's back to the shopping, some earrings and beautifully soft alpaca gloves make their way into my backpack. We find the local markets, and ponder the many strange looking foods on sale, before getting some of those we know - peanuts, banana chips and Brazil nuts. We also find the fruit market where we get some much needed fruit to stave off the scurvy.
We come across the unusual sight of the Bendiciones de Movilidades (blessing of automobiles). Cars covered with flowers and confetti, lined up in front of the cathedral, waiting to be blessed.
Later in the afternoon we make the slow hike up the hill, Cerro Calvario overlooking the town. I find it a real struggle with the altitude, over 4000m by the time we reach the top of the hill. We sit for a couple of hours in the sunshine overlooking the bay below dotted with sailboats, until sunset and then make our way down to a delicious warm dinner at the coffee house.
The following day we have an all too rare sleep in. And then hot showers. What a start to the day. These things cannot be taken for granted. We check out at the last possible moment, 10.30am. When buses arrive into town and leave town at midday, you'd think checkout times could be made to suit.
We put on our trusting hats and leave our bags (locked together though, so not too trusting!) at the bus office for Milton Tours and head down the street to recommence jewellery shopping. We also refuel with one of the best ever cappuccino's and a delicious banana milkshake. The coffee is so good it even gives Ryan a high. Good beans then!
Around midday we head back to the bus office and our bus is there, looking as shabby as the rest about town. If that's a tourismo bus, I'd hate to see a local economic bus!! Again the bus is largely full of foreigners. The ride is uneventful apart from the guy in front of us needing our empty chip bag to spew in. Touch wood, I've been lucky on the buses so far.
After an hour or so travelling, the bus pulls up and we are told to get off. Outside it emerges that we are to cross the lake by boat, with our bus on a separate barge. We get boat tickets for 1.5 soles and follow our bus across in a small wooden rickety boat with a warrant 8 years out of date, dodgy wooden planking and Lake Titicaca beneath.
We file back onto the bus on the other side of the lake and continue on our way. We know we have arrived into La Paz when the traffic becomes chaotic chaos. There are lots of physicadylic looking buses, painted blue, green and yellows. Eventually our bus descends down and down the valley side into central La Paz, pulls off the road and drops us all off. We've been dropped outside the bus terminal so walk down the hill into the centre, and find our hostel near Plaza San Francisco, Hostel Provenzal.
Our room is nice and has cable TV (a plus for Ryan) but for the price, you'd think more than one computer for around 10 floors of 5 room per floor could be provided. Especially when sometimes staff members use it.
We pop out onto the streets of La Paz to get some money out and neither of us really likes the chaotic bustling vibe La Paz has. It's just a little crazy. We have a mint dinner at Oliver's Travel just around the corner from our hostel, bangers and mash and a curry. Both better than the pub equivalent you'd get dished up in England! We use the slow, slow, slow WIFI in the pub to upload some of our photos to the net while we down a couple of red wines and mojitos.