Leaving Cusco for Bolivia – a bit of an adventure

Plans change all the time and sometimes they change very quickly. My original idea was to leave Cusco on Saturday and travel during the day to Puno, stay overnight, see the sights on the Sunday morning and then move on to Copacabana on Sunday afternoon. Things didn’t quite go to plan.

First of all, the only bus available at the time I went to book was the night bus, which left at 10PM – so I spent the day lazing around Cusco eating at Jacks Cafe with three American gents, checking emails at The Muse for an afternoon (and grabbing a bite to eat) before going back to El Tuco to watch TV shows for a few hours. I was exhausted – I’m still stuck on UK time, so by 1900 I’m ready for bed, so staying alert for another 3 hours was tough! The night bus however is brilliant! I took the Camina options (S/50 or £12) and the seat fully reclines enabling you to sleep. I didn’t sleep brilliantly, but I got some shut-eye surprisingly

We hit Puno at 0500 and I was tired and cold so took the option of getting a quick room in the Bus station (S/20 or £5) for a couple of hours and put my head down for a bit. Rumours from Cusco that the border to Bolivia was closed were confirmed by the tour operators so I decided I needed to stay the night in Puno rather than heading for Copacabana that afternoon as originally intended. I choose Inka’s Rest and met Melissa and Pete, a couple from Bristol facing similar problems getting across the border. We ended up sharing an Apartment together which was really nice!

Ministry of Funny Walks in PunoAfter a chat, I wandered off to look at Puno and stood watching a parade which featured Army, Police, School Children, Women, Men… I had no idea what was going on, but it was interesting to watch before eating and then wandering up to Mirador Del Condor – a big condor statue overlooking the town. I met a nice American girl there who offered to help me when I hit her Uni town in September. Score!

Melissa and Pete then cooked dinner for the three of us (score again!) and the hostel owner came along with a plan to get us all into Bolivia – it meant that I wasn’t going to see the Uros islands, but then I could see them upon my return leg. The next morning at 9AM, the real adventure started!

Bus Trip to nowhere

The plan to get to Bolivia was simple – jump on a bus, drive towards the border as close to the road-block as possible, get on a boat to Copacabana, jump in a taxi, drive back to the border in order to enter the country legally, get back in the taxi and go back to town. However, it didn’t quite work that way.

Road block on Puno roadFirst of all, the roadblock was much closer to Puno than expected and any vehicle trying to get past was getting stoned (we later heard that Taxi’s were attacked and passengers were getting robbed), however after 30minutes or so, we went through the first part of the roadblock with many smiles and waves from the Peruvians (we all guessed that Palms were greased) before turning onto dirt tracks.

Dirt roads in PeruThe dirt tracks seemed to go on for miles as we criss-crossed the valley multiple times before finally arriving at a jetty in the middle of nowhere. We all jumped off the bus to be told that the jetty was the wrong one and that we couldn’t go anywhere. Lots of confusion and a few of us decided to head to the local school for a mooch / something to eat. It was quite surreal to turn up to the 27th Anniversary of the school and see loads of kids in costumes dancing around. Beer was the cheapest we’d ever seen too at S/3 a 1 lt bottle! After a short while, a few of us headed back to find that the boat was now leaving with or without us! We yelled to those remaining but they didn’t hear.

In high altitude, huffing, puffing, stumbling, struggling we ran. We got on the boat. We huffed and puffed some more whilst we sat waiting for all the others. There was no need to have ran!

Boat trip crewA large gaggle of us were sat up top as the boat made for Bolivia and we all started to immediately feel the cold, those on the left more so than the rest of us. It was great though as everyone started chatting, laughing at the attempts made to keep warm, the stories told… It was brilliant. Keeping WarmWe even got to meet some really interesting characters – one Dutch guy felt obliged to tell his story of how he cheated on girlfriend of 11 years with her sister-in-law for two years, she fell pregnant with ensuing paternity tests… He even explained he’d spent $1000 in a Brothel in Lima and had hired a personal guide to take him around Peru for S/100 a day + food and lodgings. He entertained everyone further by peeing off the side of the boat (much to the hatred of the Peruvian cowboy!). It was brilliant – a true eccentric gent!

Ten hours after we started, we arrived in Bolivia. Cold, hungry and needing to pee (the English are far to reserved to pee off the side of the boat you see!) We then all got into Mini Buses to be driven to the border where the complicated process of leaving Peru and entering Bolivia started (you have to go to the Police to declare that you’ve not committed any crimes, before getting an exit stamp from Peruvian authorities, and then an entrance stamp for Bolivia). But, yey! We’d made it. It took a full day rather than 4 hours, but we were all legally in Bolivia, with our gear!

Whilst it was a complicated old process and took a long time, you have to hand it to the tour company, everything was sorted for us the whole way. I even managed to sleep most of the bus journey!

Evening festivities

Tea TimeAfter we got ourselves sorted, a small group of us booked into the same Hostel and then went in search of food – we found this crazy place where only one guy worked – he was the bar-tender, chef, waiter, cleaner…. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Dutch guy from the boat ended up serving us drinks & taking out order! The decor was crazy, the service weirder, but the food exceptional! A few beers (and wine for the ladies), good food, great people and new friends what more could I ask for?

We ended the night with a Hostel room party before an early night aiming for Isla Del La Sol the following morning…


More pictures of Puno to Copacabana can be found in the digitallery album South America – Copacabana

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