Extreme but beautiful Bolivia…

The famous Salt Flats,  Bolivia.

I arrived into Bolivia on the 31st May by bus from Peru via Peru Hop (a relatively new ‘hop on/hop off’ bus company). They were excellent and I would recommend them for going across the Peru and Bolivian border. I shopped around a lot of bus companies for this journey after reading about bad experiences of strikes and crossing the Bolivian land borders and immigration. So in the end I decided to try Peru Hop and they ended up being pretty good, very efficient and on time and really helpful local guides who helped us all with visas and crossing the border. I heard a lot of people complaining about the efficiency and punctuality of travelling in South America, but after travelling on buses in South East Asia, I found Chile, Peru and Bolivia to be a breeze, but maybe I was just lucky.

Bolivian immigration at the border between Peru and Bolivia.

It cost me $49 (USD) to get from Puno in Peru to La Paz, and with the help from the bus guides at immigration the price did feel worth (even though I knew I could have got it cheaper). It felt safe as I had also heard stories of La Paz being a little dangerous so I was glad to use this company to arrive into La Paz as well.

We left Puno around 9am and drove across the Peru border into Bolivia arriving into the small town of  Copacabana around 1.30pm. The border crossing was pretty easy in the end, we had to change buses at the border and walk about 10 minutes across into Bolivia with our luggage, the altitude was still pretty hard for me even though I had started altitude sickness tablets, so it felt like a bit of a long slog.

One girl on our bus did have a problem with her Peru visa, which I had heard about from a guy I met in Puno in Peru so luckily I was aware of it and had checked my visa before leaving Peru. Apparently its common, where some people enter Peru and are given shorter entry visas and don’t realise. So when they get to immigration at the border, they have usually overstayed their visas so have to go back into Peru and pay a fine at a bank. It was all a bit confusing and for one girl she was really shocked as hadn’t realised she had even overstayed her visa. Our guide told us that Peru immigration seems to do this more and more regularly and they were not sure why some people were given shorter visas (my stamp was for 90 days as with most other UK travellers I met).

Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca.

Anyway once this was all sorted for this girl, we hopped back onto another bus and drove onto Copacabana, this is the nearest town to Lake Titicaca  on the Bolivian side. Also this company allowed us to get off (or hop off…) the bus for 4 hours to check out Copacabana or even get a boat to one of the Bolivian islands on Lake Titicaca. I decided to do this and had 4 hours to get a boat and explore Isla del Sol, which is a beautiful island with amazing remnants of Inca ruins. We ended up having about 2 hours on the island so managed to fit a walk around some of the island. There are about 800 inhabitants, so it’s very tranquil and peaceful and has amazing views of the lake and across to mainland Bolivia.

Views from Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca.

Boats across the Tiquina Strait

From Copacabana I got back on the bus (meeting some great people on this bus trip) and went onto La Paz, we left Copacabana at 6pm and arrived into La Paz at 10.30pm. Taking this route into La Paz means you also do a show boat crossing across the Tiquina Strait which is about a 45 minute drive from Copacabana. We had to all get off the bus, taking any valuables with us, and then get on a very small (and dubious looking) speed boat. It was quite funny in the end, but getting on some rickety speed boats, and being crammed in, in the dark, with our bus on a barge being sent across separately seemed a little strange at the time.

I ended up spending two weeks in Bolivia, I really would love to go back as sadly I wasn’t feeling so well with the altitude and the cold, so I hope to come back one day, to explore more of this beautiful country, as there is so much more to see.

My Bolivia highlights –

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Peruvian love!

Views of the surrounding volcanoes in Arequipa, Peru.

I arrived into Peru at the beginning of May overland via two buses and a ‘collectivo’ (taxi)  from San Pedro, Chile arriving into the city Arequipa. I was a bit worried about this journey, I think because it would take so long (almost 24 hours) and also being on my own with no spanish was proving a little harder than I thought. I took an overnight bus from San Pedro to Arica (just on the Chilean border) which took about 19 hours, then from Arica I took a ‘collectivo’ or taxi across the border into Tacna in Peru.

Julie and me at the Beer Festival.

Luckily I had met two lovely American girls on the night bus from San Pedro, who also spoke some spanish, so we did the crossing into Peru together, it took about 45 minutes to cross the border by effectively paying a ‘collectivo’ to take us across the border. One of the American girls had lost an entry form you get when going into Chile which you need to leave the country and the passport control guy took great delight in pretending he wouldn’t let her into Peru, apart from this is was all pretty easy. From Tacna we then all took another 8 or so hour bus to Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru, this journey was beautiful arriving into Peru and seeing some spectacular mountainous terrain and the andean mountains.

Shayla, Julie and me watching Peruvian rock band.

I sadly was still having a few issues with my back which had started in Chile. At the time I put it down to doing so many uncomfortable night buses, lugging around my backpack and generally jumping around countries! So due to this I ended up spending nearly 2 weeks in Arequipa, which is a beautiful city to just chill out in, I took some spanish lessons and met some lovely friends to hang out with in cafes and restaurants! I even ended up at a beer festival one weekend, which felt a bit like being in London and also managed to see a ‘famous’ Peruvian rock band one night.

The historical center of Arequipa is a UNESCO World Heritage site, it really is a charming city with beautiful white washed buildings similar to European styles. I did a great walking tour here which took us to some beautiful spots in the city.

Arequipa ‘White city’, Peru.

There are lovely views of three volcanoes around the city as well making for some stunning scenery. I also visited the amazing ‘Mummy Juanita’ in Museo Santuarios Andinos. She is a well preserved frozen Inca girl who was killed as an offering to the Inca Gods between 1450 and 1480. She was found on Mount Ampato part of the Andes Cordillera in southern Peru. Pretty amazing (and kind of spooky) to see, as her body is very well preserved.

I ended up spending a month in Peru, it was finally time for me to ‘slow’ down my travels a bit! I feel like I left out a lot in Peru, but at the same time my travelling needed to slow down a bit, I had been moving around on average every 3 days in the last 7 months, so it was not surprising I was craving sometime in one place! For the first time in a while, I decided to get a nice hotel in Arequipa and treat myself to my own room and bathroom (it was heaven!!) and looking back on it now, the hotel cost about £15 a night which doesn’t seem so much now.

Arequipa known as the ‘White city’, Peru.

Here are the rest of my Peru highlights –

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