There were a few options in the way of transport for us to get to Cusco. Plane, local bus or Bolivia Hop. To keep things cheap we ruled out a flight. We did a little research and found Bolivia’s version of Busabout in Europe. While more expensive than a local bus, it had the advantage of having an English speaking guide which would help us with the border crossing. Having heard about Bolivian’s penchant for protests and roadblocks, we thought this was worth the extra money.
It was incredibly easy – they picked us up at our hostel and they dropped us off as well. It also gave us the chance to see Lake Titicaca. We had a few mini stops along the way to Copacabana with different viewpoints. It was great to get out of the bus and stretch our legs, but nothing that was a must see. The only thing which I found pretty cool was when we had to cross a lake to continue our journey. Everyone hopped off the bus to catch the ferry, but our bus had to cross on a barge of sorts. I say ‘of sorts’ because the barge itself was quite basic and it looked like it could sink at any moment. Thankfully it didn’t and after a quick pitstop, we were on the road again.
Copacabana – on the shores of Lake Titicaca and the place the famous Brazilian beach was named after. It reminded me of a seaside town past its prime. There were broken piers, swan peddle boats aplenty and many tired buildings. I think it would feel like a different town in summer and on the weekend. We opted to forgo the trip to the floating islands (as we only had a short time and didn’t want to be too rushed) and went about exploring lakeside.
With not too much to see, we ended up wandering aimlessly for a while. We walked back to the main part of town for lunch and as there wasn’t too much else to do but wait until our departure time, we decided to have a few beers. It was nice being in the sunshine again but we didn’t remember how harsh the sun can be at higher altitudes. I ended up with a glorious ankle tan (which is still present some 2 months later). Our time in Copacabana was short and before we knew it we were on our way to the Bolivia/Peru border crossing.
The border crossing was pretty painless, except for the lack of queuing etiquette from Latin American tourists and a bit of an aimless walk between both immigration offices. There were protests but they didn’t impede the process and all up we were back on in the bus in about 45 minutes or so. No customs or anything. Our first land border crossing.
It was an uneventful few hours before we pulled into Puno, Peru where we would be spending the night. We didn’t see much of Puno as we arrived after dark and left before 9am. It is used as the gateway for Lake Titicaca on the Peruvian side. The one thing I would have liked to do, but we didn’t get the chance was to do an overnight homestay on the floating islands. I think that would have made the Lake Titicaca experience a bit more worthwhile.
From Puno, we piled into a minibus and were off on our way to Cusco. We were a bit confused initially as we thought we would be getting on the big Bolivia Hop bus straightaway. An hour or so later we pulled over to the side of the road and waited. The big bus finally arrived and we were back on our way. We stopped in a small town in the middle of nowhere for lunch, with no ATMs or banks. Our guide had neglected to mention this when we were pre-ordering lunch, so he had to spot us some money (which we repaid) as we didn’t get a chance to withdraw cash in Puno.
After lunch, it was straight on to Cusco. We hit bad traffic entering Cusco which extended our travel time substantially which was unfortunate. It also didn’t help that the bus driver didn’t seem to know where to pull in for the bus station so we did about 3 laps of the giant roundabout in town before we got to the bus station. Once we arrived at our hotel, I was done for the day. Transit days are so exhausting but all you do is sit and wait. This was our last bus transit day for a while, as pretty much what we had booked was all flights (both a blessing and a curse).