The trip seems to have picked up the pace a bit, which has resulted in a lack of blog posts – sorry! On Monday morning we went to immigration in hopes of getting visas and stamps. While Eric and I weren't in an immediate rush (since we were staying a couple days waiting for Stephanie to arrive), Lealah and Ryan were trying to get out of La Paz later that day. We got to the immigration office at about 9am and spent hours attempting to clear everything up – going from one long line to another, making copies of our passports, waiting in more lines, going to the internet cafe to get Lealah's travel itinerary, waiting in longer lines, etc. By the time early afternoon rolled around, Lealah was scheduled to get her passport at 12:30, Eric and Ryan at 5pm the following day and as for me, well there was a slight problem with my passport and I just needed to sit and wait for a while. What?? Later they told us that they were out of visa stickers... wish they had just told me that originally so I could have worried a little less! We went back to the office several times and Lealah missed her flight because hers wasn't ready on time. Eventually things worked out and by 5pm on Tuesday all of us were legally in Bolivia (Stephanie included).
Seems like Bolivia is always difficult to get in. However, there is a silver lining on this one: My purse was stolen on Monday, while immigration had my passport. I only lost 70 bolivianos (or about $10), my debit and credit cards and drivers license. As soon as I realized my purse was gone, I called to cancel my cards; someone had already tried to pay their cable bill with it. At least I had an excuse to buy a new purse!
Eric and I went to pick up Stephanie early in the morning on Tuesday. She was the very last person off the plane, which I think made Eric a little worried. We walked around the city a little while, went to the coca museum (tried the coca elixir which made me feel a little silly and helped Stephanie with some minor altitude sickness) and had breakfast with Lealah and Ryan. Later that afternoon we went back to our hostel (The Adventure Brew Hostel that I stayed in last time I was in La Paz) and went up to the bar (where there is wifi) to take care of some planning. Planning quickly turned into tasting the beer, tasting the beer quickly turned into drinking the beer, which quickly turned into Stephanie taking a nap. Eric and I continued planning until it was time to get our passports, then we came back to the hostel and had dinner followed by a beer spa for Stephanie and myself.
The next morning we woke up early, enjoyed our all you can eat pancake breakfast (included in the hostel rates) and then went to explore the city again. We took pretty much the same path (BTW Laurel tried to get us lost on the steepest hills she could find)) we took on Sunday (Easter and election day) when the roads were deserted – quite a different experience. One of the highlights was definitely Stephanie feeding the pigeons (I had one on my arm before I even opened the bag of food... Look Mom I can catch pigeons!) – putting my attempt in Buenos Aires to shame. We enjoyed a variety of street food and then spent the remainder of our day frustrated trying to purchase plane tickets, train tickets and a jungle tour. Even after several hours, we remained unsuccessful at most of this.
We woke up the next morning and took a bus to Copacabana (which is a city on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca), where we planned to meet up with Thumi and JP for a coffee or quick lunch. We were planning on staying there a couple hours before heading to Puno for the night. When we got there, Thumi told us that the only bus that would get to Puno at a reasonable hour was the one they were on, leaving in about 45 minutes (later we found out this wasn't true, so we can only guess that it was Thumi's attempt to spend more time with us). So we quickly changed our plans, scoped out the town as quickly as we could and hoped on a bus to Puno. (Note: Puno is one of my least favorite cities, right up there with Uyuni. I was not happy about the prospect of going back).
Crossing the border was surprisingly easy. Stephanie was particularly excited about the fact that we were able to walk across the border from Bolivia to Peru. Eric and I were particularly excited that the let us out of Bolivia.
Puno is just how I remember it (dirty and full of pollution, with limited views of Lake Titicaca from the city center), except maybe a little colder. We stayed in Americano Hotel, which was nice and relatively cheap (about $10 per person in a triple with a private bathroom). The five of us went out for dinner, came home exhausted and went right to sleep.
So now Eric, Stephanie and I are on a bus from Puno to Cusco. We decided to forgo the cheap bus for a tourist bus, which stops several times for sight seeing and museums and includes lunch. We should arrive in Cusco around 5pm, and we'll leave the following day around the same time to start making our way to Machu Picchu. The next week and a half or so are going to be very busy, since we're trying to cram in a lot while Stephanie is here.