|My journey did not start very well. Arrived at the bus terminal at ten pm - as was told -and found no one at the sale desk. There was only a note saying that buses to Copacabana leave at 9pm. Great!! Please don't tell me that I have missed my bus!! Checked the time of departure on my ticket, and it really did say 10:30. Ok, paid my departure tax and went through to look for my bus. Except the name of the bus company wasn't printed on the ticket, and had to ask several waiting buses if there were going to my destination. So, walked up and down several times, before someone was kind enough to walk me to the sale desk again. It turned out that all the resevations of my booked company were bumped onto a bus of another company.
Was pretty pissed off with that. Firstly, that there was no note or messages telling me this. Second and most importantly, I had deliberately paid $5 more for a direct bus to the Bolivian border, so that I could get another three hours sleep on the bus. My new reservation had a change of buses at Puno - the Peruvian gateway to Lake Titicaca - at 5am, a pretty unfriendly and cold time of the morning. Luckily for me, I could try to get a refund a week later when I get back to Cusco. Unluckily for the señorita who sold me the ticket, I now have enough Spanish to give her a sore ear.
Was very saddened to see how packed the gangway was with people (and young children too!) sitting on their luggages. Despite of that, the driver was still making numerous stops picking up more people. These poor people had to endure a seven hour journey, through windy mountain paths, during the coldest time of the night. I desperately wanted to give my seat to the seven year old boy (who was taking his first passage to Puno), but I knew that I wouldn't be able to survive the aisle myself. Discussed this problem (amongst others), with Cecilia, a teacher formerly from Cusco, but now living in Puno. I have rarely spoke Spanish just before sleeping, and having to speak it first thing when waking up!
But as it turned out, the journey wasn't too bad. Had expected the night to be really really cold, but I managed to sleep through it wearing only two t-shirts, and my fleece jacket as a blanket. My sleeping bag stayed in its bag, even though I had a window seat! Think I must have been kept warm by the heat radiated from all the other Peruvian passengers wrapped up thickly in layers of blankets!
Was very surprised to see how big and sprawling Puno was. And the bus terminal had the very fortunate position of being on the lakeside. My annoyance from the night before quickly evaporated with my first sighting of the lake! Wow! It was really pretty, especaially with the early morning lighting!
Got chatting to an American couple, who were also on my bus (thought I was the only foreigner on it!) and were about to change onto the same bus as me to Bolivia. The girl had been working for an NGO in Cusco for a couple of months, and exclaimed, "Oh! Paddington has come home!", when her colleague brought a stuffed Paddy (bought off eBay) to the office only a few days previously. Needless to say, I tried to get this colleague to lend us this VIP for the grand opening!! Well, will see if that is possible!
Surprisinly did not feel too tired on the second leg of the journey - a three hour bus trip along the edge of the Lake to Copacabana - probably the nicest border town I have been to so far!! Spent most of it chatting to Ilke (near Hanover, Germany), who had just finished volunteering in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The border crossing took a while, as there were a few tourist buses crossing the border at the same time, but with no problems. The officer stamping my passport did not count how close to my permitted 90 days I was, and didn't even check my photograph to make sure that the passport was really mine!!
Pulled into Copacabana at about twelve (we lost an hour, as Bolivia is one hour ahead of Peru). Amanda (Australia) and Emily (New Zealand) were also spending the night in Copa, so the three of us checked into a room with a terrace overlooking the lake. Then with Ilke, we enjoyed a very late breakfast on the lakefront, after which it was a quick goodbye to Ilke, who was continuing onto La Paz.
Managed to do more or less everything suggested in the Lonely Planet on my first day. We went to the Moorist Cathedral (but the wing with loads of burning candles was under repair, and none of the waxed graffittied walls could be found), and even had enough time to see the "blessing of the cars", a twice daily occurred event. There were loads of cars and buses queued up waiting patiently, with chains of flowers and confetti on their windscreen. At 2:30pm, three priests appeared with buckets of holy water, and threw them onto the cars. As well as this, they also sprayed a bottle of beer over them, and setting off firecrackers under the engine. Without a guide explaining the purpose of this, I went away feeling sceptical about how much good the blessing really is. Some of the cars failed to start immediately afterwards, and those who could drive away, had their windscreens covered with so much confetti, I wasn't sure how they managed to see out of it. I guess they now really need all the luck they could get to make sure there will be no accidents!!
At around four, roused out of a nap to climb up the Cerro Calvario, a site of pilgrimage, which many Bolivians (have to get used to not sayign Peruvians all the time!!) make the half an hour climb to the Cross. For me, it was more for the spectacular sunset at the top. Thought that the sun set at about five, but when it was almost six, the sun was still going strong. Luckily had Anne (Australia) to keep me company, as we waited out the sunset, and even had time to climb down and up to another little mountain close by.
More more waiting for dinner, at a cute and warm looking resturant offering vegetarian paella. Lots of people were also attracted to the place, and there was only one waiter - typical Latino style - and the cook was probably only an eight year old boy. Amanda, Emily and I only had our drinks served almost an hour after we had ordered. We were lucky that our starters and main were served within two hours of waiting. A bigger table full of hungry Germans, Americans and Italians had to bang on the table, and even clearly blurting out "we want food!!". They were there before us, and only got some of the starters as we were leaving.
More chilled was at an African themed bar (whose name I have forgotten), where a guy staying at our hotel was playing music. He was a talented Chilean guy on the drums, and also a didgeridoo which he had made himself. His partner was on the saxophone, and the two of them improvised very well together. Very nice to drink our Paceña beer to! But the long night bus journey was taking its toll, and we all retreated into bed though the night was still young...