Thursday, February 21, 2002

After sleeping late, we checked out of the hotel and grabbed a taxi for El Cementario Terminal, where we could get a ride to the border. El Cementario is not so much a terminal as it is just an area of town where mini-buses and collectivos congregate. And it was an extra mess there today due to the storm. We had to ask around to find the right corner for the Desaguadero-bound buses.

We got on a small bus today instead of a collectivo/minivan, thinking it would be more comfortable. Boy, were we wrong! It was hell. There was almost negative leg room, and the guy in front of me smelled so bad I actually had to tie a bandana around my face just to survive. Later we realized that it wasn't him that smelled so painfully awful; it was the box of live chickens in his lap. And I thought chicken bus was just an expression. The fare was only $1.30 for the three-hour ride, but I think that was too much.

There have been many problems in Bolivia over the last few months with roadblocks instituted by the campesinos to protest their government's efforts to eradicate the growing of coca. As we were watching the news last night, we saw that La Paz wasn't the only city to get hit by the freak storm, but also Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, and others. We also saw where the campesinos were temporarily removing their roadblocks so that emergency equipment could get through. That was good news for us, because since we'd been in La Paz, they had blocked the roads leading out of Bolivia and into Peru. We saw tons of former roadblocks on the road to Desaguadero. There were rocks, boulders, burned-out trees, burned-out cars, and lumps of sod all over the road, with just enough of one lane cleared for a vehicle to get through.

Lago Titicaca en Desaguadero

There weren't nearly as many people crossing the border at Desaguadero as when we'd entered Bolivia a week before, presumably because the more popular border crossing at Copacabana was now open. I got my passport stamped to exit the country without incident, but then it was Tom's turn. He couldn't find his tourist card that's issued to you upon entering the country, and they required it upon exiting. It's just a stupid little meaningless form, but they want their paperwork! I'm sure he dropped it one of the four times they felt the need to check our documents when we first arrived. After making us spend the next several minutes tearing through our luggage, they finally gave up and I guess just deported him. Whew!

In Peru we began three-hour hellacious bus ride number two of the day. The bus was almost full when we boarded, so Tom and I weren't able to sit together. We had slightly more leg room on this bus, but less room overall. I sat next to a pregnant woman, and there simply was not enough room for our two fat butts in that one little seat. It was also hot and crowded and noisy. As we got near Puno, the driver picked up more passengers, and now the aisles were full as well.

Plaza de Armas de Puno

Finally we arrived. Who would have thought we'd ever be so glad to arrive in Puno, but we were. We checked into San Antonio Hostal where we'd stayed before, then returned to the bus station to get tickets to Cusco for tomorrow. For only $4.35 each we got reservations on a real bus this time. We didn't want to get stuck on the hell-buses again tomorrow, as it's a seven-hour trip.

Drunks on Parade

Poor Puno. It has a lot of potential, from the location mainly, but really it's a dump. As we walked around, we stumbled across a weird little drunk parade. I don't know what the people were parading about, but they were lit! We were walking over to Lake Titicaca, but the closer we got, the rougher the area looked. We got within about a block of it before we turned around.

All Danced Out


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