I'm booked on a tourist bus to Copacabana, the last town in Bolivia before Peru, situated on Lake Titicaca. It's to pick me up from the hostel at 07:30. A boy enters to direct us waiting few outside to the busy road with our bags. The bus is late and we bundle our bags and ourselves into porches, recesses and enclaves. After ½ hour the bus slowly filters down the street with the rest of the traffic. It doesn't stop. Instead the baggage hold and front doors open automatically. We haul our back packs into the hold and clamber onto the moving vehicle. Cool! The girls didn't think so.
We travel in my luxurious tourist coach until we reach Lake Titicaca. After a short speech in Spanish by the driver everyone jumps off. Not knowing what's going on I follow everyone else and join a queue by the square. There are some 8 to 10 rough looking dogs playing about making everyone feel nervous. Then 3 of them break out into a fight. Girls squeal and back away. Not to be out done, another mean looking 3 start fighting next to the queue. This time even the blokes back away. I stand my ground figuring the dogs aren't interested in humans. The next thing I know, I am the queue! Everyone had scattered! So I step up to the window counter and ask for "one"! If only I knew what "one" I was buying! Then I spot my bus driving on the lake. I look again, nope. It's on a very low wooden barge being floated across. I then realise I'd just bought a passenger ticket to get myself across. Cool.
The crossing was a lot more choppy than I expected and I wondered how may buses and coaches had been lost on the crossing. Money spinning idea :: Set up scuba diving expeditions to tour the wreaks!
On landing on the other side I'm singled out by a Policeman who asks for my passport. Hearing a lot about bogus Policemen working alone in phony uniforms scamming tourists I tell him it's on the bus (as oppose to my right zipped trouser pocket). We'll see how much he really wants it! He turns to his Police partner standing next to the mini Police station and says he's going to the bus. Bugger. I never saw any of that! So we walk to where the buses land and it drives straight past us, back to where we came from. My Police buddy gets annoyed and keeps demanding my passport. I'm adamant it's on the bus so we start walking back. I calm him down a little by handing him a passport photocopy from my wallet but he still wants the original.
At the bus I climb on, fath about a little by my seat and take my passport out of my trouser pocket. By this time the hordes of tourists are piling back onto the bus making it impossible for me to get off. I can hear the grumpy Policeman shouting for me. "I'm coming!" I hop off and proudly present my passport. He flips through it, stares at my Bolivian stamp, screams "30 diaz!" and drags me off to the Police station with a walk that suggests, "I have you now!" I leap back to the bus and tell the driver not to leave with my bags. Better than that he accompanies me back to the station. The Policeman shouts at me incessantly, he thinks I've out stayed my welcome and my 30 day Visa has run out. He can't count. I protest in my best Spanglish, "Si, 30 diaz, I salidar manana!" The driver converts it into Spanish and throws in some dates to boot. The Policeman is forced to back down. I have 1 day left. The fact cannot be denied. Not happy in the slightest he lets me go. I thank the driver. Phew!
Arriving in Copacabana for lunch I realise I've caught a cold from the mountain. I look forward to cosying up in a warm bed for the night. I walk up the hill to Hostel Culpa. This place is recommended by my Travel Book and as I've not stayed anywhere mentioned in my book yet, I'm keen to try it out. They're booked up. Only a family suite left which he'll give me for $20 US. My head is pounding with a massive headache, I'm carrying large bags and I feel ill. I figure £10 isn't going to break the bank so I take it. Only the room needs cleaning before I can use it. So I drop by bags off and head into town for dinner. On my return some 3 hours later I startle some cute puppies and am attacked by the midget mother. I arrive at my room with it attached to my right boot. Sigh. I enter and notice a personal stuff scattered all around, clothes, food and toiletries. I return to reception. Unable to explain I drag someone back to the room. He understands. Between the 6 people at reception no-one knows what's going on so I have to wait ½ hour for the original (and English speaking) receptionist to turn up. It turns out to be a simple mistake, I'm next door. Room number 18, not 19!
The room is a beautifully designed, one of a kind, 2 story maisonette with a mini kitchen, stone bathroom and real hot water! The front wall is a giant window giving amazing views of Lake Titicaca below. Woah! I thought I had lucked in, or so I thought until I saw the Hot Water Bottles and the calendar. It then struck me that no place I'd stayed at in Bolivia ever had any kind of heating of any kind. Here was no exception, hence the Hot Water Bottles. Worse still, next month on the calendar was marked a festival to celebrate the Coldest Day of the Year! Bang goes my cosy night in!
I kip for a few hours before I wander into town for dinner. It is dead. I grab chicken, rice and a beer at a local cafe with no doors. I could tell I was ill and had a cold. I couldn't face my beer. Bed for 12:00.
Posted by Steve Eynon