21 October 2012

Chillaxing in Copacabana

Walk through to Bolivia

Ironically, it’s 32 years ago today since my ex and I got together and here I am sitting in an outdoor courtyard restaurant in Copacabana, Bolivia, awaiting my pizza lunch while he’s probably still living the quiet life in Auckland, still slaving away at his business. Funny where life takes you.

Strangely enough, I was chatting away to a New Zealander on the bus here from Puno this morning, though she lives in Sydney, Australia, with her family. Stef is part way through a degree in International Studies so I’m guessing she’s about 20. She’s been travelling for 7 months, having a gap year. I do wonder where kids her age get the funds to travel for a year – maybe generous parents, though she had done 3 months in a summer camp in Canada, which would’ve helped. What a great start to a young life a trip like hers would be – opening her eyes to what the world has to offer and the endless possibilities before her.

The Transzela bus left Cusco at 10pm and got to Puno at 5am this morning. I slept on and off as I had sprung the extra 10 soles for full cama – so worth it! Transzela didn’t have the extra luxuries of the Cruz del Sur bus company, with its snacks, hot drinks and blankets but it did have the same seats so was comfortable enough.

The next bus left Puno at 7.30am, so I had a long wait doing nothing but people watching, and we reached Copacabana at 12noon. The border was fairly quiet – just two buses passing over and hardly any local sales vendors like the last time I crossed here – maybe ’cause it’s a Thursday. The Bolivian immigration officer looked long and hard at the ‘fine’ stamp I got last time I came to Bolivia but still let me in, luckily. Another couple of stamps in the passport – this one contains entirely South American countries … so far.

Not a bad view out my window

A man from the La Cupula Hotel was at the bus to meet other guests so I didn’t have to walk up the hill to the hotel. It’s a quirky little place with fabulous views out over the bay so should be a very relaxing place to chill for a couple of days.

Though it looks beautiful on the surface, Copacabana is more decrepit than I remember from last year. I went for a walk along the waterfront after lunch and it is full of rubbish, the water of Lake Titicaca looks disgustingly polluted and it stinks.

I explored around the church and it’s looking much the worst for wear as well – walls mouldy and crumbling and the whole place has an unkempt look, which is inexcusable when you consider the town taxes every single person who enters the town 1 Boliviano, supposedly as an entry fee for the sanctuary, plus this place is the Basilica of the Virgen de la Candelaria, the most famous pilgrimage site in all of Bolivia. 

The Basilica houses the black Virgin, carved in a dark wood in 1576 to celebrate an incident where the Virgin Mary appeared to some fishermen during a terrible storm on Lake Titicaca and led them to safety. Considering the Basilica and the lake are the main reasons anyone comes to Copacabana, you’d think the locals would take a little more pride in them.

There’s a lot of half-built construction around the streets, accompanied by piles of sand and brick as if prosperity is just around the corner … but, if this is anything like Peru, it could look like that for years!

Copacabana is even more sleepy than I remember as well, with restaurant staff seemingly reluctant to stir themselves to serve you. Unless you’re part of the midday bus changeover crowd, then you’re just an intrusion.

I think that sleepiness is catching. There’s nothing to do here – the hotel rooms have no televisions, I didn’t bring my laptop and I don’t have any books so can’t laze in one of the hotels lazy-looking hammocks reading. So, feeling pretty tired from the journey, I lay down for a nap at about 4pm and didn’t really get up again - except to change into my nightie and actually get into bed – till 5am, and then I kept snoozing till about 7.30. I am still getting over a cold but I think the real problem is Copacabana-itis!

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