2/3 Highlights!

So, due to our crazy schedule changes, we’re actually past the 2/3 mark on our trip :-(.  But, since we just left South America and are heading to Central, we figured now would be the most logical time to do our “Close-enough-to-2/3rds” superlatives!

Days in South America:  168

Dollars Spent (not including flight):

Countries Visited: 4

Books Read: 19 (Carrie), 12 (Zach)

Number of shirts left: 6 (Carrie), 3 (Zach)


Favorite Food: ceviche (Zach), llapingachos (Carrie)

Favorite Snack: corn/cheese pancake thingies from Ecuador

Favorite Beverage: Campos de Solana vino tinto from Tarija, Bolivia

Most Craved Food Currently: orange cheese (Carrie), sour cream (Zach)

Things We’re Most Excited For in USA:  friends, Netflix, cooking, baking (Carrie), telling stories to family and friends (Zach)

Most Annoying Phenomenon: staring people

Longest Bus Marathon: 3 days almost-straight, Trinidad, Bolivia to Arequipa, Perú

Favorite Activity: still The Inca Trail with The Southwest Circuit as a close second.

Nicest People: still Colombians

Favorite Big City: Lima, Perú

Favorite Small City: Cuzco, Perú

Dumpiest Town: Uyuni, Bolivia

Best Hostel: Hostal Las Olas in Copacabana, Bolivia

Best Place to Open Our Bar Someday: Canoa, Ecuador

Most Enjoyable Hike: Isla del Sol, Bolivia

Most Miserable Hike: Laguna Quilotoa, Ecuador

Most Controversial Post: Happy Birthday Blog

Worst Addiction: Fried chicken

Most Life-Changing Moment: getting engaged

Hottest Place: Colombian coast

Most Mosquitoes: Bolivian Amazon

Biggest Disappointment: Taganga, Colombia

Biggest Ripoff: Bus from Medellin to Santa Marta, Colombia during Easter week=130,000 COP ($70) per ticket

Still Our Favorite Country: Ecuador!!!!!!!  We love you!!!!

Goals for Central America

1. Not sweat to death!

2. Show Zach’s friend Steve a good time in Nicaragua!

3. Do more filming!

4. Improve our Spanish!

5. Make it home safely, and with a little bit of money left.

The Three-Day Bus Marathon

After spending a couple days in Trinidad, we decided that the whole jungle adventure sounded a lot better than it actually turned out to be.  After spending over a week to get away from it all, we found ourselves again at the bus station looking for the fastest way back to civilization.  We wanted to get straight back to La Paz from where it’s a quick jump back to Perú and new and exciting things.  This turned out to be harder than expected.  There are three roads in and out of Trinidad.  One heads north to the Brazilian border, a journey of unknown hours that drops you off in the middle of the jungle.  The second is the road to La Paz.  This road is about a two days’ journey and at the time of our inquiries was passable only by 4×4 since it is destroyed every rainy season.  The third highway is the main way in, but involves backtracking all the way to Santa Cruz, an overnight trip, and then taking another overnighter to La Paz from there.  After some research, the 3rd option, though boring and backtracking, turned out to be the shorter, cheaper, and easier adventure.  So we decided to come back later that night and try to pick up a cheap ticket for the next day.

We had noticed the hundreds of motorcycles in the center of Trinidad, blocking up the main square, and sure enough when we got to the bus station the news was bad.  “No hay bus a Santa Cruz.” “Mañana?” we asked.  “No sé.” The Bolivians were again taking up their favorite hobby which is protesting things by blocking the main roads with rocks and angry mobs.  We had encountered these protests before while en route from Coroico to La Paz.  Our van left us off at the edge of the blockage and we had to walk 4km through lines of boulders placed every block or so.  The protesters were angry about that cost of minivan rides or something, but we were super annoyed because we had never had to walk that far with all of our stuff before.  On the La Paz side of the blockade, the police were showing up armed with huge bottles of pepper spray and the protestors were starting to get loud.  We jumped into the first taxi we found and were happy to be out of that mess.

So, after a night of not knowing how long we would have to endure Trinidad, we walked back to the bus station and were happy to hear that we would be able to take a bus to Santa Cruz (50 Bs each) that night.  So we stashed our big backs and took the cameras, journals, and books to the park where we sat all day waiting for our night bus.  These days sitting around are sometimes nice times to catch up on writing, but after a few hours we are usually pretty bored.  Usually we end up getting ice cream, and sometimes a beer helps to pass the time.  Our bus left at 7pm so we arrived at the terminal the usual 30 minutes before, and the bus left the usual one hour late.  We were tired and the seats reclined, so as soon as we were on the smooth road, we feel right asleep.

At 5:30am we woke in Santa Cruz, feeling some deja vu.  The Santa Cruz bus terminal is the hub that we have spent the most time in this entire trip and we hate it.  But they do sell good cheesy bread which made a nice breakfast.  We were able to get right on a bus to Cochabamba (50 Bs each) after waiting less than an hour and fell right back to sleep.  When I woke we were still in the jungle, but the mountains were visible on the horizon which brought some hope that we might actually make it.  But this bus was super-slow!  We had hoped to make it to La Paz in a perfect 24 hours after leaving Trini, but found ourselves only in Cochabamba at the 24 hour mark.  The thought occurred that we could get a hostel and sleep for a night, but then we found a cheap ticket for a 10pm to La Paz (35 Bs each) putting us in the capital bright and early.  So we bought it and wandered across the street from the terminal to indulge in some of the best street food we have found in South America.  Good, cheap food always helps to cheer us up.

We woke at dawn with the lights of La Paz shinning below us. It was COLD, 0 degrees C read the sign, 5:30 am.  By now we were pretty much braindead as we sat in the terminal, feet going numb.  Eventually we decided that the best and cheapest route was to take the 8:30am bus to Copacabana (25 Bs each), which we did, where we ate a quick lunch then bought a ticket all the way to Arequipa (100 Bs each) on a bus that changed in Puno.  The ticket vendor proclaimed that it was eight hours to Arequipa putting us at our final destination at 9pm.  We had the fastest border crossing ever and but due to slow going and some more protests on the road, we didn’t find ourselves in Puno (where we had to change buses) until 4:30pm.  Getting into the second biggest city in Perú (Arequipa) at midnight didn’t sound like the best of plans, so we decided to end the marathon, switch our onward ticket, sleep in a bed, then continue at 8am.

So finally, the next day, we completed our trek to Arequipa at around 3pm.  That puts the total at 58 hours riding on a bus or waiting in bus terminals (after subtracting time spent in Puno).  This was the biggest bus marathon we have had or (hopefully) will ever have this entire trip.  Was it worth it?  Yes, because we are back in Perú which seems like a first world country after so long in Bolivia.  Yes, we enjoyed the fact that Bolivia is so underdeveloped, but after the extreme conditions of our time in the jungle, it was starting to get to us.  After such a crazy bus marathon, a few days rest in a beautiful and modern city were exactly what we needed.

Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca – Backpacking Bolivia

The Isla del Sol, the largest island in Lake Titicaca, Bolivia is the mythical Incan creation site and still home to several thousand Aymara living in small communities throughout the island.  From Copacabana, Bolivia, we boarded a small rickety boat and embarked on the 1.5 hour trip to the south end of the island.  The island is not that far away but they pack so many people onto the boats that they chug along at an excruciatingly slow pace.  There are several companies that run boats back and forth to the island.  Some of the boats go to the north end of the island, and some to the south.  The cost is 20 Bolivianos ($3) for a round trip ticket in the same day, or 10Bs one-way out to the island and 20Bs for the one way back.  They get you on those one-way tickets.  Boats leave from Copacabana at 8:30am and 1:30pm.  If you are only going out for the day, the 8:30 is your best bet.

Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca - Backpacking Bolivia
The moon and the mountains.

Once on the island we paid the 5Bs tax to enter the south end of the island and made our way up the “Thousand Steps” which were more like 500 steps but still a long way at high altitude.  We passed many people selling crafts, snacks, and drinks, along with an assortment of local pigs, donkeys, sheep, and so on.  The path was very nice and the island calm and quiet.  The islands without cars really start to grow on you.  We found our hostel near the top of the “Thousand Steps” and the kind lady at the front desk showed us to our room;  very simple with one light bulb, a bathroom, and no electrical outlets.  We had a great view of the lake and when the clouds cleared we could see the snow-covered peaks of some Bolivian mountains towering to almost 6,500 meters (almost 22,000 feet).

After getting settled we found a nearby house with a “Restaurante” sign and the woman inside made us some egg sandwiches and french fries.  All of the women on the Isla del Sol dress traditionally with colorful dresses, hats (you will never see anyone without their hat on), and hair separated into two long braids that usually are about two feet long and decorated with yarn pom-poms tied to the ends.  They always carry a bunch of stuff on their backs wrapped up in a woven cloth that they tie around their shoulders.  We watched the sunset then went to bed early, the island so quiet except for the donkeys that complain every once in a while.

We woke early and headed out to hike the island.  The boats from the mainland don’t arrive until after 10am, so we were out by 8:30 with the trail all to ourselves.  We had to buy another pass, this time 15Bs to enter the north side of the Isla del Sol.

Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca - Backpacking Bolivia

The hike took about three hours to the town at the north end of the Isla del Sol.  We stopped along the way to play around in some nice ruins.  The beautiful Lake Titicaca surrounding us, a peaceful blue bliss.

Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca - Backpacking Bolivia

Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca - Backpacking Bolivia

It was fun because there was no one around to tell us “no touching!”  The northern town was located right on the edge of the water and there were lots of Argentinian and Chilean hippies staying there in tents at the edge of the water.  We stopped to eat a cheap sandwich then continued on our way.  The trail was fun and made its way over rocks and back down to the beach then up again through some small villages.

Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca - Backpacking Bolivia

After around five hours of total hiking we found ourselves back where we started, exhausted.  Even though we had applied about four layers of sunscreen, we were still pretty burnt.  Remember that the Isla del Sol is at a high altitude.  iWe were just so close to the sun!  I guess that’s why the island is named what it is.  We slept well then caught the excruciatingly slow 10:30am boat back to Copacabana, Bolivia.

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At the Copa! Copacabana, Bolivia!

Okay, we know that song is not about Bolivia´s Copacabana, but still…

Copacabana Bolivia
View of Copacabana from Cerro Calvario

The town of Copacabana, Bolivia lies 8km from the Peruvian border on the shore of Lake Titicaca.  It is a very peaceful place with lots of indigenous people selling food and crafts along the streets.  In the food market you are able to get a whole fried trout, with potatoes, salad, and rice, for 18 Bolivianos (under $3).

Copacabana Bolivia

Copacabana’s cathedral is one of the coolest churches we have seen on this trip.  The inside was almost tackily-ornate, but we weren’t allowed to take pictures.

Copacabana Bolivia

Vendor’s carts surround the cathedral, selling candles, flowers, champagne and small toys.  Confused about the champagne and small toys?  One of the most famous events in Copacabana is the periodic “Blessing of Miniature Objects.”  People buy small toys and items to represent the normal-sized things they’d like to acquire in the next year.  Hence, cars and houses are the most popular toys to bless.  They then take part in an elaborate ritual involving some prayers and chants, and ending with spraying booze all over the toys.  After this, they go home sure that sometime soon a life-size HotWheels cruiser is gonna appear in front of their house.

Enjoy this post about Backpacking in Copacabana, Bolivia? Check out our archives for other adventures! Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @laaventuraproject and subscribe to our Youtube Channel.