Our Peruvian bus guide gives instructions on how to proceed before he leaves us to the authorities in Copacabana, Bolivia. All passengers travelling from Cusco to La Paz will need to leave the Peru Hop bus and pass immigration on foot, walking the distance between official Peruvian and Bolivian ground. We get stamped out of Peru, exchange our remaining Peruvian soles to bolivianos and follow the stream to the Bolivian immigration.
The immigration procedure is slow for a bus full of people troubled by all the paperwork to be done. Finally through with the necessary stamps obtained in our passports, we rush to get seats together on one of the waiting buses – or at least seats on the same bus. It seems to be in vain. The busses are filling up. It turns out that we will have to split between two buses until we reach Copacabana, Bolivia – which is actually not that far.
Despite a road blockade between Puno in Peru and Copacabana in Bolivia our bus company (in charge of the Bolivia Hop / Peru Hop buses) provides an amazing service to get all passengers going from Cusco to La Paz through to their destinations with a detour over the mountains, although with a 4-hour delay.
Our stay in Copacabana is, due to the changed route, shortened accordingly. We spend an intense hour in Copacabana buying snacks for the onward trip, having a long-awaited meal, taking photos at dusk and withdrawing Bolivian currency. Relieved, we get on the next bus scheduled at the fall of darkness.
Winding upwards in the twilight with a flaming sunset in the background we enjoy the most panoramic views. The scalloped bay and the surroundings with all the lights reveal where people live up the hillside. We are looking forward to getting to La Paz. The seats are obviously of a different and lower standard on the Bolivian bus than on the bus on the first leg of the journey in Peru.
Anyway, before putting ourselves too comfortably in the seats, we do remember that in a short time we will have to get out again. The Strait of Tiquina is the narrow passage between the two parts of the Lake Titicaca where we will be crossing. For entertainment the guide puts a movie on, although with mixed success. The road in Bolivia is not extremely well maintained, and every time there is a bump, the screen goes black.
To us it seems quite amazing that there is no bridge connecting the peninsula with mainland Bolivia at San Pedro. The stretches of road on both sides are actually part of an important route from Peru to La Paz on the other side. We do not believe our eyes when we then realise that our Bolivia Hop bus is going to be ferried over on kind of a flat barge. All passengers will, though, be transported in small motorboats, assumingly for security reasons.
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It is both spectacular and stunning to watch. Speechless we follow that the cargo, our bus, is being loaded on the barge and minutes later leaves from the dock. Seeing our bus with the passengers’ belongings left inside, floating off on a barge in the darkness, leaves us with a weird feeling inside. It looks a bit dangerous and worrying that this tall and heavy vehicle is being transported on a flat raft-like board of a size not much bigger than the bus itself.
The barge is slower than our boat, and it takes time to load and unload it as well. Having crossed the Strait of Tiquina, we wait on the other side in the cold for our bus to turn up. Even if pretty warm during day, temperatures at night get down to the freezing point. This is the typical alpine climate of the Andes Mountains. From a stall nearby locals sell food and hot drinks in plastic containers to the arriving passengers.
Later on we comprehend that we are maybe luckier than we at present have known of. Apparently there are frequent strikes and blockades of the main road in Bolivia around Copacabana. We read in recent Bolivian newspaper articles that since 2011, when the ideas of a bridge were presented, the local population has opposed to the commencement of the construction.
About 200 lake families are dependent on and make a living out of the crossing. They count on the income they get from transporting people on boats and even barges across the strait. What they ignore is the poor condition of some of the vessels as well as the danger they may expose the passengers to. Now and then when political initiative has been too threatening, the shore residents have responded by simply blocking the road to La Paz. At times it is a real nuisance to both Bolivians and Peruvians – as well as tourists on the way from Cusco to La Paz.
Fortunately, today our course has not been affected. However, as far as we understand, other days things do not run that smoothly. Those days you cannot rely on getting through to your destination due to such road blockades, occurring for some reason or another.
From our experience we therefore realise that it is a good idea to check Peruvian and Bolivian road authority websites before going! Strikes and blockades on the roads from Cusco to La Paz often occur at very short notice. So it is wise to count on an extra day before onward journey from La Paz – in particular if you have a flight!
Our days in Peru and Bolivia have been pretty packed. We have wanted to make the most of our trip, including our journey to La Paz. Going by bus all the way from Cusco to La Paz is a full 24-hour trip. Before arriving in the small lakeshore town Copacabana, Bolivia, we have had a scheduled stop at the Lake Titicaca in Puno, which is a straightforward way to include a visit to the Lake Titicaca floating islands. In this way the bus journey has outperformed the alternative: flying into Bolivia.
Read about the stop in Puno including time to visit the floating islands: Lake Titicaca floating islands
A further advantage of choosing Bolivia Hop / Peru Hop has been that this bus company takes the passengers right to their accommodation, if you choose a hostel on their ‘list’. This means that the bus goes to a number of hostels located in central La Paz. We have checked that the Bolivia Hop bus has guaranteed drop-off at the Adventure Brew Hostel! So we promptly have made a booking there! It has then been reassuring to know that even if we will arrive at 11 p.m. in central La Paz, we will not need to worry about finding our way from the bus station to our accommodation at this hour!
We are taken right to our hostel, and we are definitely not disappointed. Even at this time of night we are met by a doorman, a porter and two receptionists. Our two pre-booked rooms are maybe not the most spacious and modern rooms, but the employees are extremely service-minded!
In the morning we get an excellent breakfast. The staff behind the bar desk prepares a plate of fruit and an omelette for everyone, according to individual preferences. That there are freshly squeezed juices of exotic fruits ad libitum is just the icing on the cake! From the top floor restaurant we have the most gorgeous view of the Mi Teleférico cable car!
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‘Adventure Cusco, Copacabana, Bolivia by Peru Hop Bus’
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Adventure Cusco, Copacabana to La Paz by Peru Hop Bus:
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Copacabana Bolivia – Peru Hop bus