The bus from Puno to Copacabana leaves at 7.30h. You have to be there half hour before for luggage and passport check.
The trip was in Titicaca Tours and cost 20 soles. A bus operator directed at tourists. The bus was not bad. Below, places bed. Upstairs, comfortable seating. The passengers were many young backpackers and two couples in the order of 60 years. I know age because they have to fill in forms at the entrance.
The journey is mostly along the Lake Titicaca.
Countryside, steppe, llamas, cows and many dogs loitering in the streets.
The border crossing is very particular. The driver's assistant says next door, in exchange store, there is the best rates and in Bolivian side is greater the risk of counterfeit currency. I exchange 100 EUR and they took a rate about 10%!.
The next ritual is more confusing. The passengers leave the bus and many follow the other because there is no indications. In Peruvian side we go to one office show the passport and entry paper and they send us to another office. In this, they stamp the paper and we must return to the initial place where they stamp the passport.
Then, we follow the way to the Bolivian side. It is a road, uphill, with rails occupied by street vendors and small craft houses for sale and exchange.
Stairs give access to Immigration. They don ask anything, they stamp and send follow.
After this procession tourists are in the street, in case of rain, they dont have any refuge. The bus is behind us and with the doors closed. Only much later is advancing and is waiting for the passengers. Copacabana is 9 km.
The point of arrival is a plaza that leads into a street full of buses with many people giving away tickets for various destinations.
The Titicaca Tours has an office here.
Quickly we realize that we are on the main street. It is the image that appears everywhere. A descent street facing the lake with houses for the leisure tourists.
The Utama Hotel is in a ramp street. Getting there is a hard time. At the reception they said they had a van with a sign at the bus stop. They could have warned before. Later, I saw a Japanese tourist that took about 10 minutes to climb the ramp. I helped her and realized the difficulty. The suitcase was heavy, very heavy, in addition to the altitude suffocation.
I was on the second floor of Utama. A median room with view to the city. The climb up by the stairs it is not inviting.
The next task was to go down to the lake and visit the Sun Island.
The island is the tourist spots of the Titicaca region. It is the largest island in the lake and was a sacred place for the Incas.
The boat leaves at 13.30h. It is the only chance of go and back on the same day.
I had to be there 15 minutes before. Lunch had to be fast. A hamburger chicken and vegetables in a restaurant / bar lakeside.
The boat trip takes almost half an hour.
Many tourists and a few natives.
At the top, wind and sun. The helmsman was talking to a passenger while protecting a child, however, she fell asleep. With the leg he straight guided the helm.
The arrival to the northern part of the island has a surprise: a stone staircase with tens of meters.
The backpackers must had breaks. Who carrying more weight almost died of exhaustion.
At the pier and at the beginning of the stairs children appear to offer accommodation. Some visitors stay on the island and share the daily life with a family. They are mostly young couples.
After several stops i climb the staircase. The next part was a path where a child posed for photos with a llama. She irritated the animal, it reacted and visitors smiled and took photos. Then, with some fear, they caressed the llama. New picture.
The next step of the way was a street with craft stalls.
I was disappointed. The Sun Island is just a postcard for tourists. Besides, I had one hour only to visit. Later, I learned that this is a false idea, because the most interisting is to enter by south side. The area is greater than 14 km2.
I decided to return to port. I preferred the local environment.
Children wandering, women selling water and crafts to tourists and natives to stroll.
Some people on the island look to the lake waters in a contemplative gesture. The calm is suddenly broken by a tourist, desperate, running toward the boat was gooing. In the extrem of the tip, she pleaded. The boat driver at the end of an eternal minute, finally gave in and return.
Other vessels were arriving. Some with more tourists, others with bags. Groceries for natives and for sale to tourists. Women's groups collect the bags of the vessel, leading to the pier. The climb is made with donkeys to carry the load.
Our return trip was a bit tiring. Whit lot of smoke and the boat made two stops.
Already in Copacabana, the young woman that served the launch said good-bye. She told me that had never been in the Sun Island, she walked around and never had the curiosity to visit the most tourist spot in Copacabana.
There are a considerable number of young foreigners who go to Copacabana seeking to imitate the Goa environment. Living with the natives, to knit and provide intermediation with tourists. They show to be happy and carefree. It's nice.
The return to Utama kill anyone. The night was spent in tourist street, overlooking the lake. Dinner was at a restaurant that is a mix of middle-class tourist with natives young people coming in and out with drinks and something else.
Copacabana - La Paz - Uyuni
Long route. To get the airplane in La Paz to Uyuni, I had to take a bus at 7am.
In Utama Hotel they told me that there were several bus companies and recommended me three. They ensured that there was no problem in sharing bus with natives. They were right. It was a good suggestion.
The night was buzzing because a thunderstorm, just over Copacabana. The thunders were so intense and frequent that it was difficult to hear the noise of the rain.
I left the room too early. Hotel lights were still off and I found one more skill to iPhone.
The hotel front desk said it was too early. Shortly, after some minutes, he told that it was time to leave (maybe the purpose it was sleep a little longer).
A few minutes to 6.30h am, in the dark, I went alone to the bus station through the streets of a Bolivian village. Contrary to all safety recommendations.
In the square of the buses street vendors with their stalls were arriving. Some dogs slept and a bus began to receive passengers.
The silence was broken by an appraiser from customers who shouted "La Paz" La Paz ". Across the street, the men of the vans chanted "Tiquina, Tiquina."
I waited a while, almost half an hour, to see if opened the offices of bus companies. Nothing, everything was still closed. I ended up going to talk to the salesman of single bus to La Paz.
When I entered in the bus there was already a group of French youth. Throughout the trip revealed some of the original features.
They occupied the places without respecting the tickets, if someone appeared to occupy one of the places, they assumed a naive and ignorant air. Worst of all, always expressed a superior air and disgust for Bolivian.
Some minutes latter the bus was filling. In line behind the french there was another tourist. Young. She looked constipated but spent almost half of the trip sing out loud, which irritated the French.
When the engine on entered an elderly couple. The woman was seat beside the tourist that sings Beatles. The man was my neighbor trip.
It seemed that he was cold and repeatedly forced the windows to avoid wind. Minutes later he began to count coins and, later, some 10 pesos Bolivians notes that had all rolled. Sometimes he talked to himself. Gesticulated at same time, as if to say, "This is so and so. End". Later he made another gesture which I translate to: "It's decided."
Almost always very concentrated, he was scouring the nose and when fished something he let the prey on the side of the window seat.
With his wife he was exchanging a few words and then a bag. He had bread inside and pulled out a loaf.
On the streets of Copacabana more passengers. Even on the road that winds the Andes appeared from nowhere a few couples. All with traditional costumes, thick socks, pointed shoes and long braids.
When we reached the pier of Tiquina we had to leave.
A young tourist was very worried. She wanted to know what was going on. The driver spoke to the military and the answer was peremptory: it is forbidden to cross the channel within the bus.
The cross for passengers is made on a small vessel. Costs 2 bs. The crossing is shared with Bolivians.
The view of the crossing is beautiful and the passage is quick. The pier is near military installations. Bolivia is very militarized. They are everywhere.
We resumed the trip and, after many miles seeing Titicaca, we entered the main road. Linking Desaguadero to La Paz.
A punctured tire. Another half hour stop. Bolivian men and women left the bus and, with great curiosity and some comments, attended the tire change.
Shortly, after 10am, the first signs of an urban area.
Confused, not roads. Sellers brick, seeds, beaters ... and tents food.
Hundreds houses with two or three floors in a stripped area. Only the color of brick. Lot of people, with rural air, walk in the streets. Go around the tents, meander through the cars and jump the ditches when they go home.
The traffic starts to get chaotic. In fact, in some places, it is unclear just where the street is.
All serve to move forward, sideways and backwards.
In El Alto, before entering the center of La Paz, I got out of the bus. The driver said airport and I follow his suggestion. Error.
It is better to go to the last stop. It takes longer but is safer. Here we are dumped in the middle of chaos.
Luck was a Bolivian who guided me and even traveled with me part of the journey in a van. Before leaves he took care me to a woman police to ask where was the stop for the airport. She said "is already there and is one van is coming." I managed to cross the intersection in the middle of chaotic traffic and in an instant the van took me to the airport.
The facilities are small, they were under construction and with posters of Evo Morales. The photo of the president is a constant throughout Bolivia.
The flight to Uyini in Amaszonas is fast, 50 minutes.
Although most of the passengers were foreigners, the crew spoke only Spanish.
Before landing we see the immensity of the salar and realize that we are in a desert terrain.
The confirmation comes immediately. On the track we feel the wind that carries immense dust. 14 degrees, not bad.
It's good hotel Jardines de Uyuni. A haven to rest, more to salar travelers.
The batteries were charged watching a soccer game, between Benfica and Juventus. All with new energy. Coca tea, iPhone and Nikon.
Uyuni is very ugly.
Squares of ugly houses, divided by dusty streets and power cables.
Jeeps covered by dusty follow towards hotels. Lot of 4x4 from Bolivia, Argentina and Chile.
The square where is the tourist office is the most excited. With restaurants and lots of people strolling and shopping. As usual, too many dogs. Bit more.
Salar de Uyuni
One singular place.
The gaze is lost on the horizon. Endless and dazzled by the brightness of salt.
We are close to the sky and, with a little water, on the biggest mirror in the world.
it's not easy the access and requires several days to visit, but it is eternal. Unforgettable.
I booked the Blue Line to travel to the Salar, but I wanted to go to the lagoons and the script I had booked did not have it. She suggested me to look around for another operator.
On the street there are a lot. Women selling tours. From 2 to 5 days. To the north of the Salar, to lagoons, bound for Chile ...
I booked one. The scheduled for de departure was 11h am, with more five Israeli.
All bullshit. Most of the jeeps had already gone and I was on land. After a long and annoying discussion, the woman give me back the money and organized my transportation to the cemetery of trains where I would join other group. The tour destination was not the lagoons but Coqueza volcano.
After all, I ended up going on the Blue Line. My companions were a mexican and french couples. The french had done volunteer work in Bolivia.
The railway cemetery is the starting point of the trip. Dozens of jeeps stop here in the morning.
Uyuni had a rail link to transport ore. With the end of mining in the salar, the railway ceased any function.
What remains, in fact, many wagons "urbanized" with "street art". Are almost all painted with names, figurations ... Tourists go up the wagons, take pictures, pose, jump ... The stop is about a half hour. To adapt to the desert, the dust roads and a flat horizon.
The next stop was the salar entry. Several pyramids of salt. Bolivians do the extraction but in few quantities. The salar is protected but, soon, can be changed with the discovery of lithium, a metal with high economic value and is used for batteries of mobile phones.
The pyramids were a new pretext for photos. Groups coming together and used the wide view to optical effects.
Unfortunately there was little rain. The salar, with rain, with a thin layer of water, acts as a mirror. April is not the time to rain, but persists in some places a slight layer of water. But, this year, there was little rain and traces of water are scarce. The ultimate goal of the trip, the photos of the "bigger mirror of the world", will get me frustrated.
The next stop was another place for tourists. The bolivian government managed the passage of the Dakar.
A salt building was created to mark the beginning of a stage. The building remains, built with salt bricks and across a structure where are hosted flags from several countries. In fact, this structure serves more to enhance the government's image and the salar because the rally skirted the salar due to rain. This does not prevent the government to promote marketing with the phrase "Never el Dakar is corrio en el cielo". Beautifull.
In the area of the pyramids of salt, few dozen meters far, passed a couple on a bicycle.
They arrived now. They are French and continue towards the isla del Pescado.
They are guided by GPS and if in doubt with someone who is going around. They have clothes and a thermal tent that protects the intense cold at night. No worries, they will walk unhurriedly. They enjoy.
They also take the opportunity to ask to take them a picture.
Surrounded by the salar the view is spectacular.
Everything is white. We lose the look.
A very strong light that sunglasses can't filter. Walk without the protection of sunglasses is dangerous.
The altitude and the direct sun also obliged to drink lots of water and protect the skin.
In some places the salt makes embroidery. Small circular edges, uniforms, multiply on the horizon.
It was in one of these areas that we stopped for lunch.
In the horizon, from time to time, I saw a jeep and here are wheels traces of motorbikes and jeeps.
In afternoon we stop at Coqueza, where is the Tunupa volcano.
The salar tapers in a stone entrance. Here are the welcome of Coqueza community. Overhead we see the volcano crater.
The village is very small, with a handful of houses and a square where is the church and the tourist office.
The walls are rounded stone and the views of the salar is magnificent.
The day ends with the group preparing to climb the Tunupa the next morning. The depature is scheduled for 4.30h am with a native guide. The system is rotatable. Every day is a different guide.
The night was spent in Coqueza.
It is about 135 km from Uyuni
My companions were climbing the Tunupa.
More than 3,600 meters of salar altitude was enough to force me to take the sorojchi pills.
The highest point of the Tunupa has 5300 meters of height above sea level. I dispensed.
Besides, the night was not good. Wind and the noise of the ceiling plates seemed shots.
The accommodation was rustic. It has several rooms of various sizes. The bathroom is only for last chance and the next door is for one open space.
I wake up very early, was dawn, to take pictures.
All closed in the accommodation. The breakfast was for later and the bath for the next day.
Sunrise in the salar is very beautiful.
The sun rises behind a mountain in the distance, and the reflection expands in the salt. Is more intense in places where there is water.
The Tunupa is refects in the water, as well as the mountain range west of Coqueza.
A fusion of colors gives life to the scene. Minutes after the colors and shadows change intensity.
Gains strength the light in salt and the reflection of the sky in the water but on the horizon persist golden tones.
Some tourists wake up early, also. They went to see the sunrise but half an hour later they went out on jeeps.
The next ride in the salar was to a small lagoon. The site of some birds and three flamingos.
They did not mind I was walking around.
Shortly after came two more.
All quiet. A white sea, I hear only the wind.
Part of the land that makes the transition to the salar has underbrush. It has small water intakes, grazing place for the llamas and sheep. It is noted by the traces. A dog came to me. It took two biscuits and he was very satisfied. I made a friend.
The little more than a hundred Coqueza inhabitants are still asleep.
The sun shines on the stone buildings. Houses and walls earn a golden color.
The Tunupa also takes shape and more intense colors.
it's with the zoom of the camera that i notice some volcano details.
Overhead, is still stopped our guide' jeep.
Sometimes joins another vehicle. Other tourists will climb the volcano.
I continue to walk alone in the salar.
The objective is not confronted with bodies or signs of civilization. Only the colours, the dawn lights and stones that funnel the way for the entry into Coqueza.
Only after half an hour I see in a jeep in the horizon, toward Coqueza.
The shape is a bit unclear. The intense light makes it difficult to look. I'm curious how, in the same circumstances, will react the Nikon lens.
After some minutes I was returning to accommodation. Breakfast and, after, a tour on the village.
A stone uphill divided the main path.
To the east side there was traces of abandoned homes. Perhaps due to an eruption of Tunupa. A wall was the separation of the land for the salar.
It was a stone wall and was built in a very particular way. Round cobbles and they mutually hold, no mass. The walls let pass some light, let you see to the other side. It's more to define territorial lines.
In the end there is a hotel.
To the west, it follows towards the village center. Small houses. Stone and small backyard. For agricultural or to shelter animals.
This road ends at the small square where there was a church and a tour desk.
Two to three natives walk here. More jeeps tourists than people. They had very little shops and store water bottles to sell to tourists. Many makes here a break. To collect information on accessing the volcano.
It's here where the access to the path that goes to Tunupa. They go by jeep and they have to stop on the middle. The rest is by foot.
Shortly before noon my companions returned from climbing. They not reached the top of Tunupa. They were close and they could see the crater but they had to return because the journey would end in Uyuni.
Crossing again the Salar. Now, towards the Isla del Pescado
It's is a mountain that is in the middle of the salt desert and is one of the few places in this region that has biological life. Especially cacti, over all the place. Some have about ten meters high and a few are hundred years old. They are the species that is part of the imaginary of American westerns.
The island appears smaller. No, the length is about 2.5 km.
Near the salar there was restaurant, bathroom and box office. A bit more.
Admission to inland is 30 bs. Access is by natural stairs. Al around the island. Down, up. A little tired because of the altitude.
The view is gaining horizon and a white increasingly intense. Sometimes it's broken by a jeep or a bus that transforms the white monotony.
The island is a meeting point.
There are dozens of jeeps and many tourists enjoying a bunker to lunch.
Most are backpackers, but not "bare foot".
I asked our guide how he knows the way on salar. He said that it is through the mountains. For many tourists who come on their own, these islands serve as a lighthouse because it's not easy to have references.
When we had finished the visit appeared a couple and a child on two bicycles. Another cyclists. What seemed unusual, after all, it is a routine.
At each stop arise bike adventurers. Later, I did an image search on Google. After all, it is not so unusual. There are lot of people cycling on salar. Warning: mobile phones do not work. Only satellite and the price is unaffordable.
Too bad there wasn't rain water.
Just a little, enough to make the full pleasure of to be on salar.
Be in heaven with a camera!
Uyuni - La Paz - Puno
Flight at 7am in Amaszonas. Check-in must be at 6pm.
Passengers arrived before the opening of one airport desk.
It was very cold. Smoking a cigarette outside and we can feel well the ice. Inside, the temperature difference is not great. Despite the heaters it is too cold inside the airport.
Gets the sunrise. Form airport it was possible to see Uyuni and a mountain.
A group of young Germans fill the aircraft.
The trip was well done. The view was spectacular. We said goodbye to the Salar. From the sky we saw the long tracks left by the jeeps.
Another fantastic landscape is Tunupa. Beautiful.
Arrival in La Paz, the airport in El Alto, after i took a taxi to the cemetery area. It cost 60 bs. It was expensive but it was impossible to haggle.
Again the vision of a brick city. Thousands of houses with exposed brick. La Paz has a shape like shell. The area of the cemetery is not different from El Alto.
The cable car crosses the entire city. Must be stunning for photos. Several guidelines say that La Paz is an uninteresting town, has no anchor, a strong reason to be visited. I decided not to stay. I heard many tourists ask the same question: "it is worth visiting the city?" After what I saw, I think I was wrong I was sorry not to stay, at least, one night.
Reached the cemetery the taxi driver left me in the middle of a jungle of vans and ticket sellers.
A lot of noise and a lot of people. Inhospitable to a stranger but i had no problems.
I found a bus that left at 9am to Copacabana. The seat was in front, near a bolivian. With two backpacks and because I wanted to take pictures, I went to the rear seats that were virtually empty.
New passing through El Alto. A stop for several minutes. Recruiters were seeking more passengers. In the middle of the street. On walking areas several women sold food, ice cream, clothes and fruit. All in a frenzy.
Several passengers joined us. A young mother came to the seat where I was. She told me to continue in the same place because she was sitting aside. The child had no age to speak. In the farewell, his father bought him a bag with a liquid. Because the child had no great desire, the mother drank it. I gave him two biscuits but who eat it was the mother, also. Later, I gave her the rest of the pack. She wasn't more than 18 years old. Very young. The type of clothes she wore and skin tone showed she should be Andean .. When the crossing in Tiquina she did not leave the bus and I never saw her again.
I bought smarties for the child but when i returned to the bus they were not there. I eat one bag. Another one was for Jorge's son, the owner of Mirador del Titicaca.
The stop on Tiquina took a few minutes. Just to wait the bus. The "traffic" was intense.
In fact, the central square was full of people. Some with sunday clothes.
Many natives and few tourists.
A lot of people walking, selling souvenirs and fruit. I bought a bunch bananas. The old lady offered me one more. They were huge and nuts.
In the middle of the square the shade of the bandstand was very popular, Behind several boys playing football.
From here we saw a crowded street.
Olders were refuge in the shadows of the little houses.
Tiquina is not big so, quickly, we were on the country road,
In the first journey the driver was in a hurry. There was not much traffic because it was Sunday.
Was a sunny day and some women were washing clothes. To dry, they put the clothes over plants, which did a color mosaic.
Many families worked in agriculture. Others were gather, in a circle. Some of them were lying others sitting.
Still on the side of Bolivia, in some localities, we found meetings of communities.
Elsewhere, young musicians from an orchestra paraded on the street.
On the peruvian side was the bustle of agriculture, housework like washing clothes. But nothing more.
It is curious that the border marks also other differences, mainly in the construction of houses.
The Bolivian side are arranged and painted houses and the bricks are predominantly gray.
The Peruvian side, just over the border, there are colorful houses and dwellings are more dispersed. They spread throughout the valleys.
As we were near Puno, the view become the color of bricks and disorderly concentration of houses without streets. According to David, a peruvian guide, people can not afford to paint the houses.
Another feature of the latest houses is that they have mirrored glass. Cause a strange effect. The reddish bricks and dead colors that are broken by intense reflections in glasses.
The architecture of many housing consists of a ground floor and on top of square modules. As the family grows or is there more money, the house is also increasing. There are few rooms with two floors. More in cities.
A significant part of the trip was around Titicaca.
Bolivian side of the lake has less algae. In some places there is a small harbor with small vessels.
Occasionally we find small fish nursery, also. Trout is one and is cooked in different ways. In Copacabana i ate cooked in the oven, in Puno was fried. They also make steam.
The lake gives a strong aid to livestock.
Many fields serve as pasture for cows, sheep and llamas.
All serve to feed the animals. Even the grass located on the roadsides. The same on the mountains. Although, very steep slopes, cows were looking for food. I not realize how they not fall. It is also usual to saw donkeys and horses. Dogs were everywhere. Abandoned or with a collar and behind the owners.
After going through Copacabana, skyline was dominated by the Andes. Mountain with cliffs. The road cuts the mountains. Then when we approach to Puno, were returning the valleys. With large areas of plantations mixed with homes, small huts and animals scattered everywhere.
The road is paved. It has only two lanes. However, the drivers must pay toll. David, told me that was the "Carretera Panamericana". He was wrong, (David also did not know Cristiano Ronaldo). The Pan American Highway runs almost all of South America always the coast, next to the ocean.
Some roads are being built and in other cases, are visible some recent infrastructure.
In both countries government marketing takes advantage of these opportunities to show work done. The Peruvian side there is also a strong presence of the municipal communication. Puno's motto is: "A serious and active government."
The Bolivian side the situation is quite different. Almost all communication had one face: Evo Morales. Often, with a photograph of the Bolivian President. Since the famous passage of the Dakar to small civil works.
For E., the salar guide, Evo Morales is a good President. He has made many changes and one of her concerns is safeguard Bolivia from foreign interests that only want exploit natural and human resources.
In the Peruvian side the political communication is more competitive and visible.
Due to the political system organization for candidates for the most diverse places: municipal, governors, presidents.
The most common way to advertise the names of the candidates is in murals.
In few kilometers of the road, there are dozens of names painted on houses and walls. When changing from the municipality, there are new names.
The message is very focused on ethical values and action effectiveness. The Bolivian side added nationalist references.
These marks often break the colour dominance of reddish brown bricks.
Peru is also common to find murals about coca plantation.
Travel from La Paz to Puno was done in two bus companies.
Between La Paz and Copacabana I used a common bus, with natives. Perhaps, only there were more four tourists. The ticket was very cheap and had no extras.
Travel between Copacabana and Puno was different. It was a Titicaca Tours bus for tourists.
We started the trip in Copacabana at 13.30 h. Below, sleeping bags. Upstairs, standard seats, with backrest.
The bus was packed and Cusco was the final stop. Many young people and many cross talk. Brazilians, Colombians, Europeans, Israelis ... Noah's ark backpackers. Some passengers were from Chile to Peru, crossing Bolivia.
In the most important stops appeared a Titicaca Tours employee with advices to tourists. In stops where passengers went out, they intermediate services for tours or accommodations.
Many decided to stay in Puno to visit the island of Uros
I returned to the base.
The Mirador del Titikaka where, with the help of George, I reorganized the journey, including the return flight to Lima with Lan from Juliaca.
In the hotel was a portuguese couple, one mexican and swiss couple who had visited Isla del Sol.
They liked the tour and explained to me that they were more hours in the island, the begun the tour on the south side and the staircase, which killed me, they did down. A difference that can change the view on the ride. About Copacabana they shared the point of view: ugly, nothing more. A street and it's over.