Crossing into Peru

We left La Paz behind us on a Friday afternoon, heading north to Copacabana on the shores of LakeTiticaca. Driving out of the city we were greeted by the usual traffic, crazy driving and hordes of people walking up and down dusty streets. Once again, we talked about how much La Paz reminds us of Mumbai, with slightly fewer people.

We drove past Tiwanaku, the main city of the biggest pre-Inca civilisation which we had visited the day before and headed further north. The road to Copacabana is not that long, MapsMe told us we’d be there in a couple of hours. Alas, MapsMe does not account for torrential rain followed by relentless hail. Or the river boat we had to take to cross from one side of the lake to the other. So about 5 hours later, tired and very hungry we arrived in Copacabana.
The tiny town sits on the shores of Titicaca, the biggest lake in South America and the highest lake in the world. It reminded me a lot of forgotten 60s resorts in Greece frequented by gap year brats. Run down buildings, a long shore filled to the brims with swan-shaped peddal boats noone  has used in years, identical restaurants and bars next to each other, the usual tourist tat. Copacabana sits smack in the middle of the La Paz – Cusco tourist route and so after a week of travelling the Bolivian highlands without crossing paths with another westerner and a couple of days in a hostel where we were the only inhabitants being surrounded by gap year brats took some getting used to. And by that I mean, we avoided them like the plague.

We opted out of a day trip to Isla de Sol and Isla de Luna because everything we read about them yelled ‘tourist trap’. Instead we opted for lazy mornings, Insanity sessions at 3,800m (a killer) and a table at the back of a restaurant where we spent a good 6 hours trying to recover the damaged hard drive storing all our pictures, videos and movies.

On our second day in Copacabana we decided to bite the bullet and cross over to Peru. When we crossed into Bolivia from Chile the customs officer told us that one of Gellan’s previous owners left the country without the right paperwork and that we might have to pay a fine on our way out. We drove the last 8km of Bolivian road with a knot in our stomachs. A long queue (with a busload full of gap year brats in front of us) on the Bolivian side of the border. Passports stamped, we are ushered to the customs office. A lone man, listening to a football game in an office. He idly reviews the paperwork with a pencil, stamps it. Inputs Gellan’s details in his circa 1995 computer. Deep breath. Pause. He frowns. Stomach a tight knot. Another stamp. He puts our papers to one side and asks as if we’d mind opening the boarder gate and letting ourselves into Peru… the game you see… We run out hoping that 2 minutes later he wont be chasing us down the road.

Safely into Peru, we can see a storm gathering. iOverlander offers a series of wildcamp points 20-30km from the boarder. The rain is closing in, it’s getting darker quickly and Gellan’s lights are not the brightest. We decide to take a right turn and follow signs to a playa. We are rewarded with a 2km long stretch of pebble beach protected by big cliffs and adorned with big caves. Hot soup, a TedTalks lecture, a movie and we are finally asleep in Gellan to the sound of crushing waves and coots.

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