Puno to Copacabana, Peru to Bolivia, this is a trip that takes between three and four hours by bus. Indeed, I had a bus ticket in my hand that morning, but the moment the man behind the counter said “No bus”, I just knew my day was going to be… different.
Initially, I thought that I was about to have the most boring day of my trip. I had been busy the night before spending the last of my Peruvian currency, which I knew would be useless in Bolivia, and for the first time during my journey I was in a town with no friends to stay with (I almost linked up with my Lago Titicaca tour guide but her mum wasn´t down).
Alas, my thoughts were to be proved wrong. So, so wrong.
I quickly realized that I was far from alone in my predicament. Other dismayed travelers began to fill the area, determined not to be set back by yet another Peruvian drivers´ strike. First in Cusco, and now this…
Those crazy Peruvians.
I overheard two French Canadians nearby, in a dialogue with a dodgy-looking taxi driver about the possibility of driving to Copacabana, avoiding the road-block by taking an alternative route out of town. Almost immediately I decided I was down.
“At least it will be an adventure.” How ironic my words now sound.
There were around twenty other “gringos” opting to brave it by boat, crossing the border via Lago Titicaca, but the three of us eventually decided to stick with our original choice, with “comfort” as the supposed lure.
Five minutes later we were being dropped off at the boat port, with the taxi driver demanding three soles for the trouble.
Oh my days blud.
So, boat it was. After hearing the rumours of an eight-nine hour boat ride being confirmed, I was pleased to see other young people who could at least provide conversation.
The assortment of individuals was incredible – me, the two Canadians, two Israelis fresh from military service, two young Argentinians (including Chippa-the-Che-Guevara-look-a-like), a multi-lingual Austrian girl, and two “We don´t speak a word of Spanish” English guys…amongst others.
I lost count of how long we were waiting for that boat to depart. Debates arose over how much we should pay (big shout out to the man dem who paid my fare), when we should pay, and even whether or not a Peruvian passenger was our tour guide (she definitely wasn´t!)
Eventually, two hours after I should´ve been boarding that comfy bus, we were off. And, sure enough, eight hours and four sea-sick casualties later, we had arrived, and that farcical episode was done and dusted.
Ha ha ha ha… as if.
After six hours, our friendly boat driver announces that the sea is getting too rough and will only get worse, and that we must head for the Peruvian shore, two hours to our right.
OK, fair enough, we´ve bypassed the strike, now we´ll arrive in a nice, friendly Peruvian town and get a bus or taxi to the border.
But in the words of Amy Winehouse – noooo, noooooo, no.
We are dropped off on, literally, a random Peruvian farm.
There is nothing there. Nothing. De nada.
After some confused walking, we find that one young joker happens to have a taxi in his garden. It looks as though it hasn´t been driven for decades.
Me and the two Argentineans hop in (although the putting the wheelchair in the boot detracted from any kind of swiftness), and a ´collectivo´ (read = small, cramped minibus) is sent back for the others.
The array of “absolute facts” we hear in this next town was simply incredible. The border closes at 6pm, the border closes at 8pm, the border is open 24 hours a day. We have by-passed the one and only strike in Puno, there is yet another strike in the town ahead, the strike is completely and utterly finished.
With all but no hope remaining, we decide to again employ the taxi/collectivo tactic to get as far as we can. One of the Israeli´s momentarily tried to explain how he thought I should “stay here with the others”, but I had already lost respect for him when he told me about the time he nearly “shot him in the fucking face.” A Palestinian, “illegally” trying to build a house.
We finally got to the border town. I had woken up at 6am, and we were now approaching 10pm. But not long to go now.
The border was closed.
“At least it will be an adventure.”