Cusco and crossing into Bolivia
November 18, 2013 | By Mitch & Jewels |
Transit can be slow and we are in no rush. After our days in Pisac in the Sacred Valley, we decided to spend a night in Cusco before heading to Copacabana, on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca.
Hostel and Revelations about Water in Cusco
When we got back to Cusco from Pisac, we decided to wander around in search of a suitable hostel. After about two miles (about the comfort limit of our packs), we ended up at Hostel el Arcano in San Blas, almost directly across from our last place. For 60 soles the night ($20 US), we got a lovely room on the top floor with a private bathroom, internet, breakfast, and theoretically hot water. The place is adorable and the seating area on the top floor has great night and day views of the city and is a perfect place to hang out. The staff/owners are super lovely and helpful — we only wish we had stayed in this hostel our first few days in Cusco too!
The only problem was that the hostel was doing some maintenance on the water system so we ended up in a bizarre situation. There was no water at all that whole night (but by the next morning the toilets worked and by afternoon there were deliciously hot showers). Meanwhile, it was fascinating to watch them work. Apparently the city water system in Cusco only pumps water in the mornings and evenings, so each building has its own reserve water tank and pump. What’s bizarre is that the reserve tank is literally right underneath the floor. They pulled up some tiles on the ground floor and there was an open tank of water right there! You can see the plumber guys just hanging out over the water below.
Cusco Activities and Tourism Attractions
Meanwhile, during our day and a half in Cusco, we decided to check out a few of the touristy things. The Choco Museum is laughable — apparently their chocolate making workshops are fun, but the free “museum” is nothing more than a way for them to get tourists to spend money on American-priced desserts and hot chocolate. (The hot chocolate was tasty.)
The Inka Museum entry is about $3 USD and fully worth that. It’s not the most phenomenal museum, but there are some neat artifacts from Incan and pre-Incan times and it offered us a really great complement to all the ruins we have been seeing. Some of the Google-translate-style English signage (with Peruvian accent integrated into the spelling) is pretty hilarious, as are the cartoon-drawings of naked Incans pointing out where the bathrooms are.
We also realized that we neglected to talk about some of the great eats in Cusco. There are tons of places where you can get a solid set lunch for $2 to $5 USD — totally decent food, great soups, and very filling. There are also fantastic options outside of set meals. Two favorites (both in San Blas area) are (1) La Boheme, ridiculously delicious crepes made by a Frenchman while travelers bantered in a mix of English, French, and Spanish, and (2) Korma Sutra, an Indian restaurant that rivals anywhere in New York (plus they have a tandoori cuy, or guinea pig, appetizer).
We also stepped off the tourist track (or onto it) with a couple of yoga classes (all in English) at Inbound Yoga in San Blas. Classes cost about $7 USD and were super lovely with a bit of an Anusara twist. I especially enjoyed hearing how a non-native English speaker described certain things — like “if your shoulders are disconnected” — so well said!
Bus from Cusco to Copacabana
After a bit of searching and researching, we decided to take a night bus from Cusco straight to Copacabana. While we ultimately got to our destination, we were pretty pissed about some of the bait and switch. We spoke with a few different travel agencies in Cusco and decided to go with Peru Agency (who booked through Nuevo Continental) because the lady there seemed most knowledgeable.
Apparently to do that particular trip, you need to do a night bus because the Bolivian border closes at certain hours. We were told the price of S/95 (approx USD 32) per person would include full beds, no bus changes, and a clean bathroom. What we got were two bus transfers (three buses), semi-bed reclining seats, and a horrific bathroom. Plus, when we got to the bus station and they re-wrote our tickets, they appeared to be priced at S/50 per person.
In retrospect, we should have either gone to the bus station in Cusco earlier that day and bought our tickets directly for the cheaper price, or gone with one of the online deals which seemed to promise one bus, clean bathrooms, full bed seats, and mineral water and tea on board. Who knows if it actually would have been better, but we were disappointed with our experience.
The Border Crossing: Peru to Bolivia
Since the US postal service had lost my passport, and with it, my Bolivian visa, we were a bit scared about this border crossing. We’ve heard that it can be challenging for Americans and recommend having your paperwork prepared if you don’t have a visa in advance… we didn’t have any problems. (Note: Most nationalities don’t need a visa to enter Bolivia, but they are apparently still pissy about Americans because of some of our past presidents.)
You want to have super clean bills for the exact $135 fee; they don’t give change so it cost me $140. They rejected two of my $20 bills (for barely perceptible damage), but luckily we had been told to bring spare ones with us. We also had an extra copy of my passport, extra passport photo, a printout of the online visa application, and the info on my flight out to show proof of exit. They did not ask about a Yellow Fever vaccination or the letter of invitation / hotel reservation that the Bolivian consulates in the US sometimes require.
… And now, we are in Bolivia! Next entry coming soon on our experiences at Lake Titicaca. 🙂