After leaving Puno, we took a dodgy bus going towards Bolivia. The roads winded past the beautiful Lake Titicaca scenery. But then things took a turn for the worse. At the ferry port crossing over the lake, they told us to get off the bus and pay an extra fee (that we didn’t know about). They put roughly 15 people on a tiny boat to cross the bay. Our bus was driven onto a wooden floatation platform. The day was very windy so our boat was swinging all over the place, and a few of the passengers got quite sick. Thank god they let us get off the bus—we saw other passengers on buses on the wooden platforms. I was annoyed that we needed to pay extra fees and get on this dodgy boat.
After crossing the Bolivian border, we stopped at a small town called Copacabana. If you get to the top of the high hill, it has a great view of the whole town. Beware though, it’s a good 45-minute climb. We stayed a hotel called the Onkel Inn. The owner, Carlos, is a lovely guy and he even ordered us a dinner because we arrived so late! The room overlooked Lake Titicaca. Copacabana is small yet relaxing. You can climb the hill or visit the famous Sun Island. It’s much nicer than Puno, so stay here and just skip Puno.
Our next stop was La Paz. It’s the highest capital city in the world. You really feel the high altitude because it’s mixed with pollution. The city is in a valley and the smog is really bad. We opted to stay in Bolivia for six to eight days. Our aim was to ride the Death Road and see the salt flats at Uyuni.
The Death Road is the most dangerous road in the world. It’s about 65km and you do it on a mountain bike downhill. You start at 4,000 meters and go through clouds, 90 degree corners, rain, and sunshine into tropical jungle. It’s extreme. I had never done mountain biking in my life so it’s a bit crazy or stupid… but I did it! And survived! And I would do it again. The scariest part was when we needed to come back up the road, because the new road was closed. It was two hours of sheer hell. It was getting dark and we were emotionally and physically exhausted so the steep corners gave us the shivers. To celebrate our survival, our group decided to go clubbing and find the famous bar Route 36. Only taxi drivers know the whereabouts of Route 36.
Afterwards, we only had a few hours to recover and hop on an overnight, 11-hour bus ride on a gravel road to Uyuni. We had arranged a three-day tour of Salar de Uyuni. Six of us squeezed into a jeep and went across the salt flats. We stopped to explore a few islands and take some pictures among the deafening silence. We stayed at a salt hostel the first night, and spent the second and third day exploring the national park. We saw pink flamingos, the red lake, the stone tree, and volcanoes, and we even got hit by a small tornado that came out of nowhere. We couldn’t continue our tour of this part of Bolivia because a big snow storm hit the south and we needed to leave, otherwise we would be stuck.
After the tour, we had a few hours to wander around Uyuni before we hopped back on an overnight bus to La Paz. Bolivia has only 10 percent paved roads, so it was another bouncy ride. At night, in the middle of nowhere, a bus tire exploded. We only had a six-hour window to get to La Paz and transfer to another overnight bus back to Peru (Arequipa). Luckily, we made it by the skin of our teeth.