across the border
Yunguyo Travel Blog› entry 7 of 8 › view all entries
I grabbed my bags, said goodbye to Olav and jumped in the cab. Five minutes later I was at the border. As with most countries in South America there is a bit of no-man's land at the border, where no local traffic is allowed, so I had to get out and walk across the border myself. First I had to get an exit stamp from Bolivian emigration. Once again I had to explain how I'd gotten out of La Paz this morning and the customs officer was amused by my tales. He assured me I was definitely the only person to have left Bolivia from La Paz overland today.
I walked the 200 metres of no-man's land to the Peruvian customs office and was glad to be back in Peru again. I had loved Bolivia, the people were great and the scenery is amongst the most beautiful I have seen anywhere in the world. However, it is a country with a lot of troubles and the government does not seem fit to cope with it. The strikes of the students and farmers had literally brought the entire country and its economy to a halt, and I can imagine the damage this has done to tourism. I managed to get out of the country, but how many tourists will have been trapped in La Paz, missing their flights or schedules. Tourism is one of the main sources of income for Bolivia and I can imagine the damage done by these blockades was huge.
But I wasn't able to cheer just yet. I still had 140 kilometres to travel - nearly the same distance I had travelled so far today. I walked across the border without any problems and searched for a taxi or bus to get me to Puno.
I walked up to a couple of waiting taxi vans and was spotted by a local, who immediately walked up to me, asking “Puno? I bring there, very cheap”
I followed him, but he didn't lead me to one of the vans, but to a motorcycle instead. The motorcycle had a little cart like an Asian tuk-tuk behind it and I looked at it suspiciously. “Are you going to drive me to Puno with this?”
“Yes yes, come, very cheap”
The fact that I asked him in Spanish and he responded to me in broken tourist English was missed by us both was a giveaway that I was falling for some sort of tourist trap, but to be honest I couldn't care anymore. I had travelled by taxi, bus, boat and foot today, so why not a motorcycle taxi?
“So how much?” I asked
“2 soles?” that is only like $ 1. That is awfully cheap to drive to Puno
“Puno is 140 kilometres, are you sure you are going to drive me in that for only 2 soles?”
“No, no, I bring you to bus station for bus to Puno - 10 minutes”
Right, that cleared up I hopped in the little cart and let him drive me the 9 minutes and 50 seconds to the bus station.
The bus to Puno turned out to be the longest, the cheapest and by far the most uncomfortable mode of transportation I'd had all day. The trip to Puno would last three hours and I was not looking forward to it at all. To make matters worse, the driver told me that the bus would not start for at least another hour, so I got out again to wander into town.
The town of Yunguyo is largely uneventful. It is a bordertown, used to cross into Bolivia. Other than that there is absolutely no reason to come here, so all I could do was find myself some water to buy and chat a bit with the locals.
“Hey gringo, what are you doing here”
I did my best to explain to the guy I was not a gringo, i.e. I am not American. It was futile, to him all white people were Americans and thus gringos. We spent a good 20 minutes gringo'ing back and forth and I think I made some friends for life.
Finally the bus was ready to leave. I got in and spent the next three hours cramped in my seat, sharing a 28-seater bus with 41 people and 6 chickens. I can understand that seats in Peruvian buses are tiny, after all, the smaller the seats, the more you can fit, thus the more people you can take along. However, the indigenous Indians of Peru and Bolivia are traditionally dressed in multiple layers of clothing which makes them very, erm, 'wide'. So it amazes me just how many they can fit into one bus, and I spent most of the uncomfortable journey trying to get the multiple layers of skirt of the lady standing up in the aisle next to my seat out of my face.