06 August 2011

Border run to Bolivia: day three

Saturday 30 July, and another early start. The lovely man from Allways Travel (highly recommended!) arrived at our hotel at 7.00am, took us to the bus station, showed us where to pay our departure tax and put us on the right bus … to Bolivia.

It was a double-decker bus so we had a good view as we travelled round Lake Titicaca, then inland towards the border. We passed a big cattle fair in one town, and then went through ‘blue toilet’ country – for some unknown reason every house had an outdoor toilet painted bright blue!


At the border we had to get stamped out of Peru by both the Police and Immigration, then we walked a few hundred metres across the border to get stamped in to Bolivia. The formalities went smoothly enough and we were soon back on the bus for the 10-minute ride to Copacabana. This is apparently the original Copacabana – the famous beach in Rio was named after it.


We had a room booked at Hotel Gloria, which turned out to be a very short walk up the road from the bus stop. And it was glorious – we had a twin room, with a large double bed each and a glorious view out over the lake. It was noon when we arrived, so once we got settled, we walked back to the main street and found a restaurant for some lunch.


Copacabana is a relaxed little town, like a resort but a little bit shabby and a little bit hippy – full of the backpacker type of traveller, not the rich tourists. It’s comfortable, and slow, and laid-back. After a leisurely lunch, we cruised slowly down the main street to the beach – you’ve gotta love a main street where the tarmac eventually turns into sand! – then back up again, checking out the shops. I got a Bolivian t-shirt and Kiri bought some bits of jewellery.


As we were walking around we noticed many of the cars had been decorated, with paper decorations and flowers and feathers amongst other things. The numbers of these cars increased as we approached the main square, and there we discovered what was happening – this was the Benedicion de Movildades, the blessing of automobiles. Apparently, this is a twice-daily occurrence, where priests bestow a ritual blessing on the vehicles and a ritual offering of alcohol is also poured over them, consecrating them for the journey home.



The blessing occurs in front of Copacabana’s Basilica de Virgen de la Candelaria, a gleaming white church, with Moorish-style domes and colourful ceramic tiles. The Virgen de la Candelaria is a short wooden statue of the Virgin Mary, which was sculpted by Inca craftsmen in 1576. It is believed to work miracles and is the most important pilgrimage destination in Bolivia. We had a quick look at the beautiful interior of the church and I couldn’t help but admire it’s striking architecture.

More cruising around the streets, a beer in the sun at a cafĂ© in the main street, a stroll along the beachfront promenade licking a delicious ice-cream, and later a scrumptious dinner … all in all a wonderful way to chill out in charming Copacabana.