From Cusco we went to Puno on the shore of the Lake Titicaca. It is called the highest navigable lake in the world at 3812m. From Puno we booked a tour to the floating islands of the Uros people. The islands are made of bundled reeds and are completely floating and the first steps on the islands felt a little bit strange. Here people live like hundreds of years ago and you really have the impression that the time stopped centuries ago. Their houses are very basic and are also made of reed and in the house they have just one bed where sometimes 10 family members sleep together. We found the Uros to be extremely tourist-friendly because right after we arrived on the islands they offered to show us their homes and the leader of the community told us a lot about their way of living. At the end of the tour they gave us a ride with a typical boat for the people of Uros, which of course was also made out of reeds.
One amazing thing – Getting the visa for Bolivia
Because there is a consulate of Bolivia in Puno, we thought it’s better to try to get the visa here other than going directly to the border where it is also possible to get it because the Bolivian customs officer all like the 50 US dollar bill. So we went to the consulate and here we had the unpleasant experience of meeting probably the most unfriendly person of this trip, the secretary of the consul. First when we went there at 10 AM nobody was there though the consulate should have opened at 8 AM. So we went back after an hour and found the secretary looking totally unfriendly and asking us what we want. We said that we would like the visa for Bolivia and handed him the documents. He took a short look and said we also had to complete a form and asked why we did not do it. We said we don’t have the form and politely asked if he could give it to us. For an unparticular reason this made him go crazy and he gave us the internet address of the Bolivian consulate and with a very aggressive voice told us that we can download and print it ourselves. So we went to the city information center because we knew that they have a printer and an internet connection and asked them to help us with the forms. Because the internet site of the Bolivian consulate was not working they called the consulate and when the secretary heard the city information center called he just told them to send us back to the consulate and he will “help” us. We had a bad feeling about this and were right because the call of the lady from the information center just made the things worse because the secretary was now really angry (more than before) because we went to the information center instead of doing everything on our own. He gave us one copy of the forms and after I dared to ask if he could give us another copy because we had to make two different requests, he yelled at us saying we have to go and make copies, he’s not going to print a second form for us. So we went and made a copy, came back and gave him the passports, the completed forms, a copy of our flight tickets because you have to prove somehow that you are not going to remain in Bolivia (the poorest country in South America) forever otherwise they will not give you the visa, and a copy of the booking of one hotel which was more or less the printout of the main page of a hotel. We were told to come back in 3 hours which we did, just to be told that again, we have to go and make a copy of our passports with the visa stamp in it because he did not want to make that copy. So, finally after making the last copies and going for the 5th time in one day to the consulate we had the visa. But the story was not over yet as we heard that it is also possible that at the border the customs officer will search you for “fake US dollars” which of course they will keep for the security of the nation. We were lucky as we were not searched but right when we entered the office in a corner was an officer which looked through the dollars of another tourist so we knew that the story we heard was not a science fiction one.
La Paz, Bolivia