It was likely the worst day of the trip. My gastrointestinal system was expressing its displeasure. So was Decker’s. Upon waking up, he promptly walked into the bathroom and threw up. Not what we wanted given our upcoming four-hour bus ride around Lake Titicaca and across the challenging Bolivian border.
We debated whether to wait for Decker to feel better or tough it out. In the end, we decided it was better to leave and cross the border when the immigration officers were at the beginning of their shift and potentially more amenable to Americans. Bolivia / America relations aren’t great. As we arrived at the Peruvian bus station to start our journey, Decker deposited some of the previous night’s meal into the planter. Based on analysis, we knew there wasn’t much left in his belly. In preparation for these types of situations, we always grab the Barf Bags from the airplane. We were ready.
Once on the bus, Decker quickly fell asleep on Audrey’s lap. He would occasionally wake up to puke then put his head back down. This continued several times over the next three hours until we arrived at the Peru/Bolivia border. When crossing on land, you must go into the departing country’s office (in this case, Peru) and meet with the immigration officers who stamp your passport. Then walk across the border to the next country’s immigration office (Bolivia).
While waiting, Decker continued to fertilize the planter boxes in Peru. After 30 minutes in line and getting our passport stamped, we walked the 150 yards out of Peru only to stand in line for Bolivian Immigration. Imagine a beautiful office building, efficient and helpful officers, and comfortable furniture. Now imagine the opposite.
We knew this would be a stressful crossing as Bolivia is very picky about the paperwork for Americans. And, Decker didn’t help relations with his retching outside the offices. All the while, Audrey kept a keen eye on our bus so it didn’t leave without us.
About 45 minutes into the this highly bureaucratic and manual process, I saw our bus driver jump into his seat and start the engine. Not good. I estimated we needed another 20 minutes to get our visas so ran up to him to ask (then plead) not to leave. No luck. At least I convinced him to get my luggage before he drove away. I was now standing on the side of the road with four pieces of luggage. Fortunately, Colin walked out and helped me move our luggage to a secured location.
I then walked into the office while Audrey was handing over $20 dollar bills faster than an ATM spits them out. It’s $160 per American to get into this country. The officer would kick back every fourth bill because they weren’t in perfect condition. My blood pressure was increasing because 1) Decker was out on the lawn expressing his dismay with the Bolivian Immigration process; 2) Colin was standing on the side of the road by himself watching the luggage; 3) our bus driver had just driven away; and 4) we were running out of perfect $20 bills.
Fortunately, we had enough money and could get all our visas. I quickly found a taxi to take us into town. Upon giving our driver the address to our hotel, he responded, “I know exactly where that is” which means “I have no clue where that is but I’m not willing to turn down a fare so hopefully will find it.” Eventually we did.
I got Decker in bed while Colin and Audrey went searching for lunch. She returned with a smile saying, “I’ve found an angel!” While walking around, Audrey saw a sign that read, “Bakery and Pizza” and couldn’t resist walking in. It’s a strength and weakness as she rarely passes a pastry shop without peaking in.
She found a woman who said, “Hello” in a Chicago accent. In times of stress, it is very comforting to find someone who speaks your native language. She helped us find a pharmacy, offered guidance on what the problem could be, and led is in the right direction.
A quick trip to the pharmacy and a $3-dollar medicine bill, we were told that things should improve in one hour. Almost to the minute, Decker was back to his normal self and asking for a piece of pizza from our angel’s restaurant. All was good in the world except for the fact that we were staying in a place that was overpriced at $30 / night. (See: Lessons of a Cold Shower).
If you are ever find yourself in Copacabana, Bolivia and looking for a friendly face and great pizza, stop by Jeff and Deb’s “Pan America” restaurant right on the main square. Good food. Good company.
I can’t say that I have been impressed with Lake Titicaca — other than it is just darn fun to say. As the “highest navigable lake” it is quite large at 118 miles long and 50 miles wide. The floating cities are highly contrived tourist attractions and many of the small towns in the area have so many dogs you have to watch your steps to avoid stepping in caca. That explains the caca part but still confused as I never saw any titi’s. We’re now heading south to the salt flats then on to Chile.