Tag Archives: Overland

Off to The Land of Paddington Bear

As further trips into the hills were off the cards for a while we headed for Peru, because no South American trip would be complete without a visit to Machu Picchu.  We jumped into Steve and headed for Copacobana, a cute little  town on the shores of  Lake Titikaka.  Our ferry crossing was fun!

Realising we we were just about to leave Bolivia for good, we had a peek at the Lonely Planet to see what local specialities and events we mustn’t miss out on.  As it happened we were in time to catch the weekly blessing of the cars, which took place outside the church in the village square and involves decorating your vehicle elaborately with flowers and various nik nacks, including miniature hats, and then queueing up outside the church to wait for the priest to come along and say a few words.  We would have gotten Steve done but it looked quite difficult to manoeuvre him through the complicated one way system and the crowds so we decided we would just have to risk doing without…

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Car awaiting a blessing from the priest of the Copacabana church.

We really wanted to try the local breakfast delicacy of purple api (a thick syrupy drink made from maize, lemon, sugar and cinnamon) and bunuelos (donuts served drenched in syrup). We had seen great big pots of it on the go in the streets of La Paz, but hadn’t known what it was and been a bit scared to try it.  The Lonely Planet suggested trying both at the market in Copa, given the LP’s usually conservative view on risk we thought it was going to be pretty safe.  The atmosphere was fantastic,  you grab seats where you can and share table space with whoever comes along.

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Sunday market in Copacobana

Taking our chances with an unblessed Steve, it was time to cross the border into Peru.  The crossing was uneventful, except for the official who requested a propina (tip), for what we’re not sure and as we had just carefully spent our last bolivianos it meant exchanging our last reserve US dollars.  This was the only time we ever had this happen through countles border crossings during our trip, but there was an unexpected benefit later on that day… 

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Steve crossing the boarder into Peru.

Our first stop in Peru was Puno which was just a quick over night before heading onwards to Cusco. We did have to go out for our first Peruvian meal as the cuisine in Peru is reputed to be excellent. Tom decided that he had to try the Peruvian delicacy of Cuy, otherwise known as guinea pig – squEEEk! It arrived spatchcocked complete with head and teeth. It was actually quite delicious with crispy skin and unlike most unusual meats it did not taste like chicken, it tasted like duck. Tom mused that perhaps all that delicious crispy duck he’d eaten in restaurants may not have been duck after all – it too had been some kind of rodent!

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Tom tucking into some delicious cuy.

The highway from the border to Cusco had a ridiculous number of police checkpoints. It seemed like there was one every half an hour, with vehicles seemingly being stopped at random and therefore it was not that surprising when we were eventually pulled over and  told that our lights were off  following our pit stop for lunch (driving with your lights on at all times of the day being a legal requirement throughout South America).  We were sent on our way after a cursory check of our documents, only to be pulled over AGAIN for the same offence a little while later.  This time the officer checked our documents a bit more thoroughly, and said we had no accident insurance.  Now, we had gone to quite a lot of trouble prior to leaving Chile to secure additional insurance to cover Steve and were armed with a twelve page insurance document (in Spanish) which did just that.  But it was purchased in Chile!  the officer protested.  It’s only valid in Chile!  No!  we cried.  It covers us for accidents outside of Chile!  We specifically asked for that when we bought it!  And then he pointed out the line on page 10 or so, which stated clearly that our van was not insured in other countries.  Even our mediocre Spanish was able to understand that.  Those buggers at Fallabella!  So now we were up for two violations, driving with our lights off and the more serious problem of driving uninsured.  Tom went off in a little huddle with the two officers, who said that they needed a propina of $100 to make this all go away…  Unfortunately for them, thanks to tipping the border official we had absolutely no cash of any sort on us except for £10 and some Canadian dollars, neither of which were acceptable apparently.  After what seemed like quite a while they gave up as we clearly had nothing to give them (except for some small change left over from lunch) and sent us on our way.  We were now really happy we hadn’t pursued the taxi driver who ran into us in La Paz!