Technically, the whole visa process can be done at the border, but we wanted to just get it out of the way ahead of time. So after more than an hour at the Bolivian Consulate of filling out an online form, printing proof of a booked hotel, writing up an itinerary, getting passport pictures, and paying $340 in US dollars cash (there's more that I won't get into), we finally got our gorgeous and hard-earned visas. And best of all, we met a couple of awesome motorcyclist Romanians there too, Cezar and Nicolai.
To be fair, what we had to go through is nothing compared to what Bolivians and people of many other nationalities have to do to get into the US, if they can get in at all. So I really should not complain.
The road from high-altitude Chivay to warm and sunny Arequipa was twisty and paved, but not as spectacular as I'd hoped. Desert and trash was the view throughout, and we had to dodge tons of trucks making their way to this concrete-producing city outside of Chivay:
From Arequipa, we headed toward Bolivia on the main road to Puno, which was definitely nothing to rave about. It was nicely paved (until a gravel shortcut we took to skip Juliaca), but boring. Best part about it was that there were vicuñas everywhere, the llama's endangered wild cousin.
Made of the totora reed and its roots, these islands were first constructed as a way for the Aymará-speaking people to escape the invading Incas, and have been a tradition in the region ever since. They even make their houses and boats out of this buoyant material.
And the extra hour and a half ride it took to visit the non-floating island of Taquile was not worth it in my mind (and that was on the fast boat). Taquile is just a regular island, but I did enjoy getting a glimpse of the local culture of Quechua-speaking people that live there. And I understand that the money spent does go to the preservation of these endangered communities. But if I had to do it again, I would try to stay overnight on a floating island to get a more authentic experience.
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Until next time...