Enjoyed La Paz so much we didn't want to leave...and nearly didn't. I had finally surrendered to an inevitable bout of stomach ickiness that made the planned 6 hour drive to Puno, in Peru, seem...ummm...unenticing. So Martin and I decided to wait a day for me to recover before taking an express bus all the way to Cusco and meet the others there - a 12 hour ride.
Fortunately, the very recent general strike on transportation out of La Paz had ended. Unfortunately, Canada had, inconveniently, chosen this time to remove large tracts of Peruvian soil, and the Peruvian government had chosen to let them, against the will of many folks who were perfectly capable of building sturdy roadblocks by way of registering their disapproval. So we bought bus tickets as far as Puno via Copacabana with no guarantees the roads would be open beyond that.
The 3 hour bus ride to Copacabana dumped us near the Bolvian-Peruvian border, and we readied ourselves for the next 3 hour bus to Puno. Er...the next 3 hour bus to Puno? Not today, folks. No one was getting through the roadblocks but you could bypass them with a mere 10 hour boat ride on Lake Titicaca the next day.
Discovered a couple of stray HotRockers, Rolf and Nick, who were similarly stranded so the next day we all bundled aboard a bus to the border then a minibus to the boat. The minibus disgorged us at the edge of the lake where a gaggle of confused gringoes lingered on the shore watching locals bailing out the dilapidated wooden rowing boats that we were to climb aboard for the trip out to a couple of alarmingly small day-tripper boats. Once the boats had been loaded to capacity and, to boroow from Buzz Lightyear, beyond, we set off for 10 hours on a small boat, rarely in sight of land, with no onboard entertainment and no food service. We split a packet of Pringles and a couple of packets of biscuits between the four of us for the 10 hour journey. It was...long.
Nine and a half hours into the trip, another boat pulled up next to us under cover of darkness. Our excess passengers were moved steathily to the adjoining boat, which was lashed to our boat and stayed there as we quietly motored in, without running lights, to the dock. We were met by touts who helped us collect our luggage and melt into the night.
Two hours in Puno to get money, eat and use the bathroom before climbing aboard yet another bus for the 12 hour overnight bus to Cusco, usually a 6 hour drive. We arrived in Cusco, two hours too late for our train to Machu Picchu Pueblo (Aguas Calientes). What to do? Martin recruited a very accomodating, although non-English-speaking, tourist policeman who was more than happy to advise us and insisted on having his photo taken with me as he diligently pointed out where to go on the city map.
A mere hour and a half hair-raising downhill taxi ride to Ollantaytambo, followed by a 2 hour scenic train journey on the Machu Picchu choo-choo and we made it. Hiram Bingham had it easy...