I finally made it to Bolivia. I ended up staying 2 extra days in Ollanta than I planned. 1 day because I wasn´t packed and ready to go, and I didn´t want to rush it. The 2nd day because I was selling some stuff that I didn´t want to carry around. I am now down to a 45 liter backpack, compared to the full 70 liter backpack, 30 liter backpack, and carrying a sleeping bag on the way down. A friend of mine is bringing back my tent to Chicago, I sold my sleeping back and sleeping mat (for a drastically lower price than I bought it for), and I sold my laptop computer for what I paid for it in August. I sold the camping stuff to avoid the hastle of carrying it for 3 months. I sold the computer to give me peace of mind in leaving my stuff in hostals. I am extremely happy to have just the one, medium sized backpack to carry around. Although, I still think it´s too much and I will try to squeeze it down more.
Last night, I took the bus from Cusco to Puno. It´s funny how bus companies can just deceive. I was told that I was going to have one of the bigger seats with a lot of space and comfort, and she even she me the picture when I bought the ticket. It turned out to be seats almost the same as a normal bus seat, but folded back a bit more. I didn´t sleep the best in the 7 hour bus ride because of this, and the fact I was scrunched up against this Swiss guy who had extremely smelly feet.
Rather than taking a direct bus to La Paz, my frugal side came out (or rather stayed out). The direct buses from Cusco to La Paz were about 75 soles, and I ended up paying about 36 soles in total. I took the bus to Puno, then a local bus to the border (2 hours), crossed the border, then caught another bus from the border to La Paz (2 hours). Not as simple, but more of an adventure and much cheaper.
Crossing the border was not easy because I had stayed 6 days longer in Peru than the 90 allowed days. I had to pay an extra $1 per day, which wasn´t the big deal. The problem was that I waited in line in immigration for them to tell me I have to go pay this at a bank across town. After walking across town, waiting in line for 30 minutes to pay, and then walking back to the immigration office, they tell me I need to make 8 different copies of various combintations between my passport and the immigration slip. So I go find a place that makes copies. After waiting in line again, I am done with exiting Peru. Then entering Bolivia, I had to fill out a form and pay for the visa (which is only required for Americans), then they sent me again to make more copies, and then finally I was done. The whole thing took about 2.5 hours. The funny thing is that I could´ve easily just walked into Bolivia without any questions, which I accidentally did and then had to backtrack to the Bolivia immigration office. Definitely not as strict as borders around the US.
I finally got the La Paz at 3pm and have had a great first impression since. Being here feels like I am finally back in civilization. It feels like I spent the last 3 months deep in the woods and have finally found other people. The mix between the modern buildings and old churches and roads, the options for food (I even saw a Subway!), books stores, and even live rock music in the plaza tonight! It´s even cheaper than Peru. I am paying about $6 per night at a hostel with my own room, and it´s located 2 blocks from the main plaza in a nice neighorhood. People also seem to be a lot friendlier here. I haven´t been harassed once for being a gringo, and I have walked around a lot. I have already had a bunch of good interactions with people here. Another thing I noticed is the incredible number of police officers out, especially at night. They are just everywhere. This is definitely a good thing, and I have heard the same to be true in Colombia now.
That´s my first impressions of La Paz and Bolivia. I haven´t decided how many days I will stay here, but I think I will spend a good chunk of days here, even if I do come back later in the month. It´s a very nice change from my last 3 months in Peru!