We cab it to the Puno bus terminal and find our bus in no time. It’s mostly fellow travelers and the bus crew hand out paperwork for us to have ready for when we hit the border. After a quick drive the bus stops short of a gate and the crew tells us to GTFO, pointing toward some Peruvian immigration buildings.
The first step is to take our tourist card – given to us when we entered the north in the middle of the night – and have it stamped by a copper in a little building. After that we take our tourist card to immigration, they take a quick look at it and the stamp in our passport to make sure everything’s square and they hit us with an exit stamp. Easy as pie.
Our bus rolls across the border sans passengers; we walk a few hundred meters across no-man’s land and through a gate marking the Bolivian side of the border. Peru has a snazzy sign greeting those on their side of the frontera.
There are several kiosks open on the Bolivian side but nothing seems to be happening. The 5-0 on this side look pretty badass, more like soldiers than the fuzz, but they seem friendly enough. Eventually the kiosks start waving people up from the by-now-pretty-decent queue. Again, super easy process, hand over a paper and ker-chunk goes the stamp. We saddle back up on the bus.
A half dozen miles down the road we stop in Copacabana with a few minutes to spare before sunset. The bus drops us at the Hotel Mirador, overlooking Lake Titicaca and equipped with snazzy columns, it looks baller but the facade is misleading and it turns out to be pretty reasonable. It also has complete bullshit internet, dashing our hopes of an improvement over Peruvian standards.
The guest register requires our professions, which we provide with complete honesty:
Murphy: Ninja Astronaut
One street over is Copacabana’s touristy strip where Murphy and Drisdelle resume their bracelet hunt. On the other side of the strip is a place with open doors and quads that draws me in. Shit, they have jet-skis too. I talk to the guy working there and he says that in the morning, if we’d like, we can rent jet-skis and take them to the Isla del Sol. Fuck yeah we’d like that! Maybe ride some quads in the afternoon too. I go back to find the guys and we’re all pretty stoked.
All of the resto-bars on the strip are pretty similar so we settle on one called KM-0 because it shares its name with what became one of our favorite haunts in La Paz, Mexico from when Odile bitchslapped our travel plans, accommodations and spare clothes. That feels like years ago. The walls are painted with famous images of rock stars – i.e. Jim Morrison, Lou Reed – and logos, like Queen. They play some great tunes… in fact, they play the same ones over and over. As we load up on Fernet and vodka we hear a mix that’s almost exclusively G’n’R and Queen. After a little over an hour and dinner we’ve heard November Rain six times, no bullshit.
Cutting out for some digestif fumar there’s a bunch of kids playing soccer on the steep street. The kid at the bottom has to be pretty good or they’re going to have to chase that ball right down to the waterfront and for the most part he is, but he fucks up once. Murphy jumps over and gets the ball, kicking it uphill. Uphill right into the fender of a Toyota. POW! No car alarm, amazingly.
We quickly head back to the ranch for a brief reprieve before heading back out. Drisdelle finds his toothpaste exploded in his backpack and I decide I’d better chill again, I’m having a hell of a time shaking this thing I picked up in Ecuador. Two countries later and I’m still not quite right.
With McBurger guarding the room, Agent Getz and I get down to some serious detective work. We’d better scour the area and gather intelligence from the locals. A quick jaunt down to the nearest square and my ears twitch to the beat of some distant salsa. Getz is already on the way towards it. The whole town is dead but this one place is pumping music and a dying dog is slurring off key vocals. We peak our heads in and spot the culprit. Some Bolivian mobster wannabe is clutching the mic and a pool que in one hand and pitcher… no, a measuring cup of, possibly rum and coke, in the other. He proudly finishes the butchering and slams down the mic. Ok, I think we’re in the right place.
We go in to the darkly lit and surprisingly small room. There’s is just a tiny little wooden bar with a cute tender supplying Karaoke DJ skills via computer to the one flatscreen in the corner above the pool table. A light collection of kindergarden-drunk locals fills out the room. A local sees our confused faces and offers a small drink menu. A pitcher of rum and coke is 5 bucks. Done deal. Tender hooks us up with a measuring cup and pours some concoction into it beneath the bar, we can’t really see what she’s doing. The result tastes like bazooka joe bubble gum.
We grab a seat and soak in the scene. There is a Bolivian girl sitting 10 paces behind Getz that is eyeing me up something fierce. Every time I make eye contact she raises her glass Salud-styles. I tilt mine and we both drink. She does this every time we make eye contact. And she never stops staring at me. So I try to place Getz’s scraggly mug in the middle and avoid eye contact.
“There’s a piece of glass in here”, Getz pulls his finger from his mouth and there is a sliver of glass on the tip. “Some Shardonnay, Monsieur?”. That doesn’t make sense, it’s a plastic measuring cup and plastic glasses. Hmmmmm, we’re now straining Bazooka Ron through our teeth just in case. Future Dentist trips imminent.
Damnit! Made eye contact again. Salud! Wait, now there’s a guy sitting there with her. He’s cheersing me too. We’re all out. “We’ll I’ll share mine” he mimes. He comes over and pours some of his own Bazooka Ron into our cups. We raise and crinkle together. Down the hatch. Gracias. We decide to get another pitcher of Bazooka Ron, for good measure (see what I did there?). Now this dude really wants to hang. He comes back over and is speaking hyper spanish over the drowning cats on the mic. We can’t make out a word. “Mikey!”. Oh his name is Mikey, “I’m Jonathan, this is Jamie”. “(Mile-a-minute-Spanish)”. “Yeeeeeah!”. Salud. Salud. Salud? Salud. Salud? Salud. Holy fuck, Mikey likes it! The girl comes over too. Salud. Salud. This measuring cup of Bazooka Ron is going down like candy and Mikey is the drunkest man in Bolivia, trying to share the feeling. Salud? Saluuuuud! Oh dear jeeebuz. The only word we can actually communicate with is Cheers. The glaze is creeping into the corner of Getz’s red eyes.
Fortunately the whole place starts to shut down and we have an exit mime through Mikey, the girl, and out the door. We’re all stumble-wobblies now after 2 measuring cups and Mikey’s generosity. How the hell are we gonna jet ski to Sun Island in the morning? Split the square. Oh wait, cool graffiti. Clicky. Split the square. Down the hill. Past the swan boats. Hey there doggy. Up to the greeky columns of Mirador. Through the weird sheet metal door in front of the normal glass door. Was that there before? Through the dark lobby. Whooops that’s a sofa. And a plant. And drop bounce roll sheets comfy time. I dream of jet skis.