So I'm off to Copacabana, Bolivia tonight. This "Bolivia" concept is making me a little nervous, so I'm glad I'm travelling with someone else (an Israeli girl I met on my Machu Picchu trip). I've heard too many horror stories of La Paz (robberies, muggings, various kinds of scams involving fake police) to want to set foot there. I met a crazy Irish boy who tried very hard to sell me on a unique tourist opportunity in La Paz -- apparently you can bribe the guards in the prison to let you spend a weekend inside with the prisoners, and do all the fine Bolivian cocaine you can handle. (They make it in the prison, apparently -- prisoners have to raise money to buy their way out so this is one way they do it. That, and charging foolhardy tourists to stay in the prison overnight.)
Yeah, I'll rush right out and do that. I'm doing my best to stay OUT of jail in South America, why on earth would I pay to be locked in?
Even though Copacabana is supposed to be quite safe, I think La Paz's reputation has rubbed off on the rest of Bolivia for me. And I'm not sure the border crossing is going to be quite as smooth as those I've encountered so far -- someone told me about encountering border guards who search his luggage and confiscated the "counterfeit" US dollars they found (in reality, the dollars were perfectly legitimate and the guards were blatantly thieving), so I'll be stuffing my emergency money in my socks or underwear for the trip across.
I'm expecting it will be somewhat more challenging than anywhere else I've been yet this trip ... Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere (likely just after Haiti and Nicaragua) so the infrastructure isn't likely to be well-developed. There's a certain kind of backpacker snob who thinks that this automatically makes Bolivia more "authentic" -- if it's more difficult, it must be more real, more valid, as a travel destination -- but I choose not to subscribe to that. I see nothing wrong with good buses and lots of tourist services -- if it makes my life easier, and lets me enjoy where I am more without worrying as much, isn't that a good thing?
Well, we'll see. If I don't like it, I can always turn around and head back over the border into Peru. I have to come back this way anyway, as I have to get to Quito in enough time to catch a flight to the Galapagos on July 4th. But maybe it'll be great, and I'll wish I had more time in Bolivia ... in which case I'll chalk it up for another trip.