This morning, Chris and I caught a bus from Copacabana to La Paz. But before we could get the bus, we had to buy our tickets. And as with everything in Bolivia, buying bus tickets is a process unlike what you'd expect it to be.
First, I went back to the company that we took to get from Puno to Copacabana, and I asked for two tickets on the 10am bus to La Paz this morning. No problem, said the lady in the office; and then she ran off down the street, without explaining why. Then, she returned after about 5 minutes, holding some kind of vouchers, and said, that'll be Bs. 18 each.
Hmmm... that's strange, I said. Yesterday, when we got here and enquired about tickets to La Paz, you said that they were Bs. 20 each. Why are they less now?
Because this is with a different company, explained the lady.
Riiight, I responded. So, how much does it cost if I just go to this different company, and buy the tickets from them?
Errr... — the lady hesitated, realising that she'd made a mistake, and that she shouldn't have explained about the different company, and that now she had no choice but to continue explaining — then it's Bs. 15.
O-kay, I said, unable but to smile at the craziness of it all. So where do I go?
Just down the street, in front of the buses you can buy the tickets, the lady said, pointing down the road to where several buses were parked.
So I walked down the road, and bought the two tickets to La Paz for Bs. 15 each. And we got the 10am bus just fine. I don't know for sure, but I have a strong suspicion that the company we came to Copacabana with doesn't actually go to La Paz at all — they just try and flog off a few tickets from other companies as middle-men. Never underestimate the number of middle-men you can have, in this part of the world — and every extra layer is a few extra coins going out of your pocket, and into various other peoples' pockets.
Anyway, that's how they do business in Bolivia.