Bolivia

Day 1630 Thursday 2nd April

Out side we changed our Pesos and bought Bolivianos, filled up and left. Yes it took close to two hours but we were in. The only downside was we rode off into a huge thunderstorm and black skies for two hundred and seventy degrees of our vision. It was not as bad as it sounds as it was still daylight, although the sky all around was lit with fork and sheet lightning showing us the way to a certain drenching. Soon our nerve had gone and we looked for a camping place. Diane found what would have been gem in the dry, but now in the last of the wet would soon be a river if the rains fell around here. Giving up at a small pension we asked if we may camp, si no problem. The lady showed us a great thatched shed with adobe walls where we could sleep with our bikes. Diane was not keen as there lay about a fair number of Lama fore legs and holes dug in the ground filled with long trails of intestines. Sensing Diane’s displeasure the lady offered us to sleep in the cafe on the floor, and bring our bikes inside as well. We settled on just us, putting the bikes in the lama killing shed.

After just four hours in the country we broke two main rules of travelling in Bolivia, eating probably undercooked lama and drank barely boiled water in coffee……

During the night a clock ticked like a hammer blow, I though things moved in the room and certainly the lightning lit the room with a spectacular show, so not so restful, but we were dry and the tent was not taking a beating.

Day 1631 Friday 3rd April

Packing the bikes quickly we were set for an eight AM getaway, as Diane’s bike failed to start we slaved it off mine and left at nine.

Riding for and hour found us a nice spot for breakfast, a flag pole at a football field. The pole’s base was very table like so we set out our cooking gear and had tea and porridge. Life carried on around us of course, no one took any notice of us. Alpacas, sheep and goats were led across the playing field to the higher ground beyond the village where the vegetation was always greener.

A guy on a motorcycle stopped and asked if we were heading west, he wanted some company but our route lay to the east so he headed off to Chilean border roads alone. We spent our last cash on fuel and headed to La Paz, we reasoned we did not need any till we got to the city. Five km long our new four lane highway a pajage booth loomed, bugger no cash, thankfully it was not operational so we whizzed by.

Riding into the outskirts of the town El Alto reminded me very much of Cairo, lots of micro taxi’s, tuk-tuk’s, goats and dogs running across the road, traffic obeying a lot less rules than Egypt. The central divide was constructed of metre high concrete barriers, every five hundred metres a gap opened up to allow vehicles to swap sides!!!

A vehicle heading the other direction wanted to turn left, the semi truck behind him failed to stop in time and the truck slowly made contact and pushed him in a straight line thankfully, passed the gap till the both stopped. I did not witness the outcome.

Our surroundings were not enticing me to spend many days here, it looked very sprawling and down to earth. The markets laid out by the roadside did not give me any enthusiasm to stop and explore as they often had done in Africa. Our road ended at a toll booth, as we still had no cash I parked and checked with the lady at the booth who said that moto’s were free! We rolled down the snake like road and stopped beside a local guy on shiny white and black moto. After the usual greetings he made a heap of phone calls for us to find safe parking with a room. With no luck he made many apologies, left contact details, wished us luck and rode off. I asked at the hotel we were parked outside. An hour later we were bathed, bikes undercover and ready to hit down town.

The streets were becoming more lively the later it got, countless shops and make shift stalls, some made of steel with plastic sheeting for sides and roof, some just a sheet on the ground. All selling mostly the same rugs, bags and all kinds of must have take home items from dried lama foetus, (customs in Australia would have a heart attack) to home made bracelets of plastic beads on elastic cord. The amount of it was huge, the variety less so. We spent a great few hours wandering up and down the narrow cobbled winding narrow streets. Breathing hard going up the hill, but trying not to take in too much of the horrendous exhaust fumes belched out by worn out north American ex school buses, carrying twice as many people as they were designed for.

Day 1632 Saturday 4th April

We spent the next two days walking the street markets that seamed to offer the same bags and clothes. Made in China??? Well don’t know, but maybe. How could all this merchandise be made in the towns and villages that fill the valleys around and all be so uniform? The only thing we did know that alcohol was not served on Friday or Saturdays. So we settled in for a tea and coffee weekend.

Day 1633 Sunday 5th April

Looking down from our sixth floor window at the four lanes of multi coloured tuk tuks vying for space with trucks and cars as they swirled around the traffic circle. I saw an armoured security truck parked outside the hotel entrance with what looked like a huge bundle of cloth in the gutter at the front of the truck, a police vehicle stopped, two officers got out and walked around the front of the vehicle. The bundle of cloth moved, stood up and straighten her skirts after urinating near the side walk, the officers waited for her, then walked on.

Day 1634 Monday 6th April

Left our hotel room and its wonderful bath and endless hot water for Tiwanaku. Getting the bikes out of storage was hampered by the milling pedestrians, but nothing in comparison to getting out of La Paz. The traffic was hectic to say the least, it took almost an hour to cover two km! Missing our turn out of El Alto we had to head out, do a ‘U’ turn and go back with the morning traffic to the payja booths and start again. Another hour! It was bliss eventually to be riding out with the cool air rushing by.

Arriving early afternoon, Diane went and checked out the cost of visiting the ruins and the towns only hotel. I sat on a wall by the bikes and was checked out by the local policemen. Luckily a guide came over and translated, they were saying it was ok to camp near the car park, on the thick grass, hotel not necessary and expensive. So we were given nice free camp with a resident perro, who stayed with our camp for the afternoon while we walked the vast ruins. He still lay in the sun by the bikes on our return. While we made supper he insisted on barking at all who walked, rode or drove past us. One inoffensive but persistent seller of nik naks kept returning but was put off lingering by our guard’s deep growling and much raising of hackles. He stayed the night also barking at sheep, cows and the ghosts of long gone Tiwanaku priests disembowelling strangers at the pyramids high alter.

Day 1635 Tuesday 7th April

As we packed the poor dawg watched us with a baleful eye.

When we fired up the bikes he watched but did not move, when we rode out, no chasing wheels or barking, just a slow walk in our tyre tracks. Diane stopped to say farewell to the forlorn hound, who did look very healthy and well feed by passing tourists. We did say if we were travelling in a vehicle we would have taken him with, if he behaved and looked after us. Maybe next time….

Riding the lake shore of Titicaca, passing countless fishing villages was idyllic in the warm sunshine. I saw ahead a huge hay stack on a bicycle being peddled seeming effortlessly by an attractive young lady in long tight blue pants. Passing by I looked back at the huge bundle, and saw a much older woman, presumably her mother. Large and broad shouldered, pulling the cart like an ox!

Passing through a couple of notoriously corrupt police check points we were waved through with a smile. Only once did we have to stop as the station wagon in front of us blocked our exit. We sat and watched the proceedings. Police talk to driver and wave an arm at the rear of the vehicle. Driver shakes head and smiles a lot. Police ask him to open the tail gate, driver looks worried. Contents of station wagon as far as I could see was half a dozen ewes and a ram, all hidden under a plastic sheet. I asked to take a photo but permission was denied, shame it looked fantastic, the whole situation. Soon we all drove out from the barrier.

The border town of Desaguadero came into view, we followed the nice block paved road passed countless trucks presumably waiting to cross. A few of the trailers caught my eye as they still had registration plates from Poland, Spain and France. Some trucks still were sign written on the cabs, one from Umea in Sweden. I guess it where the better of the old vehicles come to die.

A few drivers passed us, including the sheep smuggler and shouted and waved arms at us, we were going the wrong way,a dirt road of rocks and puddles led us out of Bolivia. Getting our passports stamped out was no problem, the customs for the bikes was a little bewildering, the guys kept saying the same thing, that we did not understand of course. Finally we cautiously gave him our T.I.P’s, he smiled a sigh of relief and said “thank-you, bye bye”. So we rode over the bridge to Peru.

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