Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bolivia and a bribe

[Lake Titicaca] Seems so cliche to have to pay a bribe at the Bolivian border. Megan had a plan to get out of it, but since they asked for 75 cents, I just went ahead and paid it. Especially since we had just paid 270 dollars for visas to get into the country.
[puno] The day started with us in line at the Bolivian consulate in Puno, Peru- about 1.5 hours from the border. We read that if you got your visa at the consulate it was only $100 per person but when the Consulate finally decided it was time to open the office, he told us that we "can" get the visas at the border and that we should get them there. Then he walked past everyone in line (all Peruvians and Bolivians), out the door and straight to the coffee shop to get breakfast.
So we packed up the bikes, drove them through the front door of the Hotel Monterey and out onto the pedestrian only street. We drove a couple of hours along the shores of Lake Titicaca, past ancient Quinoa and Potato fields. For some reason, they were growing Lupin as well which I didn't really know was edible.
After a few turns we arrive at the Peru/ Bolivian border. Getting out of Peru took 5 minutes with lots of smiles and us telling the border people that Peru was our favorite country so far (seems like the right thing to say at borders). We drove over the hill to sleepy Bolivia. After waking up the immigration people, they handed us the paperwork for our visas (Americans need $135 visas to visit Bolivia since we charge Bolivians $135 to get into the US). The agent closely scrutinized all of our $20 bills and rejected a couple of them. One had a series number that he didn't like (starting with B), another had a fray at the edge. Not having a surplus of $20 bills, this started to become a problem. I had to go outside and change the Bolivianos that I had just bought using Peruvian Soles into dollars which as you can imagine was quite profitable for the money changers. Like I say, I always like to do my part to help out the local economy.
[bolivian visa] After some more hemming and hawing we finally got the visas in our passports and the 90 day stamp into the country. The immigration guy joked that he normally charges $5 for the stamp but since we were out of money he would just let us through. It was actually funny at the time.
The paperwork for the bikes was easy and quick and we just had one last needed stamp from the police before we were on our way into a country we both have been very excited to visit since the beginning of the trip.
Leave it to the police to be the rude ones. They stamped our paperwork, told us to make sure we got it stamped at every police check point (yeah, right), talked quietly amongst themselves and then told us it would cost 5 Bolivianos (75 cents) per bike for their time. Megan said we didn't have any money and was ready to go to war with these guys, but then I did the math in my head and realized how little they were asking and promptly gave in. I should have let Megan fight for justice but I caved in quickly.
We spent a night in Copacabana (a La Paz tourist destination on the shores of Titicaca) and then drove over a 14000 foot pass into severe thunderstorms and dropped down 6000 feet of muddy road to the town of Sorata.
[notice the llama in the background] Sorata is an old colonial town perched on the edge of one of those classic Andean river valleys. In theory, there are 6000+ meter (20000 foot) peaks just outside of town but we never saw them. We saw lots of mud and rain. We stayed at the wonderful Altai Oasis just outside of town run by the worlds most hospitable Bolivian family. We waited for a day for the rain to clear, but it never did.
We did, however meet a wonderful street dog we named coalcita and some quirky female doctors (megan's giardia started to come back) who advised Megan to eat vegetarian food- like white chicken. I went for a nice hike in the rain along a raging river and decided Sorata might be a nice place to come back to in the dry season.
We are now in La Paz in a very nice hotel with a wonderful view of the city.
[La Paz] This post is long enough, so I won't say too much about La Paz except picture an outdoor market where a million people participate all the time. This is La Paz. It is pretty cool.
And very last, we found a motorcycle shop here that has tires for our bikes (nosigliasport.com) and what I hope will be a really good chain. I am getting very tired of maintaining my chain and I want one that won't stretch out so much (and fall off). Hopefully this new chain does the trick.

The next leg of the trip will be an adventurous bit. Bolivia doesn't have a lot of paved roads (or bridges) and is famous for road blocks from protestors. We have a route in mind, but we have no idea if it is passable this time of year. I'll let you know.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome and crazy as usual! Thanks for writing such entertaining and descriptive postings. Travel safe and keep rollin'. Miss you!

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