Gonzalo Figueroa and Nina Maria Eidheim...

LA to BA

UPDATE 10, Bolivia, April 23, 2001.

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This is the short story of how crashing into a rock made us change our mind about the jungle, how we then hooked up with a VW bus and climbed into the altiplano, how we put a brave fight against the Peruvian police, camped at Lake Titicaca, went on a 4 day hike in Bolivia's Cordillera Real and how we arrived in La Paz in time to see the tear gas flying.

When we last left you we were on our way from Cuzco into the Peruvian jungle.. We didn't get far. After just leaving the paved road from Cuzco, our side boxes made yet another impact. Last time it was a dog, remember? This time it was a rather big piece of stone. This made us realize we were not really in the mood for 5 days of hell on one of Peru's worst contributions to road engineering. We quickly turned around and headed south. To the Altiplano. The "high plain". More specifically: lake Titicaca.

On the way we ran into our friend the brown VW bus. In it were Colum, Trent and Kate. Some nice lads from Ireland and Australia respectively. We had crossed each other quite a few time on this trip so this time we decided to stick together instead of bumping into one another. We headed towards Bolivia. When we got to the Peruvian side of the border we thought it would be another routine crossing. We were wrong.

After doing all the paperwork the VW boys were called in by the police. They were apparently violating road regulations, breaking Peruvian law, and dismembering the national Constitution all because they had polarized windows. The cop made it clear that he would have to give them a fine, which of course could only be paid 300 km away, only on a Tuesday from 12.30 to 12.45, and the judge was on vacation, so its all very terrible, UNLESS, yes, you pay about half that fine, say 80 dollars to me. Sound good? Colum got real Irish on the man and let loose all the fury of St. Patrick. When Nina heard the screaming from outside the police station she suggested Gonzalo go in and help clear the matter.

This he did. After sweet talking and kissing the bastards ass for about 15 minutes the boys and their polarized windows could walk away with a warning. "But, " said the cop, "I can't let you (Gonzalo) go. Your motorcycle is wrongly parked and that's a traffic violation." "You're kidding?", asked Gonzalo. No he wasn't. He pulled out his tariff list and started telling Gonzalo how much he had to pay, also 300 km away, with the judge on vacation, etc. etc., UNLESS, .... No way. We put up a struggle again, asked for mercy, put our foot down, got angry and forced him to give up. This took a while. When the dust finally settled we were free to go. As I often said: don't give these people any money. Put up a fight.

 

We finally made it to Copacabana, Bolivia, a scruffy, fowl smelling town on a beautiful lakeside setting. We had a beer. Than another. Then quite a few more and pretended we were on the French Riviera. Far from it, but its probably as close to the Riviera as we ever are going to get.

A day later we left for the tip of the peninsula and instead camped for a couple of days. We climbed the nearby hills for some majestic views of Titicaca with the snow covered peaks of the Cordillera Real in the background. And that's where we went next: to Sorata, at the foot of Mt. Illampu in the Cordillera Real.

Sorata boasts an excellent setting. Nestled on green hills at the foot of Bolivia's highest peaks. Let's go for a climb! We where still with the VW support team so we bought packs of coca leaves, stuffed them in our cheeks and followed our trusty Aymara guide Francisco into the hills. Holy shit! We spent the next three days going uphill. We climbed from 2700 meters up to 5300 above sea level and a few of us thought we would surely vomit our palpitating hearts. But it was worth the effort. The views would make your mind gallop wild and we could even see as far as our French Riviera, sorry, I mean, Copacabana about 100 km away.

We arrived two days ago at that great cauldron known as La Paz. We immediately headed to our favourite 5 star lodging appropriately known as "El Carretero". It was even more in shambles than the last time we where here. But what the hell, the owners are some of the nicest people we've met, we feel like almost part of the family and we firmly believe it's the most character filled place in La Paz.

As regards La Paz, some things never change. When we arrived in the city exactly a year ago the country was in a state of siege. Popular uprisings had forced the unpopular government to cancel some civil liberties, fill the city with riot police and the streets with tear gas.

Today, after a week long march, a caravan of farmers and opposition leaders arrived in La Paz. Once again, the popular uprising was met by an unpopular government, riot police and... tear gas.

That's La Paz. And we love it in all its chaos and scruffy charm.

Hope everybody is well.

Gonzalo and Nina, La Paz, Bolivia, 23 April, 2001.

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So who are we?

Update 1, November 2000, First road report

UPDATE 2, Dec. 5, 2000, Baja California, Hola amigos y que viva Mexico!

UPDATE 3, Dec. 17, 2000, Central Mexico

UPDATE 4, January 4 2001, Southern Mexico

UPDATE 5, January 31 2001, Guatemala

Update 6, Feb 7 2001, Honduras and Nicaragua

Update 7, Feb 15 2001, Costa Rica

Update 8, Mar 8 2001, Huaraz, Peru

Update 9 April 7, 2001, Cusco, Peru

Update 10 April 23, 2001, Bolivia

Update 11: May 15, 2001, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Story and photos copyright © Gonzalo Figueroa and Nina Maria Eidhein 2000-2001.
All Rights Reserved.
Webmaster:
Grant Johnson

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