May 08, 2006 GMT
(6) Peru: The Highlands

Before I left Lake Titicaca I had a run-in with the Federales. I had not encountered these people before...only the Nacionale Police.

I saw them parked at the south end of the small town as I entered from the north.
However, just before I got to them I spotted an old mission one block off of the main road. I turned towards it and stopped to investigate. Poking around and taking a few pictures consumed time...15, maybe 20 minutes. I was in no hurry.

Lago Titicaca Mission.JPG

Done with my work I could see that the road in front of the mission connected with the main highway so naturally I followed it out. They were waiting for me...the Federales. These are the drug police. I am sure my actions aroused their suspicions. After all, who would waste time looking at an old abandoned mission.

They pulled me over. Paperwork please! Come into the office...their interrogation room. Empty your pockets!
He made a move to open my jacket pocket. I pushed his hand away. I reached in and removed the contents and put them on the table. A couple of wrenches and some kleexex. Pretty harmless.
He pryed at the other pocket. I brushed his hand aside.
"Not before I put everything from the first pocket away", I said. I had played this game before. Empty everything at once and you only get half of it back. There were four of them and only one of me.
I emptied the second pocket. They had trouble with my change purse. I snapped it open to reveal the contents. "That is a ladies purse," he said.
"So what! it works for me". These guys were beginning to piss me off.
"What about inside your jacket?"
I revealed my passport case in which I carried a few Peruvian Soles and some paperwork.
They looked in my sunglass case which contained my glasses, my driver's license and a charge card.

Satisfied they let me go. A block away the Nationale Police were parked. They waved merrily to me as I went by, as was the norm.

Earlier that day I had passed the Nacionale Police as they ambled slowly down the road. They weren't breaking any speed limits but neither was I. I sped by. I had barely merged back into the lane when they turned the siren on full and flipped on their flashing lights. I'm sure the bike twitched a foot as a startled reaction to their game. I throttled up and watched them disappear in the mirror, as I gave them a big Salute.

Coming into Cusco, a few days earlier the Nacionale Police had caught me passing a bus on a mountain road, in a curve, with a double solid yellow line. I thought I had a ticket for sure, but they waved me on. Damn, double amarillo lines.

Riding that coiled serpent for the better part of a day could only bring back some fond memories of 1999 when I visited here last.

I had organized, planned and scheduled that trip much as I had done this one. I fetched two (2) unknowns off of the Internet and we met face to face for the first time in McAllen, Texas.

Like three (3) Misfits from Hell we headed south through the Americas, partying as we went.

I was young enough to keep up, Andres was dumb enough to try and Peter set the pace.

Our quest for that perfect bottle of rum took us to Ecuador where we found we could purchase a quart for $1.00. Thus we aptly earned the well deserved moniker "The Rum Riders." It took us a month to find the border so we could escape.

While roaring across Argentina one day, at 80 mph Peter heard a strange noise coming from his engine. "I must remember to ask Santa about that", he remarked to himself...he didn't.

With the starter firmly engaged to the flywheel he was grinding off precious teeth as he went. The heat generated within the starter melted the magnets off of the casing and turned the entire rotating mass in to a molten gel which solidified once it cooled. A new alloy was created that day called Copperminium which Phelps Dodge has since patented...TOO MUCH RUM. Peter still drinks...I don't.

We were like the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. The Father has returned to handshake the Andes, the Son is at home raising a family and the Ghost...well he is not Holy, we know that for sure. He lost his pecker somewhere in Argentina and is wandering about aimlessly trying to find it.

Peter had purchased an almost new R100GSPD for the trip. He fondly christened her the Virgin Queen. By the end of the trip she had been reduced to the Whore of Babylon. He still owns the Whore.

Somewhere in Central America, Andres decided he was going to cross back through two countries to try to find a woman who had given him a blow-job a few days back. He didn't know her name or the city she worked in but he was going back to find her...TOO MUCH RUM.

About every week or 10 days, Peter would go to the bank for more money. Returning with his cash in one hand and an ATM receipt in the other he would ask, "Santa, how are we doing on the budget?" "Spot on," I would reply. He never knew...TOO MUCH RUM.

While crossing the 16,500 ft pass at Huarez I was wretching from soroche, stomach cramps and the after effects of diarrhea. I lay on the road to gasp for a breath of fresh air in this cold, oxygen starved enviorment. A moment later Peter was nudging me with his boot..."Come on Santa, we've got work to do. Let's get rolling."


The mountain meets the desert.JPG

As I came off of the mountain, the hot desert air rushed up to greet me. The afternoon chill was purged from my bones as the temperature climbed into the high 20s. I was home!

I returned to Chile the next Arica, where I had been almost one month before. There was only one good reason to be ride one more mountain pass before I put the Andes behind me, perhaps forever...the Paso Tambo Quemada. I would enter Bolivia via this pass.


This was a less spectacular pass than I had imagined. I had read much good about it, but I found it less appealing than some of the others. These are not up and over passes, but rather up and stay there passes. I clung to 15,400 ft for several hours. Gas, near the top was 900 CH pesos per liter...$2 per liter.

The Chilean and Bolivian border crossings were at this high, remote location. With minimal traffic I was processed through in record time. That was a good thing because I had decided to ride from Arica, Chile to La Paz, Bolivia in one day instead of two. The pass consumed far less of my time than I had imagined. It would be a 500 km day with two border crossings. I was stretching the limit.

I arrived in La Paz at sunset. I hate that. Darkness is bad, rush hour traffic is worse and in La Paz it is hell. In fact it was so bad I was able to dig out my book and find my hotel while waiting for something to happen.

La Paz is built in a giant bowl. The rim is 13,500 ft and the bottom of the bowl is about 11,800 ft. With one way in and no way out this place is worse than a zoo. I missed my turn and since the roads radiate like a spiders legs I was ready to give up hope of ever getting to my destination, but I had nowhere else to go. I turned back and stopped to confirm my location. To my surprise I was only 2 blocks from where I wanted to be. Ten minutes later, with the bike parked in the hotel lobby, I was checked in and ready to hit the streets.

Posted by Robert Bielesch at May 08, 2006 02:20 AM GMT
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