December 07, 2003 GMT
Brrrrr 'livia

...when i was invited into the back office i knew the answer would be yes; but how much?!

The barrier was open, just a crack, so i nudged through and parked in front the Aduana office.
First, as usual, to Migracion. Filled in the form and handed over the UK passport.
....where are the Peru stamps?
In here --the canadian pp. can't use this one then.
Porque no?! i whined.
Begging clearly wasn't going to do it.
When i was invited into the back office i knew the answer would be yes; but how much?!
After saying it was impossible and letting me plead my case, he finally said ok it's possible...$10.
As usual my counter was $2 (hoping for 4, but ready for 5).
5 it was. I had to go change the dollars to bolivianos.
The woman in the bowler hat didn't want to take my manky old notes. She gave me a poor rate. Migracion only got the equivelent of $3.80 but it wasn't counted, just smoothly swept into an open drawer.
Lovely. That's my visa for Brasil taken care of. Canadiens need a visa and it can cost from 35 to 100 dollars. UK no visa, free to enter.
The bike being parked "inside" Bolivia was a source of confusion. Aduana man wanted my bolivian papers. tengo.
He thought i didn't understand and held up a sample.
...nope, don't have. Need.
More confused looks.
...where did you enter Bolivia?, now.
...why is your moto on this side of the gate?
aye aye aye.

In Copacabana i schlepped down to the shores of Lake Titicaca to soaked up some heat.
I chatted with a Swede who had been electricuted while tightening a light bulb. The skin had been burnt off his finger and the thumb nail melted -the exit?
Thank goodness i have a fear of electricity; he is an electrician.
Anyway i was complaining, as travelers do when they get together, about sore muscles around my ribs from too much coughing.
The day after next i was feeling stronger. We walked the length of Isla del Sol. On the boat journey back i was suspecting a cracked rib, the pain was intensifying. It was the slowest boat; what should be a 20 min. trip took 2 hours.
By the time we were ashore i was suspecting a heart attack! Every breath, every move was pain. All i could think of was the 'mother horta' in Star Trek and Spock's mind meld; ..pain...pain...pain.
Peter was on his way to hospital for his daily dressing. I tagged (dragged) along. Blocks and blocks, up hill of course.
I was seen straight away, disappointing really because i missed having a look at the burnt finger....
Blood pressure was sky high. The doc had a listen while i tried to draw a deep breath....broncitis and 'phlegm in the lungs'. Creepy and berloody painfull.
Have i mentioned that i was in pain?
Antibiotics, broncial syrup and painkillers shot into the hip. $9 including $3 consultation fee. (only the painkillers were shot in the hip)

Ages ago i was contacted by Frank, a german living in La Paz, and was invited to stay in the house.
Both their bikes were off the road.
Frank's Africa Twin was waiting for parts; electrical fire. Ana's F650 G/s was....well, you'll have to ask Frank; i'm not even going to start about the BMW!
Straight to the "witches (brujas) market". Eucalyptus and camomile, on doctor's orders, to vapourize my poorly lungs -and Frank & Ana's home! (sorry about that)
Wolfgang and Anita, traveling on an XL650, were in town. I had met Wolfgang on his way through Huacachina, Peru. Anita joined him in La Paz.
We went for a weekend in Coroico.

N.E. of La Paz, Bolivia.jpg

The other side of the cordillera, N.E. of La Paz is the "world's most dangerous road". Named so because of the yearly death toll. But just a couple of bus loads over the edge will push the numbers up.
Apparently, while searching for survivors of one such bus, 2 motorcycles were found. Along with 2 helmeted skeletons...yikes!
Ascending traffic has the right of way. They are on the inside. I found this out the hard way after an encounter with a lorry. One of those "I inch - you inch" maneuvers, with me cursing him for being on the wrong side. heh heh ... ooops.
Add to this is the pushy 4x4's -who's drivers thinks they are Ute Klineschmidt; banana lorries; buses and the chaos of the 'Gravity Tours': tourists descending, in various states of control, as fast as they can on bicycles.

Yungas 'danger' road to Coroico

It's a great ride.
You can smell the change in elevation, the lush vegetation and humidity.
At 1700m Coroico is a subtropical and tranquil get away from La Paz.

Ye olde pulmonaries weren't complaining too much so i hit the heights again. The Altiplano -highplain- south of La Paz is 3800m.
There was a mine field of construction just north of Potosi. No flagmen so you are on your own dodging graters, rollers and diggers through sand and mud.
Steve and Jim were in Potosi both on KLR 650's. Jim had spent the night camped out on the road side between Potosi and Uyuni with a busted subframe. A chilly night; the water inside the tent nearly froze.
I was to meet Ed in Potosi. Ed is on an F650 classic too, he came through C.America just behind me and went to Venezuela and Brasil.
After his shock gave up -on the Uyuni road- Ed moved on to Sucre. Only 2 hours away but at 2800m much balmier. Potosi sits at 4070m.
After waking up to see snow on the bike, i moved on to Sucre!
We had a brief visit and i picked up the oil filter kits. (He had flown home for a few weeks so i put in my request!) Cheers Ed.
Wolfgang and Ana were in Sucre too.
After we looked over Ed's bike i asked Wolfgang to check my bearings.... "where am i?"...
The bearings were fine, the swingarm fine too. Just the stearing yolk to be tightened.

More construction on the road north to Aiquille. This time there was a flagman. I asked to be allowed to ride through the construction. Normally yes but today there is wet cement....hmmmm So down to the dreaded river bed detour.
Many rivers to cross...
There was a ploughed route to follow; i lost count of the crossings. One section was actually riding in a little stream.
The grande finale was to climb out of the river bottom; up the steep, mucky bank -complete with a right hander at the crest.
2 friends said that they remembered this river detour, on the same road....3 years ago!!
There is a paved road out of Aiquille, paved in stones. Cobbled vibrations.
East of Cochabamba there is one last cordillera to cross.
Down through the cloud forest with parrots and the sweet scent of jasmine. Then a flat run to Santa Cruz.
Eastern Bolivia is like another country. The faces and even the language changes!
Most of the products are imported from Brasil. Brand new Honda 250's are everywhere. No more old Jawa's so common in the mountains.
The one thing that reminded me ...yes i am still in Boliva... was the women in thier heavy pleated skirts; so out of place, so far from the Andes, so over dressed!
I'd been noticing the trend away from the bowler hat. They are going for the more practical and more feminine straw sun hat. Complete with ribbons or plastic flowers, yikes.
Santa Cruz has a lovely plaza with huge rubber trees harbouring slothes and parrots.
There was an official rally start one sunday. The Integracion of the East Rally. The streets were sort of blocked off. Traffic could slip through when it was clear and curious onlookers ventured further and further into the street.
The roar of the engines through the narrow streets set off the shop alarms.
It was an "all comers" event. Amongst the new Toyotas there were rusty 'mad max' outfits with open bonnets for air cooling.
There was a wonderful VW Bug. It had a rack mounted over the back window holding 2 radiators connected to an air duct on the roof. Is it a it a car?
I made a visit to Samaipata in the highlands. A german couple were there waking up their XT 250's they'd left there one year ago.
Not far south of here Ernesto 'Che' Guevara was killed. Malnurished, arthritic, asmatic, no one listening to or revolutionizing with him. Not the t-shirt icon.
Back to Sta Cruz to buy a new front tyre. Pirelli MT 60 for $36. It was at the bottom of a 6 ft stack of tyres. Put a new tube in too - the old one looked like a big heart when we blew it up.?!
Stocked up on fairing screws- they keep disappearing, chain lube and a couple NGK's. Free t-shirt thrown in too. Muchas gracias!
Walking into town -for the daily ice cream fix, i spotted gringos working on bikes in a car park.
Yet another F650 with a busted shock...made me paranoid. Asher said he'd like to send 20kg home!! Holy crow that's probably half of everything i have.
The rain had me paranoid too.
My route was taking me around the Jesuit Missones, a road impossible in the wet.
I had a sample of this when i went through a wet construction zone. I thought i was a downer for sure. I slithered and skated through...phew.
Concepcion is my favourite town on the route. Here a watersalesman with an XL600 recommended a road that wasn't on my map. He said it was the better road and sent me away with 2 litres of water!
This is a notorious smugglers route and i had read about check points and lots of baggage searches.
Groan, i hate having my packing disturbed.
Happily only one search and a couple of posts where they wanted my passport and plate number recorded. Only one request for a 'donation' which i politely declined. The other check points just waved me on.
After days of baked clay, washboards and bull dust i pulled into San Matias, the border town with Brasil. I was thinking it was friday but i lost a day. Saturday and aduana was closed and too late for migracion.
That evening i took a walk to a churrascaria (steak house). This is a 'one horse town' so no lighting after the plaza. A scooter ran up the back of me!!
The young lad wasn't going too fast and had nearly come to a stop anyway. It was more a surprise than a hurt.
A man coming towards me took my arm and asked if i was ok.
...yeah yeah just a surprise, crazy!
I went to walk off but he hadn't let go of my arm. He wasn't saying anything either.
Just before the crash i had clocked him as 'drunk'. Just an observation, he looked harmless.
....soltame (let me go)
With this he gripped a bit tighter. I knew there were a few people sitting on their steps so i made my voice louder and harder.
...soltame por favor! (still wondering if i was saying the right thing!)
He let go muttering, i don't know what, as he left.
Oh brother. After nearly one year this is the first mal encounter. Not bad i guess.

Sunday morning and i was determined not to stay another night in San Matias.
The police compound was open. They told me to go around to the migracion side -which we all knew would be shut. But i tried anyway, you never know.
In N.America or Europe this would be it; you would come back monday morning.
Once again i take a quote from Sir A. Conan Doyle's "The Lost World" :
...."the more you knew of South America the more you would understand that anything was possible-anything."...
So, back to the police side. This time straight past the grunts on the gate to the man in 'civilian' clothes.
He took my passport and sat me in his office, beneath a rouges gallery of homicidal maniacs and aggrevated robbers. A lot of them brasilian....
After some time i was given a glass of water and moved to an outside table. I watched a cartoon video about a duck bullying everyone with his false teeth.
News came that the man from migracion wasn't at home but they knew where he might be...
He rode me around the block on his moto. One cheap second for a stamp and a lift back to my hotel. I love South America.
I made one last effort for Aduana, supposedly open every other sunday.
It didn't matter though, i was ready to toss the moto papers. As it was they were open and i handed over the paper.
9km of dirt and one last check point to be waved through. Bye bye Bolivia.

Posted by Jo-Anne Smith at 03:03 PM GMT

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