January 28, 2010 GMT
Bye Jacquie Hi Bolivia

I felt much better the next day, so I packed up and headed out of the city, aiming for Bolivia. I had a huge ride ahead of me if I wanted to get across the border in a day, but I was in the right frame of mind for a new country and a new chapter.

Garth and I thundered back out through the sacred valley, and didn’t stop until I came across a procession in a town along the way, about 5 hours down the road. It was another festival, and as I rode on towards Puno I came across more and more of them. I was just on the outskirts of Puno when a cop stopped me for another procession to cross the road in front of me. I pulled over, parked the bike, and went for a closer look.


The women were wearing in brightly colored dresses with bowler hats perched high on the top of their heads, while the men wore even more brightly colored flamboyant costumes that could have come out of Liberace’s closet. I asked some of the women if I could take a photo, and they happily agreed.



One of the women went into a small house and came out with a huge mask and insisted I put it on a have my photo taken with it on. Then I gave her my sunglasses for another photo of her as a biker, then the fun really started. A group of young men who were in a band wanted their picture taken by my bike, then a group of girls in majorette type outfits wanted me to take their picture, then a couple of the elders wanted their picture taken with me, and with the bike.

There was a real party atmosphere in the air as everyone prepared to join in the procession. I wished I could have stayed longer, but Bolivia beckoned, so reluctantly, I got back on Garth, and waving, I pulled off down the road towards Lake Titicaca and the border beyond to Bolivia.

I rode through Puno and followed the road round the lake towards Copacabana, the first town in Bolivia after the border.

The road worsens approaching Bolivia

As I approached the frontier, the road became more and more pot holed. Some of the holes were right the way across the road, and some were really deep, big enough to swallow a scooter wheel in its entirety. I had a couple of nasty jolts when the bike bottomed out on a few of them, but I managed to avoid most of them while still keeping up a good speed, I kind of enjoyed this slalom section of the road. I filled up in the last gas station before the border, thinking it be the last time I would be able to feed Garth with some high octane petroleum, only to be told that this gas came from Bolivia, and the highest octane they had was a measly 85. I filled up anyway, and rode the last few kilometers to the border.
Approaching the tiny Peru/Bolivia border crossing


I knew that this crossing was a small one, but had no idea exactly how small.
I didn’t even have to get off the bike on the Peru side, the customs officer, and then the immigration guys came out to check out the bike, stamped my passport, took a photo, and exported the bike for me in minutes, then I rode up the road, through an arch , and to the Bolivian frontier. My papers were all signed and sealed in a matter of minutes, and half an hour after I pulled up to the Peruvian border control, I was well and truly in Bolivia and on my way to Copacabana.
I arrived in the town,which was really little more than a jumping off point for tourists and travelers to pick up boats to see the Islands in Lake Titicaca, and soon found a room in a cheap and nasty hotel, unloaded and went for a wander. I bumped into a couple of guys I had met in Mancora, and together, we booked ourselves on a boat trip to another island in lake Titicaca, Isla del Sol, an island that our French pal in Cali had told us was a “must see”.
Well I guess one person’s idea of a must see and another’s differ wildly, as in this instance. The Island was not unattractive, but was no different to the island we had already seen from the Peru side.
We hit dry land, and set off on foot along a beautiful white sand beach, currently being occupied by a couple of pigs, that had dug themselves a small pit in the sand to keep themselves cool, and a bunch of young boys, completely naked, running in and out of the sea and throwing themselves on the sand.

We left the beach and started the climb up to the ruins, on the way chatting to some beautiful local girls, dressed in incredibly bright clothes, selling flowers to passing tourists.

We were passing more donkeys than people on the path to the top, I hoped the girls found some customers for their flowers.

After a quick and rather disappointing view of the ruins, I was pretty much ruined out by this stage, so it would take a lot more than a collection of stones to impress me now, we turned around a made our way back down to the boat.

The boat left the dock a few minutes after we arrived, the last of the passenegers to get on board, and we started motoring back towards Copacabana under a cloudless blue sky.
The captain steered his boat to a floating island for us tourists to explore, but on closer inspection, the “island” showed its true form.It was made up of a bunch of oil drums covered in reeds. Only in Bolivia would you be able to find a fake island.

The Fake Floating Island-only in Bolivia!

There wasn’t really much to keep me on Copacabana, so the day after my tour around the lake, I woke up ready to get on the bike and leave. The Gods, it seemed, thought otherwise. The rain outside my window was falling hard, and the roads could barely manage to drain away the deluge of water, threatening to flood the roads at any time.
I went downstairs and tucked into the complimentary breakfast, hoping that the rain would soon give up, but if anything the rain began to fall even harder than before.
Well, I still had to pack, maybe the rain would stop by then, I thought to myself, so I went back upstairs to pack up my bags and bring them downstairs. The rain showed no sign of letting up, but I really wanted to get out of Copacabana, and into La Paz. The thought of spending the day wandering aimlessly around Copacabana in the rain was even less appealing than spending the day getting wet on the bike.
I slowly packed up my bike and stepped into my waterproofs, and headed out of Copacabana.
There was always a chance that I would ride straight through the rain and would be in the dry on the other side of the mountain that overlooked Copacabana.
I made my way slowly up the twisting, slippery roads to the top of the mountain, and then even more slowly descended the other side, where, unbelievably, the rain was falling even harder. It wasn’t raindrops that where falling on my head, but bucket loads of ice cold water.
The water stung my face, and once again, I cursed myself for not having tried harder to find a visor for my open face helmet, even though I knew in truth that I had searched high and low throughout Central America. Then I remembered, Jacquie’s helmet, complete with visor and chin protector was strapped to the back of the bike. I pulled over, and for the first time on the trip, donned a full-face helmet.
Excited about the possibility of a dry face, I pulled down the visor and set off.
About 100 yards further along the road I pulled over. The visor had steamed up and I couldn’t see a thing. On top of that, the visor was tinted, so even when it wasn’t steamed up, my view was limited. But the fact was, every time I pulled down that visor, it steamed up in seconds, and I had to try sticking a wet finger of my glove inside to try to wipe away the moisture. When this technique proved to be about as useful as , well, wiping wet glass with wet leather, I tried riding with the visor half way open, which meant that the rainwater was directed straight to my cheeks, and the cold, wet air went straight into my eyes.
I soldiered on, alternating between wiggling my wet fingered glove along the inside of my visor, and changing the angle and width of the opening of the visor. The rain continued to fall, my “waterproof ‘ gloves showed their true colour, rainwater dripped down the back of the helmet, down the gap in the neck of my jacket, to the seat of my pants, where it pooled around my arse, giving me that same feeling that I had in my boots, of flesh soaking in puddles of cold water. I sloshed around like this until I reached the lake that I would have to cross to be able to reach La Paz.
I pulled up to the shore and was waved towards a collection of wooden planks with a motor attached at the far end that was to be my passage across the lake.
The "Ferry" across the lake

I gingerly rode Garth down to “ferry” and onto the planks, and stopped as directed at the end of the boat. After me came a couple of local taxis, and with out further ado, the young man that had waved us onto his boat, started up the motor with a couple of pulls on the starting rope, and we were off.
Coming in the other direction we passed another ferry, no more than just a wooden platform with a motor at one end, barely large enough o fit a coach on the planks. From where I was looking, it appeared that the coach was floating along on the water unaided.
coach ferrylapaz.jpg

A short while later I reached the other side of the lake, and after a not inconsiderable amount of effort, I managed to wiggle the bike round and ride off onto the shore, barely keeping it from falling when the platform lurched back towards the water while I was half on land and half still on the boat.

Posted by Dan Shell at January 28, 2010 03:25 PM GMT

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