The day’s track across the final Peruvian altiplano into Bolivia. It’s going to be a harder day than usual and not because of the riding, which was easy
And the interesting elevation plot
The plan was to cross 245 miles of altiplano, deal with the border issues for Bolivia and get to Copacabana before dark.
Up out of the sand and into the hills
Leaving the sparse green behind
The climb was rapid. Up to 15,500 feet in less than two hours
Unlike previous crossings the landscape was grim
Somehow unwelcoming. It was bleak in a gloomy way. Cold and breezy
It was missing something. It even lacked awe
A truck has flipped. The only car or truck I’d seen at all. This is a remote corner of Peru
An hour or two later it improved
A lake devoid of Andean geese, ducks or flamingoes
A village. I needed one of the three towns ahead to have gas. This didn’t
A large lake that steamed. If I had more time I would have found a track to it or walked it
Then another lake with a few llama at the shoreline
Further along, our second village. No gas. OK, one more town to go after this and we’ll be fine I say to Lucinda. The road interrupted a procession that led up steps to the road, crossed under a gate and up the mountainside past brightly colored shrines to a cross at the top. Looking to the town
And on the other side. A cross at the very top
Then along maybe 25 miles things changed dramatically. I guess we’d entered a different climatic zone. A green field full of llamas
I was really surprised because we hadn’t lost any altitude. It became fertile and small farms appeared with regularity
One valley was shot through with these huge slabs. Click to see how huge
Some times huge open plains being farmed
At some kind of a junction locals were trading stuff with each other beside a few empty buildings
Chaotic, but probably they’ve been meeting here for hundreds of years
Half of the business was happening out of the back of cars and vans. I hung around to watch for a while. Mistake
Larger clusters of steel roofed homes
This was the third and final village before the stretch to Yunguyo. My heart sank as I realized there was no gas opp here. Lucinda was telling me she had 30 miles of gas left and my GPS was telling me 40 to go. Well there’s the back-up plan: ride into the village a buy it out of a can from whoever will listen. Tried and true by many a long distance rider. I thought I’d press on and see what happened
Now we had two problems, the other being on a stopwatch for the border on, let alone dealing with it. Some how I’ve been mostly lucky with these riskier days but leaving the border until last was a big roll of the dice. Anyway we were entertained by beautiful landscapes. Stop the bike, shoot while idling, 20 seconds, no problem
We started stumbling. Stop the bike, roll it from side to side, keep going. That got us to Desaguadero which we hadn’t even noticed on the map. I bought thirty seconds worth of gas and charged on.
Imagine running out of gas with two empty Rotopax’s. Idiot scenario. But not really because so far 200 miles has been a safe distance with a little planning. I know that at some point that it’s no longer possible. It’s just a question of finding out where the distances stretch out – it’s here.
Past the border crossing south into Bolivia, not mine though
Through the border dive of Yunguyo
Rip to the border another 45 minutes down the road past Titicaca
To the second border option, to Copacabana
Look how long the shadows are. Sunset shortly. Into Peru immigration to be stamped out. I’m at the mercy of personalities now and can’t speed things up so take photos. She’s great, on to the next one
This guy is the best guy who ever worked a Latin border. He not only processed me fast but even went out to the photocopy place to get copies for me
Then immigration and aduana for Bolivia. No pics as the Bolivians were intense and uniformed for war. Immigration was no problem. Aduana was slow but ok. Then a crazy thing happened. Normally you head off and get insurance (seguro) afterwards, if it’s optional, or before aduana if it’s not. Well I’ve been industrious and bought Insurance for the next three countries through a reputable broker in Buenos Aires on-line (for following riders Google Robert Speiser Insurance, Buenos Aires)
As I leave aduana a policemen, as is not uncommon, asks me for a document check before letting me through. He checks my passport, my customs certificate and my insurance. He rejects my insurance. I’m ushered into an office and another cop looks at my insurance.They leave me in the room for a few minutes and come back and say it’s no good. And that the seguro office is closed. I’ll have to come back the next day they say. They smile hugely and ask if we can cooperate. Uh oh, a shake down. Now the thing I hate about this is that it’s possible to walk into a trap. If you offer a bribe and it’s a set-up you can be hauled off for attempt to bribe. So the thing is to find out if they’re just legitimate crooks, or something more complicated. In a moment of inspiration I ask the guy in front of a computer what the number is on the screen in front of him. He looks at me strangely. I’m covered – it’s a meaningless question that determines the next move. He then throws me into confusion by blurting out ‘six’. Wtf? Why not five or ten something? Did he panic? Six what , anyway? Not six hundred, not sixty, not six Bolivianos. Nothing with ‘six’ in it makes bribe-size sense. After eliminating all currency variations of six in my head it occurs to me he means a random six dollars, solamente. The smallest bribe request yet. I gave him ten, the smallest I had, looked at him intently to make sure I’m on the right thread, he smiled like a demon and I walked out.
Then a short ride to Copacabana. What a day – a long ride, nearly ran out of gas then a close timing call at the border followed by a mini-shakedown. This never happens to us this way. I’d better think about it.