15 October, 2012

Day 102, 291km: Into Bolivia

Woke up in Peru, two weeks after entering the country. Direction: La Paz, Bolivia. I wasn't feeling very well, probably something to do with the altitude (3800m) and left with an empty stomach.

Village next to the Titicaca lake
 Yesterday's photos perhaps didn't give an accurate impression of the number of villages near the lake. It's actually quite densely populated!

Shores of the lake
It was a short ride to the border with Bolivia. There are two crossings, a main road south and another that's on a presque-isle on the lake. A curious police officer stopped me and asked me why I wasn't taking the fastest road to Bolivia. In my still broken Spanish I replied "Este ruta es mas bonito" (I think that's actually the correct way to say it.)

Rising on the peninsula towards the border station
 I arrived at the border precisely at lunch time, the Peruvian offices were closed so I waited until 1.30pm for the staff to come back.

Two other travelers were there
There were Cynthia and Mike (IIRC!) who started their trip in Bolivia and were on Bolivian-registered bikes, kind of anxious that they would make it across the border without issues. Let me know how it went guys!

Into Bolivia!
All-in-all it took another SBEWT a.k.a. 2 hours to get across the border. Three if you factor in the time difference (+1 for Bolivia.)

Look at that! A Thai Flag!
There were plenty of motorcycle travelers stickers in the Bolivian aduana office. I was really surprised and happy to see a Thai flag and contacted its owner, I'll link to the blog if there's one.
In that office there was also the coldest border official I have ever seen. He didn't say a word for the first 10 minutes I spent in his office -although he was processing my paperwork- and his first sentence was "Color negro?" It was a great victory to manage to have him say "Buenas tardes y buen viaje" when I left his office.

Cool views of the lake Titicaca from its eastern shores
 From the border, supposedly a 2 and a half hours to La Paz.

Crossing from Copacabana to Bolivia's mainland
The road stopped at some point and we embarked on a wooden barge to go across the 2, perhaps 3km straight. The crossing took as much time as it takes for a train to go from France to England, 30 minutes.
On the barge were a bus, a pickup-truck and me. The water was very quiet, the small waves hitting our vessel still managed to twist its entire structure. The bus could be leaning on the left while I, at the other end of the barge, was leaning on the right.

I have to admit that I started imagining what would happen if the barge broke into pieces.

A bigger than the other waves shakes the barge. The bus leans slightly further than usual, this time beyond its tipping point. The wooden structure creaks under the weight as the bus continues to tilt onto the left in slow-motion. People start shouting and hands are seen out of the bus' windows, moving in despair as if trying to hold-on to an imaginary rope. As the bus is now falling into the water, the immense stress exerted on the barge's deck splits its in two parts.
The barge is now divided in two parts across its length.
As the bus hits the water, the left part of the barge capsizes. The bus' windows explode on impact with the water in a deafening clap. Planks of what used to be the barge roll onto the quickly-sinking green submarine-to-be, ensuring that all passengers stay on-board for the terrifying ride downwards.
The pickup is hanging to the right part of the barge, itself still afloat despite a good 30 degrees list. I push the bike on the right and it falls onto the half-barge's deck and starts sliding towards the water. Clinging to the barge's rail (bastinguage), I catch hold of a mooring line and tie it to the back wheel of the bike, its nose already nearing the water.

Of course, none of that happened. I was just daydreaming on a "plan B" should things go wrong. And yes, I actually checked where the nearest mooring line was, shall I have to resort to this.

The last two hours of the day to La Paz were pretty uneventful. Good road across the altiplano, a fair number of villages along the way. Not many gas stations thought, as we shall see tomorrow!

Arriving in La Paz, I met Laure, Fabien and their son Nayel who are travelling from French Guyana in their RV, spending time with local communities, setting up a mobile cinema, educating on child rights and documenting their journey. Make sure to have a look at their charity's website Air Indigene (French only).
We talked for a while about our respective travels, they recommended me a place to stay (the intercom at the people-less metal gate entrance to the hotel told me they were full) and I checked-in nearby shortly after.

Looking for a hotel, I saw a sign for a Thai restaurant. I'm starting to miss Thai food a lot so I planned to go there later on in the evening. After having checked-in, found a parking spot for the bike, showered and put on my "civilian" attire, I headed there.
"Hai persona Tailandese aqui?" I asked, wondering why a Bolivian football match replaced the usual Thai Xylophone (ranat ek) melody.
"No tiene, senor" replied the moody, slightly obese waitress.

I knew I wasn't going to have good Thai food. And I didn't. Still, that was a nice change in meals.
Went off to bed shortly after.

Sorry there aren't many photos today!
Guillaume

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