April 04, 2010

Bolivia

Bolivia is turning out to be quite an adventure.  After a border crossing reminiscent of Centro America's most chaotic, I could not even get documentos for mi moto, on accounta the Aduana's PC was down.  Hopefully this will not bite me in the ass when I try to leave.

As I reached the outer part of La Paz, which showed every sign of being the typical South American city I have 'groan' to love (not), I checked into the first hotel I saw that looked like it might be a cut above the usual Hostal/jail cell.  They informed me the hotel would be closed tomorrow (Saturday) as there were going to be elections on Sunday.  I arrived there about 3, and everything was already locked up, and I mean everything, stores, banks, cyber cafe's, todo cerrado.  Fortunately, the Cajero Automatico (ABM) was willing to give me 1400 Bolivarianos, so at least I could pay for stuff, if only I could find someone willing to sell it.

I could not get a good explanation on why this should be, (e.g. were they expecting massive riots?)  but I figured the last place I wanted to be was in locked down La Paz.  I had passed Lake Titicaca on the way in, and it looked worth checking into.  My La Paz hotel was nice, and had a great view, but the restaurant, internet, everything was already closed.  I bought some buns and mandarins from a street vendor (who never close) and bunkered in for the night.

The next day I set out for Copacabana, which was a challenge, as the department of highways apparently does not believe in directional signage (or any other kind).  I headed back the way I came towards Lake Titicaca before I found out that I had to back to El Alto (the upper outskirts of La Paz) and take a different road that would take me to the north road.

Along the way I encountered Hotel Maravilla right on the shore of the lake, I asked if they had internet and they said yes, but after I paid, it turned out they did not.  They claimed they thought I was asking about fish (right, I hate fish), but their their flyers all said they had internet.  They had gotten my 100 Bolivianos, ($14) so I figured what the heck, and stayed over.  It was a nice secluded location, and the people were nice, I think they were really desperate.  I also think they were amateurs, and knew zip about how to run a hotel, there was evidence that the place had been better managed at some earlier time.  Their main customers were of the hourly variety and some people stopped to eat the one meal menu.  (The flyers also listed a wide variety of menu items, none of which were available.

The next day was Sunday, election day, I left as soon as I could and carried on to Copacabana.   The views are great here, reminiscent of my trip up the Dempster Highway last June (see post archive 2009 and picasa pix http://picasaweb.google.com/everiman/Dempster_highway_trip)

I had to take a ferry at one point, which turned out to be an adventure in itself;
The ferry is actually this barge powered be a very small outboard motor and a guy with a pole.   I got on behind another car, not realizing that this ferry was not roll on roll off, but I would have back out uphill, which is a chore with the bike loaded down, and a challenge, considering the consequences of a mistep;

On arrival at the other side, we were greeted by the Bolivian Navy, who told us to stay on board.  After much angry arm waving we were allowed to leave.  (Bolivia, is landlocked, but Bolivia does have a navy that keeps Lake Titicaca safe from those Peruvians on the opposing shore.)

Apparently election lock down included (locals) from driving as well.  I was OK as I am an extrangero, the Jefe gave me his card to show anyone who would make trouble for me.  It worked too, as there was a chain across the road when I got to Copacabana, but the card got me through. 


Peru and Bolivia have been very frustrating for me.  I said that I would keep going till it stopped being fun.  I will stay another day in Copacabana and figure things out.  Being on the bike and seeing stuff like this (picasa link) is fantastic, it is the having to stop part and find shelter, and navigating the cities that is wearing me down.

ps, don't be too concerned if there are a few days between posts, as the internet availability has been pretty dismal lately. 

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