I cross into Bolivia alone as Alison has gone back to Puno to try and get a cheaper visa, on advice from the lonely planet. (It wasn’t worth it for any Americans out there reading this, and they sent her back to the border!) .
I had heard that getting gas in Bolivia was difficult as a foreigner, especially at the border regions, so I decided to fill up close to the border. As all of the petrol stations I tried did not have 90, only a poor 84 octane gas, I kept moving onto the next one. Until in desperation close to the border I ended up buying fuel from a man with a bucket of gas outside his house!
Crossing the border into Copacabana I met with my first negative. All the people at the border were great, the paperwork took just minutes, but then as I was about to leave a policeman came out and told me to come into the station. They explained that I needed insurance to enter Bolivia, and no, my Peruvian insurance that I had been lead to believe was good for Chile and Bolivia, would not cut it. ‘But’ he explained with a slight grin ‘you cannot get insurance here, you have to buy it in La Paz. But to get through the border you will have to pay me money to sign you off, or I will send you back to Peru!’ I pretended I did not understand his Spanish. I played dumb for ages. But it did not work. He slammed his fist down on the table ‘Money’ he said in English. I put down 20 Bolivianos (about 3 dollars) ‘Esta muy poco, una mas’. (This is very little, one more…) I put down another 10B and walked away feeling angry and sick. I have had such wonderful interactions with Policemen over the entirety of this trip, and this was plain wrong. Not much money, but not a nice way to enter the country.
With my music turned off I started to notice a strange sound. I looked down and my chain was flapping. I guess it was something to do with the change of the preload. The sprockets still look good. Its 8 km to go so I head onwards, before looking to tighten it overnight.
I travelled on into the little town of Copacabana and found camping at a hotel where had arranged to met Alison. Just as I had pulled in my bike and dealt with it falling over in the soft ground with the help of three of the grounds men, she arrived.
We had landed in the town on the start of a dancing festival and went into town to see the sights. It was a crazy conglomeration of marching bands, and marching dancers, going round and round the town.
After hours we asked what time the dancing would stop. It lasts three days was the reply. We went to bed to the sounds of the bands fighting, with a song on repeat. Only the heavy rain in the depth of the night could silence them, but not for long.
We woke in the morning to a little sunshine and of course the sounds of the marching bands. Packing up we headed out of town to another police block. We went inside and they were trying to get us to pay to pass. The writing on the ticket said it was a receipt for sanitariums or something like that, I claimed we didn’t need it, and after a little wrangling we got back on the bikes without it. We headed off on some beautiful roads and then down to the ferry.
It was pretty daunting getting our bikes on in a way that we did not have to turn around on the wooden boards.
Yet again Police stopped us on the road. I was starting to get worried about Bolivia. This time they said it was for speeding. ‘Its 80km maximum in Bolivia ‘ they informed us pointing that their speed cameras and our clocked speed of 96km. We argued that we had not seen any signs informing us of such, apologized profusely, and they finally let us go.
We headed past some beautiful mountains
We finally made it La Paz after dealing with some awful traffic. Trying some recommended hostels that were all booked up, in the midst of 3 lanes of traffic madness, Alison spotted a hostel with a drive in courtyard. We pulled across the lanes and found a cheap dorm bed for the night at Pirwa hostel.