Lake Titicaca is beautiful. So big that you can not see across to the other side, it was hard to keep my eyes on the road as Ryan, Arun and I rode away from Puno towards the Copacabana crossing into Bolivia.
- The bikes and boys on the shore of the Lake
For lunch we stopped at roadside restaurant for trucha frita (fried trout) from the lake. Three other motorcycle travelers rode by and turned around and stopped. It was Bart and Renate from Holland and Eran from Israel who we'd met in Cusco briefly. We formed a gang and headed to the border.
- The bikes outside the restaurant
- Great place for trout fresh from the lake. Renate, Ryan and Eran
When we got to the border, the BMWs wanted gas, and went back to find some. Ryan and I had enough gas, so we started the crossing process. I offered to do the paperwork as I always did with Phil, while Ryan guarded the bikes.
Getting out of Peru was pretty easy. First to the office building on the right, where they stamp the bikes out, then cross the road to the immigration office. They wanted me to have a stamp from the Policia next door, but there was no one there so the immigration man just stamped our passports out and we were free to go. Well that was until I got back to the bikes and suddenly some other officials wanted me to go into another building to show our insurance.
I had bought a month long insurance policy when we entered Peru on the 31st
of October. The six weeks I spent in Cusco waiting for Phil's bones to heal meant that my insurance had expired a month earlier. Oops.
I went into the building with a big smile on my face, convinced that it couldn't be necessary for me to have Peruvian insurance to LEAVE Peru.
There were two men in the office, and they asked to see my insurance papers. I handed them my insurance documents from Colombia and Ecuador (one to each of them). I then deployed my distraction techniques of asking how far it was to Copacabana, if they lived nearby, and if they thought Bolivia was nice.
The more senior man told me that my insurance was from the wrong country. I told him no, it was correct. I smiled and laughed and asked about the weather. He said to his friend that “This gringa doesn't understand us, just let her go.” Sometimes having a terrible Spanish accent works on my side. I understood them perfectly, but happily gathered my papers, sauntered out to the bikes, and said to Ryan under my breath that we had to get to Bolivia right away before they decided they wanted to see his insurance too!
They lowered the chain barrier and we were off. There was another chain at the abandoned Police office, so Ryan just got off his bike and lowered it himself for us to cross. We were out of Peru!
We rode across the bridge to Bolivia, and Ryan gave me his paperwork so I could go start the process of entering Bolivia.
- Welcome to Bolivia
Americans have to pay $135 to enter Bolivia. I wasn't sure what Canadians were going to have to pay, but it didn't matter, because in no man's land between leaving Peru as a Canadian, I took my British passport out of my bag, and magically transformed into a Brit. One of the great benefits of having two passports is that you can choose which to use. It seems Europeans generally are free of the reciprocity charges that other nationalities have to pay.
- Aduana on the left, immigration on the right
I went down to the immigration office, they gave me a few forms for Ryan to fill out, and then started flipping through my passport to find the exit stamp from Peru. Of course, there wasn't one. Changing nationalities in no man's land turned out not to be as easy as I had hoped. I explained the situation, and they said they would only stamp me in if I had an exit stamp from Peru.
Back I went to the nice man in the Peruvian immigration office. I explained the situation and asked him to stamp my British passport as well. He said he could only do that if I had an exit stamp from Bolivia.
Caught in no man's land, I was unable to do anything. However this was just a matter of a couple of stamps. Surely a simple policy could be circumvented and he could just do me a favour and stamp my passport?
By this time his two colleagues had taken an interest in the frustrated gringa. One of the said that it was possible but only if I went to the bank across the road and paid a $40 fee. However as it was Sunday, the bank was closed, so I couldn't do that today. I saw where this was going.
I have managed 17 months without paying any bribes, I didn't want to start now, but they were not budging, and even if I wasn't going to have to pay to enter Bolivia, I knew for certain that it would cost me $100 to enter Argentina as a Canadian. When one of the officials said I could pay them the fee, and they would give it to the bank when it opened, I pulled an American $20 bill out of my bag, and told them that was all I had. It disappeared very quickly, and in no time I had Peruvian entry and exit stamps in my British passport.
- My sad face after having to pay $20 for an extra set of stamps.
When I returned to Bolivia, Ryan had finished filling out his forms, and so back I went to immigration with my newly stamped passport. Two buses full of tourists had arrived in the meantime, now there was a long queue. Part of the joy of border crossings. Luckily one of the staff noticed that I had filled out paperwork in my hand, and ushered me to the start of the queue.
- What two bus loads of people standing in a line looks like...
After carefully inspecting Ryan's US dollars for even the tiniest tears, Ryan's passport was stamped in, and so was my UK one, no questions asked.
By this time the others had caught up with us, and we all waited at the customs office for our bike paperwork together.
Other than my self-created insurance and passport issues, crossing the Peru-Bolivia border was one of the easiest and most straightforward of Latin America.
We rode the few kilometers to the town of Copacabana and found a hostel that had been recommended on the shore of Lake Titicaca. For the equivalent of $3.75 I got my own room with a double bed.
- Our hostel on the shore of Lake Copacabana, Bolivia style.
Ryan was smarting from the border fee, so he chose to camp even though it only saved him a dollar or so. Arun also wanted to camp, and while they were setting up their tents, the Alaskans and Alan pulled up.
We now had nine motorcycles hanging out together.
- All of the bikes at the hostel
- Bart and Renate's bikes look so sweet locked together
I felt great. Back on the road, new friends, and new country. If only Phil had been there too, everything would have been perfect.