Once everyone had arrived in Copacabana, beers were acquired, and there was a lot of motorcycle talk and a bit of maintenance going on. Bart helped me adjust my rear brake pedal so that the brake comes on sooner, and I borrowed some silicon from Alan to try to get my homemade tool tube to seal better, keeping out rain and stopping my tools from further rusting. Bart pointed out that it was somewhat wrong that a BMW rider was helping the KLR, when there were so many other KLR riders there.
Once everyone was settled in, we went out for dinner, which ended up being a bit of an ordeal. The first restaurant we chose had a greedy owner, who wouldn't let us order the cheaper set meal, and then reneged on a promise to give us happy hour prices on drinks. We became annoyed with his attitude and cancelled our order.
Hungry and back on the street, we suffered greatly from groupthink. While a few of the others were looking at various menus, Alan pointed out to me that the Alaskans had disappeared into a pizzeria. We broke ranks and went to join them. Soon the rest of the group showed up, and we all ended up eating together.
As the evening progressed, more wine and beer was consumed, and Bart started to get a little overbearing. A few comments about Americans rubbed the Alaskans up the wrong way, resulting in one of them calling him a “Dutchbag”.
Despite this being a once off occurrence, and Bart and Renate being very nice people, the name stuck, and ever since we've been referring to them as “the Dutchbags” (sorry guys).
It had started to rain, and we all headed back to the hostel. Someone had bought a bottle of rum and the night progressed as expected, well except that one of the gang had been flirting with me and decided to kiss me! (I'll leave it to your imagination which one.) While unexpected, it wasn't at all unpleasant.
I was determined that I would not let anything ruin the dynamic of my new traveling gang, and so thinking about that kiss, along with the torrential rain pounding on the rooftop, kept me from sleeping very well that night.
In the morning it was still raining. Poor Ryan had not been able to stay dry in his tent, and everything was wet. We headed out for breakfast without the Dutchbags, as they had not yet emerged from their room.
The rain intensified as we discussed our options. It was the 29th
of December, and we all wanted to be in La Paz for New Year's Eve, but we didn't much fancy riding in the pouring rain. In the end we decided to see if there were any hotels available with good internet and perhaps a TV to watch movies on, and give the weather a bit of time to see if it improved.
By the time we got back to the hostel, the rain had stopped, and everyone seemed to burst into action. Soon the Alaskans and Alan were packed and decided to head off towards La Paz. Ryan and I followed soon behind them, and the rest of the gang seemed to also be packing up.
I liked that the group seemed happy to split up, because keeping nine people together would have been extremely difficult.
Ryan and I found the Alaskans at the only gas station in town. I'd been warned that getting gas in Bolivia is a pain, and they confirmed this by telling us that the attendant had just stolen 50 Bolivianos from them (claiming he didn't have change).
Ryan and I decided not to give our business to thieves, and that we would just stop at the next gas station we found. This turned out to be a risky decision.
We rode ahead, along a very pleasant route. The rain did not return, and the road was in good repair, something I had been concerned about, as tales of the poor state of Bolivian roads abound.
We arrived at a ferry, which goes across a short expanse of the lake. The Alaskans and Alan turned up shortly after we arrived, and I negotiated a cheap fare across (10 BOB each – about $1.50).
- A ferry making its way across the lake
- Josh and Ryan on the ferry
- Alan making sure his bike, Blue, doesn't fall over.
- Jordon loads on to the ferry
- Riding Cricket over the lake
To this day I am not convinced the ferry was seaworthy (or lake-worthy) but a bus and us five bikes made it safely across.
- The rest of the gang got their own ferry
- Lots of people watching us push the bikes backwards off down the ramp
- The last bikes off before the bus can finally move
- Safe on tierra firma
After we had unloaded, we saw the others loading their bikes on the other side, so we waited for them to get across.
At this point my gas situation was becoming a bit of a worry. There hadn't been another gas station since Copacabana, I hadn't hit reserve yet, but I knew I would be fairly soon.
We headed up the hill, away from the lake, and towards La Paz, which is one of the highest cities in the world.
- No gas here
We passed a few gas stations, however they had no gas.
- Another gas station with no gas. Thank goodness for Alaskans!
As predicted I hit reserve shortly later. Luckily for me, the Alaskans had a big jerrycan on the back of Josh's bike, and when I pulled up at yet another gas station with no gas they let Ryan and I have some of theirs.
The next gas station had gas, but wouldn't sell it to us. The attendant told me he didn't have any receipts for foreign license plates, and pointed to the cameras directed at the pumps, saying that they could only sell us gas (at a rate 3 times higher than what locals pay) if they give us official receipts.
I explained that if I didn't buy gas I was going to be stranded on the side of the highway and he assured me that there was a gas station two minutes down the road which didn't have cameras where we would definitely be able to buy gas.
Fortunately he was right, and we all filled up for 5 BOB a litre, about halfway between the local price and the official rate for foreigners. Gas proved to be a frustrating experience the whole time I was in Bolivia, even though the official rate for foreigners (around 9BOB or $1.30 per litre) isn't that expensive compared to other countries, it grated on me to have to pay so much more than the locals, and the need to beg for gas at most gas stations and then negotiate for a lower rate grew tiring very fast.
It is symptomatic of the Bolivian attitude to foreigners, which I found indifferent at best, and outright hostile at worst. When I asked for help I often wouldn't get it, or was given completely incorrect information. A big change from what I have grown used to, and made my time in Bolivia less enjoyable. There were of course some wonderful Bolivians, but they were few and far between.
We made it to La Paz with no further issues. The nine of us must have made quite a sight. Arun became official leader due to having a reliable GPS (mine works some of the time, but likes to restart repeatedly when I need it most). We pulled into the main hostel area, and found a room with six beds.
The Dutchbags and Eran had some other options so they went to investigate those, while the rest of us prepared to ride our bikes up a very thin plank into the hotel courtyard. Luckily Ryan agreed to ride Cricket up for me, because I really didn't fancy the challenge!
- This is how to ride up stairs
- Well... Maybe not like that...
- All the bikes settled in for the night
- Aussie Alan celebrates making it to La Paz
- The rest of the gang chills out at the hotel. Ryan, Arun, Jordon and Josh