Recently in Bolivia Category

Camana, Peru to Juliaca Peru

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We headed out of Camana with not much hope of scenery as the road turns inland. We were rewarded with lots of nothing to look at. Flat desert with a few rock formations here and there. Maybe 80 miles of nothing combined with more nothing – thankfully we didn’t have much for cross winds.

IMG_1263We were quickly into the LARGE city of Arequipa. We had already decided our map didn’t jive with what the GPS said.

We were pretty sure we were in for a run around in the city trying to find the right road out of town to Juliaca. After fueling up we got some directions from the gas dudes…. “Couple blocks down this way then boom!, straight out of town!” They did the classic Latin American arm waving gesture – sort of like throwing you in the direction you should go.

 

Well thats how it always starts.  First off you have to remember there are no signs pointing to the next cities. What you think is a main road may go about a mile then turn to dirt and dead end. The GPS would show us on the right road, only to have it turn into a dirt road and end in someone's yard that you think is a junk yard, but really is IMG_1265just all the other cars that could not find their way out of town… So we rode around some more and some more and some more. Dan must of asked at least 10 people “donde estar Juliaca or Puno??” I would say all 10 pointed to different parts of the city…they would use they're arms like left, right , left then kinda like they're bowling swing it up and go “boom” straight out of town…. Each time we would head the way they would say and each time we would end up at dead ends and one ways. sometimes one ways that dead end!!! So after almost 2 freakin hours of going round and round looking for a way out of this town. We were pretty stressed out and tired of it all.

We were to the point we would have even settled for the wrong way as long as it got us the hell out of that place.

 

We did finally find a road that lead to Yura. Which was not were we wanted to go, but we saw on the map a road that led from Yura to Juliaca. It was longer but we had had enough of riding around a noisy, diesel smoke laden, and dusty city. Just before arriving in Yura a split in the road appeared and bingo a sign to Juliaca! Both the map and GPS were totally off. We took the turn and started up the pass. We set a new record on the trip for elevation as the road climbed to 14,700 feet. We had to stop at the top and put on more gear. It was COLD! We took some crap in the first part of the trip about how much cold gear we were taking. Let me tell you, we were glad we had it.

 

IMG_1266We stopped at some tiny little berg of a town to grab some chips and try to warm up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P1000971This kid was just sitting there with a couple motorcycle tires – trying to sell them. There wasn’t a single motorcycle visible in town except ours – not sure what he had in mind but maybe he found the tires and had big plans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We arrived in Juliaca without any more trouble and checked into a nice hotel right downtown.

We went out for a pizza. Dan ordered a large pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms and cheese. Or so he thought… The lady kept asking more and more questions and Dan kept trying to clarify it but… she arrived with a large cheese pizza and we started eating it wondering where the rest of the toppings were… Then she arrived with a large pepperoni pizza, followed by a large mushroom pizza….

We only got through 2 of them.

Cheers!

 

Juliaca, Peru to La Paz, Bolivia

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Today the mileage was not to bad so we took our time getting moving.

IMG_1270We were on the road by about 930 and about 20 miles out of Juliaca we ran into another motorbike traveler at a toll booth. Pete Chester from Las Cruses, NM. We stopped and chatted with him for a bit. Dude is 66 years young and riding a Yamaha XT225 down to Terra Del Fuego on his own. How cool is that??

It was nice for us to talk bikes and English with someone!

  

 

 

 

 

After saying goodbye to Pete we headed south along Lake Titicaca which is a massive lake at 12,000 feet that is split by a border of Peru and Bolivia. Very pretty with some snow capped mountains in the background.

 

IMG_1275We got to the border and Dan kick started the customs machine into gear. Within minutes we were officially out of Peru and into no mans land.

He then headed into the offices in Bolivia only to come back out a few minutes later saying they wanted $135 US each for a visa to visit Bolivia…

When Dan went in everything seemed normal until they saw the US passports. Then he was escorted back to the boss’ office. The boss tells Dan to sit down and starts pulling out forms and sticky stamps. Dan said he heard the fee and thought he had misheard it – $135 each – can’t be – so he just went along filling out forms. Then it came time to pay and the fee really was $135 each!!

 

 

It all sounded like a total scam – in fact the “official” stickers had $100 on them – which he just crossed out with a pen and said “it’s now $135!” – of course no English is spoken. Dan told him that we weren’t going to go thru Bolivia – just back into Peru and down to Chile. El Jeffe said “well, you need a tourist visa to come into Bolivia – no other options”

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After we talked for a few minutes Dan decided to check it out on the Internet. He walked straight past the immigration offices and into the border town in Bolivia. He found a couple Internet cafe’s but none were working and they said “only Peru”. So – Dan walked back across nomans land and into Peru to find an internet cafe to see if these dudes were trying to fleece us. He did find out the fee was correct.  It is only charged to US Citizens because the US charges the same fee to Bolivians when they come to the US. 

When Dan comes back from the Internet cafe – “What could possibly be worth seeing in Bolivia for $270 god damn dollars!!” I believe was the quote. We chatted about not going into the country and finding another way down to Chile. All the while I was chatting to a pretty cool dude named Jose that worked for the Bolivian customs office and he informed us its because of good ole George Bush upping the visa fees for Bolivians to visit the US. So in response they upped the fees for us. Thanks Bush, even out of office you’re the gift that keeps on giving.

There were other visa types available – one for $85 which Dan tried to get them to issue – but they were not interested. El Jeffe brought in his henchman to yell at Dan – this guy used the “volume” translation method – if your listener doesn’t understand you then you just yell louder… Dan tells them fine – let’s do the tourist visa’s at $135 each – so the paperwork is processed and money is paid. Then El Jeffe tells Dan that he needs to get copies of the passport, stamps, etc… go across the street to get the stamps etc. That’s when Dan’s patience snapped – “so, you just charged me $270 for the f*cking tourist visas and you can’t make copies of the passports on your god damn copy machine right there!” – sorry, no. So – copies were made across the street.

In the end after we paid it and the rope blocking the road was lowered, we were let into the country. Jose processed our bikes in for us and we were off to La Paz. After a few kilometers we were stopped at another check point to see if we had the right paperwork no doubt. We were then charged another 10 blolivano’s to have that rope lowered so we could head to La Paz. About $1.20. At that point, it wasn’t the money it was that we had to take our gear off and fill out some forms and pay the money – a pain in the ass.

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IMG_1279We had reservations at a Hostel and we had GPS coordinates for it. La Paz is a city of at least a million and is in a large bowl. We wound our way down and down into the bowl. All the while keeping an eye on the gps. Mind you the GPS has no roads for this city just a dot where the coordinates are. So we end up in a maze of one ways, dead ends and nightmare of being on the wrong side of a hwy that had no overpasses in sight. After at least an hour we found arrived at the “dot”. Only there was no hostel. There was an old man there and Dan is asking him where the hostel is – the guy keeps saying “Maybe” – but nothing is making sense. About that time, a woman of maybe 50 comes walking up with a cell phone in one hand, way too much lipstick on and she is obviously under the influence of something – she starts sluring out some “timmy fell in the well” and Dan says “nada, gracias” then he starts his bike and rolls off about 100 yards. The woman starts grabbing at John – touching his coat and pulling at the bike…. John just has that affect on women…

It seems the coordinates were wrong. Again the fun of finding things in these cities without maps or street names is really not fun anymore. It was now dark and we were both tired. So we found an internet cafe and looked up they’re web site again. Got some new GPS coordinates and lucky for us it was only a few miles away. Pretty cool place. www.theadventurebrewhostel.com We enjoyed a few games of cribbage and drank a couple beers on they’re rooftop bar.

We are looking forward to a few days of chilling out, bike maintenance, laundry and catching up on blogs/email.

Cheers!

 

La Paz to La Paz

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As we last left you, we arrived at the Hostel. www.theadventurebrewhostel.com We we looking forward to a little down time…. We planned on doing some bike stuff, riding the Death road and just chilling out for a couple of days….

Both bikes are now making the scruntching noises coming from the rear end. So Sunday we got up and pulled the rear wheel to have a look. All the bearings looked good. The rubber cush drive we suspected up in the mountains is worn a bit, but not very bad and the noise is much too metallic sounding to be rubber on metal. We suspect the chains are failing. Which is surprising because they’re high end RK chains. $200 bucks a piece. Anyway we cleaned them very well with kerosene and then lubed em up. We plan on riding the death road tomorrow so we’ll see how they sound then…

P1000988Sunday night we signed up for the Cholitas Wrestling. Its like WWF in the states with all the masks and spandex. Only we had no idea how far out there it would go. It started out like any other wrestling. 2 dudes throwing each other around and out of the ring. Much the same as WWF. The next bout had a dude an a woman going at it. This got a little uncomfortable as it appeared he really was beating on her at times…

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IMG_1338Next bout came two women and a midget woman. Ok we thought this is getting a bit strange. They threw each other around and at one time the midget appeared to bite the ref in the groin… The crowd of say half gringos and have bolivians was going nuts’ (pun intended) 

When we arrived at the ring – the guide who came with us told us we could throw things at the ring/performers. They did worn us before the start, that throwing anything hard was likely to result in the object being returned to you in the same manner. We were throwing anything and everything we could get our hands on. Peanuts mostly,  however plastic bottles flew the best and were entering the ring at a surprising rate. 

One of the strangest things was that every so often the “ref” would haul off and punch one of the wrestlers – or kick them or hold them down floor the other wrestler to pound on.

The bouts continued getting stranger and stranger until the last bout we thought we had see it all.

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P1010007Then…They introduce a double team deal. Two normal looking wrestlers enter the ring. They introduce them, they’re wearing normal outfits with masks and tights. Then they start to introduce their opponents. These two guys come out dressed in outfits that look like butchers. Monster type masks, hunch backs and long over coats. Oh wait what are they carrying?? They each have an esophagus with the stomach and entrails still attached…. For what animal we didn't know nor did we want to know. At first we thought those can’t possibly be real. Can they? Then they paraded around the ring before entering the ring. When they went past us the smell from the “weapons” they were carrying IMG_1342confirmed our worst fears. Yes they were in fact real!! They were also taking bites from them and spitting them into the crowd…..We both ask if each other if we were indeed really seeing this?? Then the match started and they began beating the opponents with them. It was easily the most bizzare thing I have seen in my life…. At some  point they had put down they’re “weapons” and were fighting with the other dudes. At this point late in the “match” a dog comes from nowhere and jumps into the ring because he wants a piece of the guts….He drags it off the ring and the crowd is going crazy. We decided at that point we had see enough and headed for the door. But not before the “fight in the ring” spilled down into the crowd. I’ve got to tell you, it looked pretty damn real at this point.

Like the dudes were really fighting. Throwing chairs at each other and just plain getting it on…. we went back to the hostel feeling a bit off!!

We have a video of this stuff that we’ve been trying to upload but the Internet connection here is very much like the old days of 1200 baud modems – we’ll get it up there sometime.

We did have some serious laughs and enjoyed ourselves – highly recommended - but they could have left out the monsters with the meat!

Cheers!

 

It seems like we’ve been here for months already. We spent a couple days now seeking parts for our bikes.

We changed the oil, cleaned the air filters, replaced the front tires with ones we’ve been carrying from Costa Rica, and did the usual bolt/nut tightening.

We’ve also decided to replace the chains and rear sprockets as they are showing more wear than we think is reasonable. The roads south of here are reported to be rough and the towns are smaller. Of course, there are no Suzuki dealers in La Paz – there are 3 Honda dealers and we’ve been to all of them – there is one Yamaha dealer and we’ve been there several times. And we’ve found a couple independent parts places.

Our bikes use a somewhat non-standard chain size – 525 pitch – most bikes down here use 520 or 530 pitch. So they have to order the 525 pitch from outside the country. Our man – Johnny Lion from Todo Moto had told us “tomorrow” for both chain and sprockets – so when we showed up “tomorrow” – he told us that it would be Saturday. What?! – of course no English is spoken so we are working thru the dictionary and trying to get it figured out.

We spent some time online, calling back home, etc. Matt @ CycleGear in Portland did some cross referencing for us to see if another bike used the same sprocket – no dice. So we elected to wait and hope ol’ Johnny comes through for us.

In the meantime, we have been helping Pete (the guy from New Mexico we mentioned in the blog earlier) with some of his challenges.

Cheers!

 

Finally – we are back on the road. After we got our chain and sprockets on Saturday, we toiled away putting all the parts on the bikes. We had to break off part of the chain and it took some doing without the proper tools but we got it done. Did some map consultation with some other travelers Saturday night and made plans to head out on Sunday morning.

IMG_1383We picked up another rider for the ride down to Potosi. Wes Mcgurie with his KLR 650 (Neopodo)– check out his site here – he’s from Wisconsin (or so he says?) – and has been traveling with his bike for 9 months or so.

 

 

 

 

We must have talked to 10 or so people about the road conditions going south. 95% of the roads in Bolivia are not paved so it’s kind of important to know what you’re getting into. We spoke with several Bolivian natives that told us we would have some dirt roads on the way to Potosi – so we set out a bit early and expected the worst.

Well – we had almost new asphalt roads all the way to Potosi! and they were carving through some spectacular scenery – across some fairly high passes – 14,000 foot.

Here are some shots along the way –

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Potosi is supposedly the highest elevation city in the world – who knows? – but the altitude here is around 13,500 and it is really hammering John and I – we’re both waking up every 20 minutes or so at night and sucking for air. Just the slightest exertion creates a “guppy” effect where you have to suck for air.

Tomorow morning we head down to Uyuni – where the salt flats are – supposedly the largest salt flats in the world – who knows?

Cheers!

 

After a rather forgettable night in a cheap hotel and a fairly mediocre breakfast we headed out of Potosi.

We had several people tell us that the road to Uyuni was difficult – all dirt/gravel, muddy and numerous water crossings. And the time frames ranged from 6 hours to 10 hours. So we set off somewhat early.

P1010044The road weaved its way through some of the silver mines in the area. Potosi was one of the major silver producers going back to the Spanish occupation of Bolivia. The road was under continuous construction for almost the entire trip to Uyuni with big road working equipment and trucks taking up lots of space and not always being willing to give up some space to a few motorcycles.There were a few water crossings but most of them were not too bad – maybe 2 feet deep without much current. It was very apparent that if it were raining the crossings would be wide, deep and fast. We were lucky that it had been dry the last couple days.

 

P1010050There were zillions of Llama along the way – we’ve not mentioned much about these animals but there are plenty of both domestic and wild Lamas everywhere. Sometimes you’ll see a huge herd of them – hundreds of them grazing in a field – and other times just a few here and there. But one thing you can rely on is that they think they own the roads and will rarely move for a motorcycle. It seems like you come up to them, wait a bit, then beep the horn and the Llama looks at you like “is that all you got?, cause I’ve been blasted by busses and trucks!! That whimpy horn is not getting me off the road”. The red tags/tassles on their ears appear to be some sort of ID – although it is hard to imagine why everyone would tag them with the same color?

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We had two stops to fix things. Dan’s chain guard came loose and got caught up in the chain. We also have been bottoming out in the rocks and ruts. Well after a smashing the bottom of the bike so many times…. The center stand got bent up so far it was rubbing on the chain. So we had to bend it back into the correct position.  

 

IMG_1424In the end the road was not anywhere near the trouble we had heard. We enjoyed the scenery and rolled into Uyuni after about 6 hours, including the mechanical repairs. Tomorrow we ride out onto the salt.

Cheers!

 

IMG_1510We decided to spend an extra night in Uyuni to get a good look at the salt flats. This one is the largest in the world.  So we had a nice sleep in… In our hammock style beds. These bed were played out!!!  We headed out around 10 with our new moto-friends Wes from CA www.neopodo.com and Dannie from Italy. We met Dannie here in Uyuni and Wes we told you about in the last few blogs.

 

The salt flats is massive…We really just  rode out onto it about 20 miles or so and took a bunch of goofy pictures and then rode back. Not much else to say so Just have al ook at the pictures.

DJ salt flats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We also stopped at this Salt hotel that was out in the middle of the flats…. Pretty strange. It was made from mostly salt. Had some salt carvings and things inside. (no thats not a UFO, Dan’s camera seems to have gotten some grit inside it)

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P1010105Our bikes and our gear were so covered in salt, its hard to describe. The brake disks were already pitting and everything was squeaking or grinding in just a couple of hours of splashing through the salt and salt water.  So we stopped on the way back to town and had them washed. The first wash in 12,000 miles!

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Tomorrow we ride south.

We’re getting close, Anyone care to guess on an arrival date in Ushuaia??

Cheers!

Uyuni to Ala Quianca at the Argentine border.

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We decided to get up early as we had heard horror stories about the road today. Danneile from Italy had rode it 4 days ago and it took 8+ hours to go 200 kilometers… 3–4 foot deep river crossings that are 20 or 30 yards wide. Lots of deep mud and very slow going. It hadn’t rained in the last 4 days so we were hoping for the best.

IMG_1513The road turned out to be dry and very fast in some sections. The washboards were big and seem to smooth out the faster you went. We were cruising at about 65 on these stretches. As long as you don’t need to stop…. It was ok.

On the parts of the road that were mud, it had dryed and more or less turned to concrete. We could easily see how extremely tough the river crossings would be… We got lucky though and most of them were dry. We did the 300k all the way to the border in about 5 hours. 

 

 

P1010126The scenery was fantastic! Huge vistas with the road climbing and descending over and over. It would drop down into a rocky river bed. Only to ascend back up to a high ridgeline. Then it broke out into a  massive river valley with cool rock formations. IMG_1536

 

 

 

 

 

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IMG_1540We arrived at the boder and quickly found the crossing. The border itself was pretty straight forward. Wait in line for about 45 minutes to get a 3 second stamp in the passport. However, when we went for the bike paperwork we were told to go to this other window. Then the dude at that window says go to this other window, and so it went for about a half hour till we finally got to the right place. The guy there says, “cee, have a seat”

So we sit…. the three of us in the office with three customs people. 2 of them are messing with they're blackberry's laughing and basically messing around. This other gal is pounding on the computer…. So we sit. Some other guy comes in and the blackberry dudes rush his paperwork out and boom!, he’s gone. We sit…looking at each other wondering. Eventually the gal finishes her paperwork and starts ours.20 minutes later and we’re out of there, A quick search of our bikes, very quick when he got a whiff of my dirty clothes!

Start to finish I would say we were at the border crossing about 2.5 hours. It was getting late so we decided to stay at the the border town. Not usually the best choice as border towns can be scummy. This one was ok though and we found a cheap place, got a bad pizza and went to bed.

IMG_1543The motobrothers are in Argentina!! 5121K to Ushuaia!!

Tomorrow we ride south’

Cheers.

Hey guys –

We finally got the video of the La Paz Cholita Wrestling bout with the Monsters and their Meat!!!

Check it out!!! – this was taken by John using his regular camera so it’s not the best close up but you’ll get the idea….

Cheers!