Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Into Bolivia and La Paz

I rode from Cuzco to Puno which is the major Peruvian city on the Laguana Titicaca, which is an immense lake. I spent the night in a low budget hotel and listened to the rain fall intensely throughout the night. When I woke, it was still raining so I put on my rain gear and rode out. The road was horribly potholed and the potholes were filled with water so it wasn’t possible to see how deep they were.

The lake was beautiful. I understand why the Incan religion was born on this lake, it’s presence is dominating.

I became wet and cold. My crotch and hands were soaked. My fingers were stiffening from the cold and becoming quite painful. I prayed for a place to stop and get a hot breakfast. I found a place and ate soup, fried trout and potatoes for breakfast. My hand warmed and I put more layers on. My raingear fits over so many layers, but I needed more. The extra layers were sacrificial…they would get wet.

I made it to the Bolivian border and said good bye to Peru. The best way that I can describe the way Bolivia felt is that it was SOFT. I liked this new country. The border crossing was very quick and the officials were decent. I crossed at the Yunguyo border. The only thing that made me hesitate was the $135 USD visa fee. This visa is good for 5 years, but still that’s a lot of money.

I rode 8 km from the border to the touristy town of Copacabana and enjoyed a hot milk with a little coffe. I had 20 Bolivian left after paying the visa fee (about two USD) and spent 8 of it on the hot milk. The ATM didn’t work, so I decided to get cash in the next town.

The road out of Copacabana was smooth and twisty as it made it’s way through the Altiplano. The average altitude here is around 3500 meters. I was looking for the bridge but when I got to the end of the road, there was no bridge. It turns out that there was a FERRY! Exciting! So I rode up to a ferry that was leaving and after a moment of hesitation rode onto the rough planks that had large spaces between them. The boat was moving and the land was still, but it worked out OK. So I got to ride on a boat on the Laguna Titicaca.

I rode the 117 km into La Paz and was astounded at the size of the city. La Paz is in a large valley and the entire valley is filled with red brick houses. I couldn’t safely pull over to get a picture, though I wanted to. The traffic was the classic big city crazy weaving and honking. I wandered around until I found a hotel that had parking. In these bigger cities, I’ve given up trying to find a specific place as I find that it takes too much time. Instead, I just head to the center and then wander around until I find what I’m looking for. As I entered La Paz, it dumped rain and hail. I was pretty wet by the time I found a hotel. It’s pretty exciting, however, to be in the middle of this bustling city.

After getting settled, I went out for a pastry and hot milk. It hit the spot. Nice and toasty now!

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