Wednesday, December 12, 2012

La Paz

After leaving Puno it wasn’t a long ride to Bolivia.  Crossing the border wasn’t difficult either.  We crossed at the major crossing at Desaguadero.  We stood in line for ten minutes to have passports processed then crossed the street to get Aduno for the bikes.  Again, after presenting the paperwork we actually had this time, it was a very quick stamp and we were out of there.  Chuck paid some guy who had official looking slip of paper for what amounted to about 5 bucks for each of us.  I think it was a scam, but the guy raised the gate and let us through.  It might have been worth it just not to have to wait for the official raise the gate.

Looking back into Peru from the Bolivia side.

It has been amazing that highways in the countries we have been through are more like streets.  Streets full of vendors, cabs, buses, trucks and pedestrians.  And streets here through the neighborhood are in much better condition.  Imagine exiting I-45 to go east on Bay Area.  Then throw in vendors on both sides of the exit, like a street festival, with pedestrians walking back and forth, taxi cabs stopping to drop off or pick up, buses who always think they have the right of way and trucks. 
Major Through Street in La Paz

La Paz was no different.  The major artery into La Paz from the south was about 15 miles of these kinds of highways.  We did finally get to a toll road.  It is nice here because most of the toll roads are free for motos.  Once on the toll road traffic pretty much died.  It was nice to have about 15 or 20 miles of little traffic on what was mostly an interstate type freeway.

Regula, one of our roommates in the Santa Marta hostel, had told us about Hotel Rosario, “the best hotel in La Paz!”  For the first time the hotel we were looking for was right where the map said it was.  Only one problem, they were full.  I asked for a recommendation and she pointed out Hotel Sajama a half block away.  We negotiated a price around $30 / night and the room was very nice.  The next day, based on conversations we had, had before we decided to get two single rooms. 

We went back to Hotel Rosario that evening for dinner.  I had a great meal of Llama steak.  It was of game texture but no game taste.  A bottle of wine, with coffee and dessert.  The total was about $90 with tip.  We stayed in La Paz for three nights and had dinner at Hotel Rosario twice.

Llama steak with all the trimmings ... llyummmy

On the last day in La Paz we rode the bikes without the cases up to the start of the “death road” with the intention of riding the death road.  However, when we got there a very thick fog had set in.  It didn’t seem like a good idea to take off through a fog we couldn’t see much more than 15 or 20 feet on a road with two way traffic that was only wide enough for one vehicle.

While in La Paz, we had not had a chance to fill up with gas and we were on reserve.  There aren’t a lot of operating filling stations in Bolivia.  Many have shut down due to lack of gas.  The next morning we stopped at a station as we left La Paz.  The translation was a bit unclear but it became apparent in Bolivia there was subsidized gas for Nationals and a different price 3 to 5 times as much for Tourist. 

What was worse was that there was a paperwork process that involved hand completion and the choice by the operator to even sell to non-Nationals.  After stopping and being refused at the first, then the second station, we began to think that we might be spending the night on the side of the road.  At the third station we got in line and when we got to the pump, the operator refused us service. 

I was determined and just sat there.  The security guy came up and really started to push the operator to give us gas.  Finally, after realizing I wasn’t moving and the line getting longer, and with the help of the security guy, he finally filled us up.  It’s a lesson we are learning.  No doesn’t always mean no.  It’s a hard lesson for us American’s to understand, even when the vendor or the official says no, stand your ground.  Eventually they will give in.

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