Starting the Bolivian adventure

Trip Start Oct 16, 2012
Trip End Apr 20, 2013

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Flag of Bolivia  , La Paz,
Thursday, February 28, 2013

We had our alarm set for 6am, as usual, but as we have now moved the clock forward on entering Bolivia, it was still dark and not inviting to start the day. We spent a few hours in the morning packing up, saying goodbye to Karen who was getting a bus to Cusco and doing some route planning. After a quick trip to the market to restock on the essentials, we were finally on the road at 10.30am.

We have only heard bad things about the road ahead; bad roads, busy traffic, flooding, ferocious dogs, high altitudes, few villages, no accommodation, awful food, bad attitudes from the locals, high petrol prices for foreigners or no petrol available for foreigners, problems from corrupt police...the list goes on. You name it, and someone has warned us to watch out for it in Bolivia. Understandably we set off unsure about how our day will unfold.

As we climbed up the hill behind Copacabana we were awarded with amazing views across the lake and over the small towns on the lake shore. The climb just kept coming and it took us much longer than we had thought it would take. A couple of hours later we were finally at the top and able to coast along the ridge for a while, before making the descent back down to the lake level. On the way down we bumped into a cycling couple who were travelling the other way. They had come across Bolivia and painted a tough picture, with steep mountain climbs and sometimes poor road conditions. We on the other hand raved about our experiences in Peru and told them that they had much to look forward to.

A few moments after saying goodbye to them, the Texan couple passed us in their truck and slowed down to ask if we needed anything. They had spent the morning having their car “blessed” for the roads ahead, which seems like a tradition for Copacabana, or maybe Bolivia, because we saw numerous cars covered in flower garlands and ribbons. I'm not sure how that is meant to prevent you being in an accident but they were happy to accept any good luck that was available.

We descended down to the end of the peninsula and waited a few moments for a free ferry to take us to the other side. The ride only took about 10 minutes and we used the time to eat some sandwiches we had brought with us. We climbed back up for a short time and then for the rest of the afternoon the road followed the side of the lake, with only small rolling hills. The afternoon went fairly quickly and we were pleased to cover some distance after our slow morning. We cycled through a village at 4pm that had accommodation, what to do? Stay with the safe bet or continue onwards to one of the two villages further along the road. Kory was itching to continue on following our days off, so we ignored the hotel signs.

12km later we arrived into a town, and cycled around looking for somewhere to stay the night. The whole place was like a ghost town, houses were boarded up and there was hardly anyone around. There was no hotel and nowhere that we could stay. We continued onwards to the next town, which had a bit more life going on but everyone insisted there wasn't a hotel. It was infuriating because they were sizeable towns, and on the tourist maps there was the hotel symbol.

We needed to find somewhere to camp, but the flat farmed land by the lakeside was not suitable at all. As the land was so flat there was nowhere to hide from the road and the houses.  We pulled over to a local house and asked the owner if we could camp in his garden. He pointed out his ferocious dog and that his whole garden was crops, but then took us around to the back of his house and told us we could camp behind the crops there. He was pleasant and friendly and we were really grateful that he was happy for us to camp there. We set up the tent and got the stove heating up some pasta as the sun set and the air became crisp.  The owner didn't come out again but we saw him peer out of his window a couple of times to check that we were ok or maybe that we weren't causing any trouble?!
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