July 29th, 2002.-- 38 months, 75 borders, and 6 years of marriage.
Returning to La Paz
-- Story by Chris --
Saturday, July 20th: We crossed the border back
into Bolivia, marking our 75th border crossing, and 38th month on this journey. The
border crossing was simple enough, but the police asked for a donation to buy flowers and
paint the walls. The Sargent looked a bit surprised when I declined to contribute,
even asked me a second time if I was sure, then shrugged his shoulders and Erin and I rode
We thought Copacabana would be a bit cheezy, but found it to be an exceptional place to
spend a couple of days. Erin was finally starting to recover from her cold, and we
spend 2 nights down on the beach, eating trout while watching the sun go down.
Monday, July 22nd: After packing the bikes, we enjoyed a 45km scenic
ride to the ferry docks, where we would board a wooden raft with 75hp engine to take us
across the narrowest point of Lago Titicaca. The rafts are a bit scary in design,
but are able to transport buses (without passengers). The trip took about 20 minutes
to cross the narrow gap, and was quite rocky in the middle of the trip. At times it
was a struggle to hold the bikes, as they rocked back and forth. We landed safely to
the other side, and gladly rolled the bikes on shore. Two hours later, we arrived
back in La Paz, and what a mess it is to try to find a decent (cheap) place with
parking. The traffic makes NYC look like a small suburban town. After spending
a good 2 hours, we finally ended up in a hostal for about US$9, which included
parking. The owners were nice, but the room was pretty basic for the high price we
We spent the
remainder of the week at Nosiglia Honda, finishing up some work
on the bikes: change valve shims, repair broken speedo
cable, replace lost/broken bolts, weld a fairing mount that broke, some plastic welding,
and some other things -- nothing major, just a lot of niggling little things as the bikes
are taking a beating on the roads down here. The guys at Nosiglia treated us great
(again) charging us US$30 for 3 days work. Funny, the more adventure riding we do,
the more fun we have, the more we have to attend to the bikes.....it's kinda like;
we're here in winter, above 13,000 feet, and it's cold -- go figure! :-)
Actually, day-time temps
have warmed up a bit, but we're certainly looking forward to leaving the mountain
altitudes and spending some time in the sun -- we used to have nice tans!
resentment we thought we may encounter on our return has (so far) not been apparent.
Things appear to be the same as before. However, the political situation is
(supposedly) very unstable, and one of the 2 leading candidates wants to get back involved
in the mass production of cocoa. President Bush has declared (via the American
Ambassador) that if the Bolivians go back into this business, he will cut off all aid to
Bolivia. So, there were/are some fears about how the Bolivians would treat Americans
-- so far, so good.
The thing is, Bolivia is
a very, very poor country, and apparently their economy was better when they were running
the cocoa plantations. Without getting into the politics of it, the locals were
doing better when they were farming cocoa then they are now, with the aid they receive.
They don't have a cocaine problem here, they do have an economic problem.
There is a huge problem with nicotine addiction in the world, but does that
stop Big Tobacco from manufacturing it and selling around the world, addicting the poor of
these impoverished countries into spending what little money they find on smoking --
hmmmmm. If we were local farmers, it would be very hard for us to understand
why we shouldn't grow cocoa, when it could put food on our otherwise empty table.
We're not taking sides, just seeing things from this side of the wall....
Saturday, July 27th: Had lunch with fellow
overlanders Cory and Chris, who were in town from Cochabamba. Spent the afternoon
swapping stories and telling lies -- great fun. In the evening we went down to meet Tom
& Kristin Reilly. Tom is a graduate from SIPA, the school where Erin worked at
Columbia University. Tom is now working for USAID and Kristin for CARE. They
are a terrific couple, and took us out for an incredible (and authentic) Swiss Fondue!
Sunday, July 28th: Our 6th wedding Anniversary, our 4th on the road! Spent
the day buying all kinds of souvenirs and tapestries. We bargained hard and got some
really terrific stuff! A great day was followed by a wonderful meal!
Monday, July 29th: After dropping off a 14 kilo (31 pound) box at the post
office, we came down to spend our last night in La Paz at Tom & Kristin's place.
We had planned to leave today, but Tom offered us a comfortable bed. We
decided to spend the night and "rough it".
We rode down to the house, which happens to be just down the road from the US
Ambassador's. The security detail had eyed us driving past, then again as I went out
to run a few errands. I was on my way back to the house after lunch when I decided
to stop and talk to the group of agents out front. They were dressed as you would
expect our Secret Service to dress, but were actually Bolivian Policemen. To make a
long story short, after a while of chatting, I asked if it would be possible to meet the
Ambassador -- I had never met one before, and figured "what the heck!"
They discreetly talked in their walkie-talkies, and confirmed the Ambassador would come
out to meet me. I quickly ran down the street, and pulled Erin out of the
house. Several heavily armed guards were around the bike, as well as about a
half-dozen agents dressed in suits. Manuel Rocha not only came outside to shake our
hands, but even climbed onto my bike for a photo -- which almost gave the security detail
a heart-attack! After he left, the security guys gave us lots of suggestions and
good contacts for our trip east.
After a delicious dinner of Pork Chops and Mashed Potatoes back at Tom's, we retired
for a wonderful night in a big, comfortable bed -- ahhhhhh
Cheers from Copacabana
Ferry across Lago Titicaca
The mechanics at Nosiglia
Tom & Kristin
Javier and Wilhem, head of security for the US Ambassador
The US Ambassador, Manuel Rocha, in good company!