Chris' 1994  R100GS/PDChris' new bike, a 1996 F650 ULTIMATE JOURNEY Erin's 1997  F650
Living a Dream . . . 2 Live-N-Ride

Aug 6, 2002 -- Day 1,174, and day 312 in South America

Credit to the Gauntlet

-- Story by Chris --

Tuesday, July 30th: On our way out from La Paz (sur) this morning, the gas station attendant suggested we take a different route out of the city -- up and over the mountain, rather than through the city as there could be trouble with demonstrations (The Taxi and mini-bus drivers went on strike, to protest for a raise in rates).

Well, it was a pretty beat-up cobblestone road, but the views north to the city were spectacular! Near the top (it took 20 minutes of zigzagging) we came into contact with about 7 police motorcycles, all in combat gear with passengers carrying some pretty mean-looking rifles. They were laughing as we passed, so I stopped them and asked to take their photo (while Erin rode ahead). We had a good 'ol laugh, then proceeded up the windy road.

Just before the top, there appeared to be an avalanche -- but instead of the rocks rolling down the side of the mountain, they were flying through the air and were landing all around the bikes. HOLY SHITE -- People on the ledge above were trying to pelt us with softball sized rocks! I pulled down the front of my helmet and zipped past the last few police. The passenger/sharp-shooter on the back of each of the other bikes were pointing upward, but not firing. As we came to the last switchback, I was in the middle of the pack -- not a place to be when the police around you are the actual targets. As we came up the final incline, we saw Erin pulled over, about 50 meters short of the roadblock. The police rode right into the middle of the group (we followed), and then they dispersed from the bikes.

They started to yell at the crowd to move back, and we waited a moment. All of a sudden a rock was thrown at one of the police, and we heard a thump, as they began to fire a smoke grenades. A quick twist of the grip, and we maneuvered through the thin crowd near us. I looked back to see a rush of about 200 people throwing rocks at the police, as more smoke grenades and rubber bullets were fired.

We eventually reached the highway south, and everything seemed much calmer. We passed through several other roadblocks, but they were quite tame. Passing under an overpass filled with people, I thought they would drop things at us, but they merely screamed as we flew underneath.

We came to a bigger gathering near the outskirts of La Paz, and slowed down as we neared. A man waved his arms for us to stop, so we did. He said the road was blocked, and we must turn around. All of a sudden, a group of about 200 more civilians, who start rocking the bikes, surrounds us. OH SHIT! The leader comes over and tells the others to calm down, and tells me we must turn around -- I would if I could, but we were surrounded. He says we have to pay a tax, but I didn't answer him. Some men around Erin told her that gas prices were too high, and she said she agreed. That seemed to please them, they even began to laugh, so they agreed we could pass. Before we could go, however, the leader said we must accept a whipping (he was holding a fan belt from his car). I leaned forward, and presented my back. He gave me 2 sharp lashes before I hit the gas and pulled away -- little did he know we have back protectors in our jackets, so I barely even noticed he made contact!

At this point you are wondering why we didn't turn around -- well, we thought things would get worse, and didn't want to go back through it again. We knew we were on the edge of town, and had faith in the Bolivians being (normally) quite good people. The next hour was free from demonstrations, but we did eventually come to another. As we got close, I noticed a dirt track to the side -- I turned to get onto it (to by-pass the crowd), but immediately realized there was a huge gully blocking the way. The group of men laughed, and waved us over. They asked us some questions about our political views, and we just replied "no entiendo" -- They all started laughing, and waved us through....

The rest of the ride to Cochabamba was relatively trouble free. The tollbooth guys who asked us to pay the $0.30 charge, we paid. Later, others tried to over-charge us we just said no to and drove past. We thought there might be demonstrations as we approached Cochabamba, but everything was normal.  We crossed our last pass over 4,000 meters (4,520) -- I think for the last time on the trip. The weather in Cochabamba is much warmer (2,500 meters), and it's nice to be out of the cold.

We spent 4 nights in Cochabamba, many until late in the night with Chris and Cory.   Cory is a NZ rider who is spending a few months in Cochabamba, Chris is a Belgian rider, travelling 2-up to Alaska on his Africa Twin.  We were also waiting for Annet to show up from the east, but she was travelling with another German guy John who's XR600 was giving him many problems. 

Saturday, August 3rd:  We left Cochabamba with Chris, as he was returning to Villa Tunari to meet his girlfriend, Simi.  Simi was volunteering for a month at the animal refuge park there.  Chris had worked there for about 10 days, then took off to spend some time as a solo motorcyclist.   While in Cochabamba, we met another volunteer from the park, Hilde from Belgium, and Chris gave her a lift back to the park (Hilde later became a good friend).

Late in the evening, Annet turned up at the campground in Villa Tunari, along with John.  We spent the next few nights relaxing in hammocks and enjoying the annual 3-day fish festival, usually until late in the evening. 

On Monday we went for a visit to the animal park, and fell in love with the animals.


SWAT Patrol in La Paz

Hilde, Chris, Erin, Chris (and 2 local children)

Please don't feed the animals

Belgian Chris receiving a little local hair treatment


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