Ruta Che, Spanish school and socialising – Day 331 (23,483 miles)

Our plan had been to spend less than 30 days in Bolivia, we reckoned on travelling around 1500 km to cover what we wanted to see so considered this to be plenty of time.  But if you can’t change your plans when travelling like this when can you?  So we headed an additional 400km east to the small town of Samaipata to meet other travellers at a Horizons Unlimited get together.

Nice views to begin with.

Ruta 7 had been badly damaged during the 2015/16 rainy season and is still being repaired, this plus fast detoriating weather conditions extended our 7 hour journey to 11 hours.

Not much of a view.

Then they closed the road for 2 hours.😡

Still, it was worth the journey.  Back in 2011 we met our friend John RTW at a Horizons Unlimited meeting in Chiang Mai and had some good times travelling with him in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.  John has continued to travel since then, so glad we managed to catch up with him on this continent.

A great bunch of travellers to swap stories and information with, some like us were travelling through and a few had made South America their home for now.  Pete standing to my right comes from Surrey, that old small world thing!

Drone photography, good fun although it freaked the dogs!

After 4 days of fun, food and drinking we headed off with John to Sucre which was back on our originally planned route.  The route we took from Samaipata to Sucre took us through some beautiful countryside and is known as the Ruta del Che as Che Guevara spent the final months of his life and was subsequently killed in this area.

We made a stop at Vallegrande, Che’s body was rather strangely laid out in the above laundry room at the hospital to prove to the world’s press that he was dead.  Officially you can only visit on a guided tour which we didn’t have time for, the building is still part of the town’s general hospital and not sign posted at all.  We ran around the hospital until we found the building and managed to get some workmen to let us in for a quick look around!

We spent the night on a great little campsite at La Higuera which was the site of the old telegraph station where the telegram advising the authorities that Che had been captured and executed was sent from.

The old school house where he was executed and which is now a museum.

We had caught up with Pete and Franzie who were also travelling to Sucre.  There where some nice photo opportunities in this amazing landscape.

Juanita in the town square at Villa Serrano, Pete, Franzie and John were able to get their bikes into the hotel courtyard and had rooms inside.  The very accommodating staff allowed us to park outside and use the shower and loo for a nominal amount.  It seems like whatever night of the week there is often some kind of parade around the town square in Bolivia, luckily the accompanying brass band didn’t play too late into the night.

Fab pic taken by John RTW, he spotted this lady through a small door as he drove by and she was happy to be photographed.

When discussing Bolivia with other travellers the subject of fuel is one of the big topics. Anyone driving a vehicle that doesn’t have a Bolivia registration plate should officially be charged approximately 8 bolivianos per litre for petrol, as opposed to the rate of 3 bolivianos for local vehicles. In order to sell you fuel the staff have to record a ridiculous amount of information including your name, passport number, address in Bolivia, details of the vehicle, blah, blah, blah. This can result in a variety of scenarios:- They follow the rules and sell to you at the tourist rate and record the information OR will sell “sin factura” (without a receipt) for anything between 3 and 7 bolivianos per litre straight into your tank OR will only sell to you if the fuel goes from the pump into a can then into the vehicle (as shown above) which allows them to bypass the frustrating information logging!  Needless to say getting fuel can take quite a while and be a bit of a lottery.

Sucre is a small, pretty and friendly city that we intended to visit for 4 days and ended up staying for 13 days! John, Pete and Franzie were all basing themselves there for several weeks, some of the other travellers who we had met at the HU meeting were also passing through plus we stayed on a great little campsite and met other nice people, there was just too much good socialising to be had!

In addition John wanted to get to the bottom of Juanita’s juddery acceleration that had been going on for a while.  Previously he had cleaned the injectors, idle control valve and changed the throttle position sensor but not sorted it.  So now it was time to change the spark plugs, all six of them, 3 of which meant quite a lot of bits (my technical term) had to come out of the engine bay.

The spark plugs looked in pretty bad condition so we thought changing them would do the trick.  Unfortunately until John put it all back together there was no way of knowing.  It turned out not to be the fix we had hoped and a local mechanic suggested John should have changed the spark plug leads as well so it all had to come out again!  Anyhow that did the trick, Juanita is now running perfectly and John having now had so much of the contents of the engine bay out (twice) feels he knows how she works pretty well.

This is Christina and Torsten our great neighbours and fellow campers.  Torsten is a mechanic with many years experience and was John’s sounding board when working through Juanita’s issue.  Like John, Torsten could not rest until their van was in perfect working order.  Christina and I had both perfected the facial expression that suggests we are as interested and concerned as they are about that tiny little noise that we really couldn’t even hear!

We also fitted in 20 hours of Spanish language classes. I would like to say it has really improved our conversational skills but it wasn’t enough!  When we just used nouns linked together with a bit of miming we seemed to do OK.  Now we are trying to use the gender appropriate articles and adjectives it seems soooo much harder.😳

A nice relaxing afternoon spent with Franzie and Pete at the Mirador overlooking the town.

Our change of plans had meant we had to extend both our personal visas and temporary import for Juanita, thankfully both were pretty quick and easy to do.  We left Sucre having met and spent time with some great people and could quite happily have stayed a while longer.  But, we needed to get back on the road and continue through Bolivia otherwise we really are going to be getting to Patagonia in the middle of winter🌨💨😬.

🇧🇴Lake Titicaca and into Bolivia – Day 309 (23,076 miles)

Our last day in Peru we meandered through the pretty countryside close to the shores of Lake Titicaca.

Compared to tales from some other travellers we have been lucky up til now as the border crossing into Bolivia was the first time we’ve been asked for “unofficial” payments.  While being stamped out of Peru the official asked for a $20 payment, after us repeating “por que” a couple of times he said it was a “voluntario” payment, we chose not to pay!  On the Bolivian side of the border a policeman asked for $5 for a Peaje (road toll) unfortunately for him his sidekick couldn’t keep a straight face and it was obviously a scam.  So again we chose not to pay, especially as we had to open the barrier ourselves!

Quinoa in it’s raw state, a very pretty crop.

We spent the night in Copacabana the first tourist spot in Bolivia.  Obviously not the same place favoured by Barry Manilow, there were ladies in traditional dress but no show girls.

We took a slow, rather long and boring boat ride to the Isla del Sol on Lake Titicaca, the weather on the island didn’t live up to it’s name hence the washed out skies in the pics.

Our photo was taken by Sandy a traveller from Hong Kong who we spent the day with but forgot to get a photo of. ☹️

The usual thing to do on the island is to be dropped at the north end and walk along the ridge for about 4 hours then pick up a boat in the south to head back.  A couple of weeks before we arrived there had been a dispute between villages in the north and south regions to do with damage to some Inca ruins and the north is closed to tourists for now.  Bit of a shame and must be a blow to the islanders involved in the tourist industry.

John showing an unusual interest in some tourist toot.

So much prettier with blue skies.

Our next boat trip on the lake included Juanita as it’s necessary to cross the water to join the road to La Paz.

La Paz, a city that has an interesting centre to walk around although at 3640 metres it’s the highest capital city in the world so the pace was pretty slow.

You’re never too young to work a fruit and veg stall.

Equador, Peru and Boliva all have 100’s of different types of potato.  These brown and white stone like objects are potatoes that have been dried for up to 2 years and are then rehydrated to use is soups or cooked and served with a spicy sauce.  Bolivian equivalent of Smash! Continue reading “🇧🇴Lake Titicaca and into Bolivia – Day 309 (23,076 miles)”