Today was spent on the road, specifically from Tiwanaku to Copacabana. If it weren’t for touchy border crossings between Bolivia and Peru it would have been a 45 minute ride through Peru. As this wasn’t an option we had to take the long way round which meant back tracking toward La Paz, but first we needed gas. Problem was the station in Tiwanaku didn’t have any. “Trente kilometres,” said the attendant, as he pointed down the highway toward La Paz. Thirty kilometres. As much as we were enjoying the bikes a couple shortfalls had manifested themselves, one was the range of the Transalp which was pretty meager. As the fuel light was already flashing it was going to be tight. We did end up making the next station but the attendant refused to sell us any gas. It was this Peruvian license plate thing again, at first he nodded further down the road but finally relented after we explained in pigeon Spanish that the bikes were empty.
From there we decided to take a short cut that sliced through the fields heading due north. Our first little bout off road ended up with both of us getting stuck and a friendly push from some locals passing by. I was first to get stuck as I was following a smoother path alongside the gravel road. It turned out not to be such a good idea as it had rained the day prior and what looked solid was anything but. Instead of stripping the bike of all the gear I waited for Dominik to come see what the problem was. He arrived ten minutes later and when he saw my bike stuck in the mud he yelled, “I got stuck too!” He pulled alongside and explained how some locals in a mini-van had helped him out. As he finished he looked past the Honda and said, “Here they come.” The mini-van slowed and the driver stuck his head out the door and yelled, “Un autre!” A minute later they piled out of their van and together we wrestled the Honda clear.....and off they went.
We tracked over to the main road and the ride was spectacular. With the Andean foothills running to our right we soon caught glimpses of the azure waters of Lake Titicaca on our left. We passed through a couple of quite picturesque villages and when we stopped for lunch at one Dominik noted that the buildings were of a higher standard then we were accustomed to. He was right, the buildings looked more solid and there were more completed structures than we had seen to date.
Soon we arrived at the ferry that would take us across to the Isla Del Sol. We rolled to a stop on the loading apron and within five minutes the skipper signaled us to board. Dominik went first and parked on the left behind a mini-van. I parked to the right. The ferry was an open craft, open at one end for loading and with an outboard motor at the other. It was made of wood, had about a three foot freeboard and the deck consisted of aged planks running fore and aft with a hollow in the middle...not a place for a motorbike there. A van pulled in behind us and the skipper pushed off, there was only one crew and he played all the roles, deckhand, skipper and ticket collector, 20 Bolivianos each, around $3.33 Canadian. The crossing took a quarter hour and we stayed on the bikes for fear of them toppling over as we were side on the swell. It was a beautiful crossing with the waters of Lake Titicaca stretching out to our side as far as the eyes could see.
As we approached the far shore we could make out the quarters of the Armada de Bolivia...yes, this landlocked nation does have a navy! We off-loaded and the ride transcended from good to magnificent. The road climbed the side of the island and offered up spectacular views of the lake and the Andes. We climbed more and soon were above tree level and crossed over the top of the island before descending the other side and rolling into Copacabana and our first corrupt cop.
There was a heavy chain across the road and a guard post to our left. We rolled to a halt and killed the engines and looked at the post. From within a chap in green fatigues nodded for us to come in and that’s when the pantomime began. He asked for our licenses and looked for some anomalies and was clearly disappointed when he found none. Next he whipped open a drawer and pulled a dishevelled piece of paper out and pointedly flattened it out on the desk and looked at us expectantly. It was a receipt from the toll road....but we all knew motorcycles didn’t pay tolls in Bolivia, still, he persisted. We looked at him and shrugged, he shrugged back sadly and looked at his subordinate who shrugged in support. We played the ‘no hablais Espagnol’ card but he played the ‘no speak Englais’ card back. This went on for awhile and Dominik and I had a hard time keeping straight faces. Finally he looked at us and said with disbelief, “Nothing!?” We shrugged. He said something to the other man who whipped out a pad and wrote out two official receipts for a grand total of ten Bolivianos, $1.50 Canadian. We paid up and the guard watched us with disgust as we left.
Copacabana was unlike anything we had seen in Bolivia. There were hostels everywhere, hotels overlooking the bay, streets were busy with local merchants selling colourful wares and backpackers looking for deals while boats off-loaded passengers returning from Isla Del Sol. It was a busy place. The buildings were busy too, all shapes and sizes with some dreams fulfilled, but many not. There was accommodation for every taste. We found ours a minutes walk from the beach, parked the bikes and settled in to Boney M. It was wafting through the air and I was having flashbacks to another time.
Copacabana was going to be interesting!