Compared with our precarious drive into La Paz, the drive out along the auto piste was a relative breeze. We are now getting used to dodging the hundreds of mini-buses and taxis which form an almost continuous line along the inside lane and leap-frog each other as they pick-up and drop-off passengers all along the road. Our attempts to fix the starter motor in the hotel garage proved fruitless and as it was a Sunday there was no chance to take it to an auto electrician for another rebuild. This starter is internationally famous having been rebuilt in Adis Ababa and later in Turkey but it may be getting close to the end of its useful life. The next chance for a replacement or rebuild is Lima so that’s a lot of distance to cover without stalling and a huge thanks to all the team members who give us a push start each morning. During the day we usually manage to find a slope to stop on so a gentle rolling start gets us going again. We made it up to the volcano rim at El Alto and then drove out through miles of unfinished buildings . Our guide had explained that a finished house incurs a tax of 20% of the cost when it is completed which unsurprisingly proves a major disincentive to finishing anything at all. Don’t know how they get out of that one.
The next fun for the day was a short ferry ride across the narrow neck of Lake Titicaca near Cococabana. We had heard it was a bit primitive, and the barges certainly were, but the whole operation was brilliant. One crew-member on each barge managed the entire loading, pushing off, starting and steering and then the tying up and unloading at the other end. Just two cars per barge and the movements of the four barges were choreographed superbly. We left and arrived almost simultaneously without any of the barges running into each other. All for the princely sum of $8 per car.
Then it was onto Cococabana to see the famous Cathedral with its strong Moorish influences along with hundreds of back-packers and others who could be described as wandering around in a semi-delirious state. A cheap place to stay and eat but we wouldn’t put it high on our list of places to re-visit.
Another border crossing, this time into Peru. The first steps were quick and efficient but then arrived at Peru Customs to get the paperwork for the cars entered and signed. With a bit of help from both sides we finally managed to get the process sorted but it still involved a lot of laborious hand writing which was then duplicated in the adjacent office by entering the same data into the computer. Maybe they just don’t trust their IT? Part way through the process one of the officials went out to move the stake tethering one of the sheep happily munching on the grass around the office. He had a bit of a chat with the sheep and then got back on the job. John noticed that up until our arrival they had only processed 15 cars since the start of the year so it was a big day for them.
Another 150 km along the lake shore, did I mention this is a seriously big lake, to our overnight stop at Puno, the jumping off point for our tour tomorrow of the famous floating villages. From around 20 km before Puno we could see this large hotel like building perched high on a promontory of the lake and as we drew closer it became obvious this was where we were to stay. This is where one gets a serious guilt attack having just driven through the rough and tumble of Punos and then driving up to the grand entrance of a 5 star hotel. Very helpful and well trained staff, excellent dining; we can only hope our small contribution helps the local economy in some way.