Thursday, 31 January 2013

From Cusco to the Amazon!

After traveling the last few days with Petar, my desire to ride again is very strong. Back in Cusco, James finally shows up!  About 1 month later than expected, but hey.. I've had a good time waiting and riding around with Petar.  I can forgive James especially now because he came back from London bearing gifts.. New mascara!  (He did his research with a female friend in London and I must say, they picked a great one I've never tried before. Now I'm hooked!)  Plus, a big bag of M&M's and a lovely box of Twinings tea. Perfect choices, Muchas Gracias!

I can finally finally finally pack for the last time and bid farewell to Cusco and sadly, to my Peruvian family at the place I've been staying.  They have looked after me well.

Fernando y Carlitos, always smiling and happy.

Yaneth (pronounced Janet) - Super sweet, many great conversations helping with my Spanish.

Juanita y Fanny in the kitchen! (I'm feeling very tall here..)

So we begin!  The plan is to ride east to Brazil and make our way to the Amazon.  I am aware of a road there I'd like to take and I also feel I can't leave South America without experiencing the Amazon properly.

From Cusco, we ride...

Gossip time I presume?!

Authentic Peru.. No tourists around here, that's for sure.

And we arrive the highest point, one final Andes mountain pass.  Oooooo, it's chilly!

A very pretty place to live...

From the peak, we start heading down hill.. woo hoo!!!

We literally follow the mountain road right down into the Amazon.. from cold to hot in about 15 minutes!

Oh, thank goodness James pulled over. I really need to remove some of my many layers (about 6 to be exact).

I'm asking my tank bag to do extra duty today.  I rarely use the extension of this Touratech bag which they gave me at Touratech USA.  But it's easier to stuff my heated jacket and about 4 other layers in here temporarily until I repack my winter gear when I stop tonight.  For now, that extension is so convenient!  Since we are heading for the Amazon, it's going to be a while before I will be needing those layers again...

Once the road flattens out, it was like being in a different country. Everything looks, feels and smells different here.  No more cultural dress.. right into tank tops, shorts and flip-flops western dress. ;-(

The first job is to get to the Peruvian border.

NOW, I have a HUGE confession to make!  I know I need a visa to enter Brazil and I don't have one.  Brazil follows the reciprocal visa law.  So for me on both Australian and USA passports, both of my countries charge money to Brazilians to enter my country.  Therefore, Brazil is going to charge me!  Fair enough.  HOWEVER!  Not all borders grant you a visa and I KNEW this is one of the borders that does not.

I told James of my decision well in advance.  While I was in Peru the only place I can obtain a Brazilian visa is in Lima.  I refused to ride my motorcycle 2 days to Lima, wait there for 3-5 days to process the application, and then ride 2 days back just to pay $35 Visa fee.  (In fuel and accommodation alone it would have cost me hundreds!)

So!  I have a back up plan.. two really.  The first one is a little dirt track to enter Bolivia illegally (where I confirmed by phone from Cusco that I can get my visa at their Brazilian border of Cobija).  However, the locals said we can't get through on that track. Second, was to ride south to La Paz, Bolivia.  Well you know how I feel about returning to La Paz, and will do anything to avoid it.  So James agreed with my gamble and we are going to try to get through this border anyway.

It took the Peruvian officer a total of 30 seconds to look through my passport and tell me I can't leave Peru because I don't have a Brazilian visa, therefore I have to turn back.  "But, Sir!  I have every intention of getting a visa and paying my $35, but I can not do that until I get to Cobija, Bolivia (about 70 km from where we are now)".  I told him if he doesn't give it to me, I will take the dirt track and get it.  He also said, I can't get through on that road.  Fine.  Then I explained what a cost it is to go to Lima while my friend James (who is on a British passport) does not have to have a visa.  I can not ask him to wait over a week for me to go to Lima and back and it's safer to be able to ride together. Then, I keep saying that Cobija is only 70 km from here.. Por Favor!! OK, it's far fetched, but I broke him down.

He finally said, "Go to the Brazilian border.  I don't think you will get through, therefore I'm not going to stamp you out of Peru until you come back and tell me they said Yes"  Agreed.

Pleading my case to the Peruvian Immigration Officer

Off we went to the Brazilian border.

Two seconds there, the officer said.."No, no, no..... no, no ..... no."  I pleaded and pleaded that I promise I will get my visa in Cobija.. it is only 70 km.. come on!!"  No, no, no.... no.  Shaking his head and driving me crazy.  Which it shouldn't really, he's just doing his job, but Urgh!

So I sent James in just in frustration to get away from that guy.  James got his entry to problem.  When they both walked back to the bikes I said. "I am really worried to send him to the Amazon alone, I will not be back for days."  A female immigration officer came in and heard our conversation. And she quickly said, "Why don't you grant her a 2 day transit visa?"  The Federal Police officer grumbled a fair bit, but he gave it to me.. SCORE!!!!  Hallelujah!!!!!  This deserved a super big hallelujah dance!!!!!!!!

Problem number 2.  The border is now closed for the night. "What do you mean?" Not many borders close. This one does!  So we had to spend the night at a little border town.  We have already checked out of Peru (officially) and luckily they had a decent little hostel.

This was the cleanest and loveliest little border town called Assis.  Usually they are busy dirty nasty places, but not this one.

I told James as we ate dinner, that I think I'm going to like this place.

The next morning we are packing up to meet the border guys at 8 AM.. While I am inside paying, James comes in with that look on his face and says "Um... I kind of need your help..."

What did you do?  It sort of just fell over.... "Well James, can't you pick it up?? Ha Ha.. not that big bike!!" ;-)))

The same federal policeman attended the border this morning. I got my papers for both me and my bike for 2 whole days in Brazil.. Ha!  I am so happy.  I can do this!  (Note: I do NOT recommend this process if you come this way.. Please get your visa first!)  I was only lucky (yet persistent) on this one!

Adios, Peru.  Ola Brasil!!

We rode directly to Brazil/Bolivia border where I plunked James down in a hostel room so he could play with the Internet, while I cross the border and begin this visa process right away.

So lucky.. the head officer there used to live in Los Angeles, spoke really good English and understood my plight.  They got to work on my visa.  The entire process took about 3 hours (not 3-5 days like Lima!)  and before long I was back to Brazil.  I then took my motorcycle down to the Federal Police to get my bikes extension from 2 days to 90 days.  I do not understand Portuguese but what I can tell is that they were not happy with that 2 day transit visa.  The boss got on the phone right away, and I'm only guessing he called the officer at the previous border.  Anyway, they needed a photo copy that I didn't have.  Darn it! And of course, they can't copy one piece of paper in their office, I have to go on a mad hunt for a copy shop.  I couldn't find one, ended up in a taxi that drove me back over the border into Bolivia.  No, No!  I don't want to go back there!  He swore it would be the fastest way to get my copy because the border will close again at 5 PM.  Ok then, but I don't have Bolivian money to pay for a copy!  No worries, he paid for it.  Gee whiz, I was on edge, but they were all very kind.  The officer in both countries as well as the taxi guy.

I'm all approved, we can now leave legally in the morning and I have 90 days to explore Brazil.  Woo hoo #2!!!!  Wow, what a drama, but I did it!!  So proud the gamble worked out....

I have no clue why I didn't take photos of this time. I only have this solitary photo of a young guy at a moto shop that loosened the chain for me. (for free again.. they always seem to do chain work for free no matter what country I'm in.. so grateful!)

On the road in western super hot Brazil. What a different world it is from just yesterday in Peru.

I love those tall trees!

Not long before stopping on desperately needed water break.  Oh man, it's hot here...I've been living in the cold high elevations for over 3 months now.  So this extreme climate change will take some getting used to.

And a photo from James on the road.

Next big plan is to take that could-be super dangerous road through the Amazon.

See you soon!

Monday, 28 January 2013

To Bolivia, mysterious Tiwanaku and Back again

KTM's on the loose!  Petar and I have two different objectives.  He wants to continue his South American adventure by traveling through Bolivia.  I don't want to go back to Bolivia for anything, however it was the shortest distance for me to travel to renew my Peruvian visa.  Petar worked long and hard to convince me to travel with him to Bolivia, I can tell you!  I really really don't want to go back to that country. (I would have gone East to Brazil instead) He enticed me with some mysterious ruins called Tiwanaku, north of La Paz.  Okay then, I will only go that far into Bolivia, then I'm turning around and riding right back out!  Agreed.

We left Cusco at 7 AM knowing we could get across the border and into Copacabana, Bolivia by dinner: 528 km including a border crossing.  The sun goes down around 5:30 pm at this time of year.

Roadside stop at Lake Titicaca

Lots of grass for 4 little legs sticking out.  The highway for donkey's along the highway..

Fast track to the Peru/Bolivia border at Lake Titicaca.

I liked these guys.  One of those super easy border crossings, the kind we always wish for.

The cops outside were always flirting with me while Petar was inside doing his paperwork.  I diverted their attention by getting them to pose with Petar instead when he came out.  Smart thinking Sherri Jo! ;-)

A very short road from the border in to Copacabana.  After 2 or 3 stops checking hostels and not finding what we wanted either due to price or lack of safe parking, we chose to have dinner on the lake while the sun went down and sort out a place to stay after.  Fresh Trucha (trout!)  Very fresh and very good....

These guys were wanting us to move our bikes.. They feel they have a space reserved for one of their friends.. Hmpfh! No worries, there is plenty of room and they are drunk.  Easier to just move..

We had found a place to tuck the bikes into for the night. It included a standard stale piece of bread with margarine (yuck) for breakfast, and a very weak cup of tea.

We set off for the day..One last photo of Copacabana..

As we travel, I learn that Lake Titicaca, which was on my left, is on my right as well.  I did not know this before, but there is a north and south section of the lake and we will be crossing over by ferry.

I look at the lake and it's hard to remember just how high we are.  Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world at 3812 meters (12,506 ft).

This was funny.  Which ferry boat do we pick?  A couple guys wave Petar down to board the ferry with the bus.. Makes sense.

I waited and watched.  He got on, and they said, "No, No!"  They want us on another boat.  I could tell Petar was frustrated.

OK.. this one will work, we didn't have to change again..

From the ferry I took a photo of my favorite Cocaina (oops I mean Coka Quina) drink... love it!

Our piece of stale bread isn't holding up.. So we pull over quickly for a snack.  Petar really wants a Snickers bar, and well, it's sort of a favorite of mine as well.

The lady here swears she has Snickers in her shop!  Now, where did she put them??

The lady also lives in this shop. Her little baby couldn't take her eyes off us.

Whew! The Snickers bar did the trick, we are off and running!  Once we got away from the lake, it was a little bit boring, so we were on a mission and whizzing past the vans.

Petar is out of cash and wants to go to La Paz for the ATM (Cajero Automatica).  I plead with him.. Please! Don't go there! The traffic in that city is mental!  If we go in, it will take hours to get out just to get some money.  Surely there is a another village with money before La Paz.  (Nope).. Okay then, take my money! I'd rather give money away than ride into La Paz.. seriously!!

I lost the battle.  Petar was in front riding fast and before we knew it we were on the outskirts of La Paz.  I was angry in my helmet, he knew it and started asking locals straight way where he'd find an ATM.  They directed us to the first big cross road.  Good news!  There were 3 banks on this corner, saving us from riding all the way into the big city! Besides being robbed in La Paz a few weeks ago, the city was ridiculous to get through on a motorcycle.. Yet!  I stressed over nothing.. again. Petar got his money and we turned around that quick. Thank the Lord... Hallelujah!

OK, I'm happy again.. don't those Andes Mountains look great in the distance!?! ;-) We pulled over on the road going north again toward the Tiwanaku Ruins.  I was on this road just a few weeks ago with Barton and Dean and we flew right past the ruins, didn't even know they were here.

Tiwanaku, (Spanish: Tiahuanaco and Tiahuanacu) is an important Pre-Columbian archaeological site in western Bolivia. Tiwanaku is recognized by Andean scholars as one of the most important precursors to the Inca Empire, flourishing as the ritual and administrative capital of a major state power for approximately five hundred years. The ruins of the ancient city state are near the south-eastern shore of Lake Titicaca about 72 km (45 mi) west of La Paz.  Wikipedia.

Sit the chairs right in the middle of the train tracks.. why not?  Anything they can do for some excitement for when the train comes through Tiwanaku Bolivia...

And the boys below, I loved watching.  One of them has found a mirror and was completely entertained by the sharp hot point he could paint on the house wall.

Petar and I made a big mistake.  We drove past the ruins and decided to check into a hostel we found online early, so that our gear can be locked up while we explore.  Then, we were really really hungry.  We thought we would get a quick sandwich before wandering the ruins for the next 2 or 3 hours.  There was nowhere to eat in this town!  We asked and asked, until we came across this one lonely restaurant.  Or is it??

It seems a bit odd and we are not sure to follow the wall into somebodies back yard.  But sure enough, that is where we found a little room to sit and order a meal!  We ordered chicken and chips (french fries).  The only other option was trucha (trout), but we had that last night.

I'm fairly sure we heard the chicken take the ax... and once our meal came out of the hut below, I can tell you it was VERY good!  We waited a fair while for it, but it didn't matter once we were eating.

Now the mistake that we made was that we missed seeing the ruins.  Once we wandered back to the entrance around 4:45, the guards explained that we can not enter because they close at 5 PM. Bugger!

Here's a photo of the ruins I took through the fence!  I do like that stone work! ;-)

Now what's worse, is that they don't have internet here.  We can't explore the ruins.. We've already eaten.. what can we possible do in this town????

Have a look around, what else!

Wow.. this is it.. Rush hour in Tiwanaku...

If that is Jesus in the center piece window of the Catholic church, he's not having a good day. And.. I'm not feelin' the love!

The next morning we were the first ones to walk in the gate of the ruins.  Once we were inside, this man wants to sell us his souvenirs on the outside of the fence.  I appreciated that man, because he doesn't just sit and wait for you to walk out of the place and browse his crafts along with 10 other groups with the same crafts.. He goes and GETS his business!

First we walk toward this ancient mud pyramid.  Mud can only last so long so there's not much left of it.

Akapana Pyramid, Tiwanaku

What they did better was build even greater structures with stone.

Gate to the Sun, Tiwanaku

Much of the architecture of the site is in a poor state of preservation, having been subjected to looting and amateur excavations attempting to locate valuables since shortly after Tiwanaku's fall. This destruction continued during the Spanish conquest and colonial period. During the 19th century and early 20th century, destruction included quarrying stone for building and railroad construction and target practice by military personnel. Wikipedia.

This old piece not only had graffiti carved into it from a Japanese tourist, but was deteriorating from the wildlife.  I suppose if you want to see these interesting ruins, you better get here quick!

There is still a lot of mystery about Tiwanku, so Petar and I speculate at every stop.  My theory sticks with the aliens.  I reckon the ruins in the photo below is of a petrified spaceship.....the proof is in the windows! ;-)

Gate to the Moon, Tiwanku

The post below appears to be important.  With a closer look, there are seem to be some important carvings on it.  However, they are letting it erode instead.  I think if they could at least put a roof over it, it might last longer, but maybe they don't think it's worth it?

Temple Kalasasaya - Political and Spiritual Center

Lots of head figures in the plaza.  Must be from the dignitaries that ruled here so long ago.

Tiwanaku sculpture is comprised typically of blocky column-like figures with huge, flat square eyes, and detailed with shallow relief carving. They are often holding ritual objects. Some have been found holding severed heads. These images suggest ritual human beheading, which correlate with the discovery of headless skeletons found under the Akapana pyramid. Wikipedia.

I have to admit, I'm glad I came to Bolivia and saw Tiwanaku ruins. They are VERY different to the many sites I've visited in Peru or anywhere else in the world.  It's mind-boggling to imagine how these civilizations lived at this high elevation.  To carry or drag or whatever they did to move those large stones into place in a region that is hard enough to just breathe. 

I said my goodbye's to Petar and I'm on my own once again.  With a late start, I'll cross the border and stay the night in Puno. Then carry on home to Cusco the day after.

I did take one small diversion after Puno to a place called Sillustani.  It's supposed to be an impressive complex of funerary tombs! This is something I've not seen in any other of the sites visited lately. (You can see them on the hill in the photo below)

They were built by both the Kolla and Inca cultures, which developed in the Sillustani region during the time of the Inca’s. 
These cultures had peculiar burial customs for their nobles: chiefs and priests were buried in funeral towers called ‘Chullpa’ which means tomb.  According to historical sources, the body was first mummified and then placed in the tomb in a fetal position.  Additionally the women most dear to them, their servants, and favorite animals were sacrificed and buried with them. Geez! How much would that suck!? Also placed in the tomb were their most valuable possessions for example gold and silver objects, ceramic utensils and food.  This strange burial custom can be explained by the cultures belief that the dead pass on to another life. I'm just wondering if anyone in that culture ever noticed that the spoons and gold never did move on to another life?

It was a long walk from town to wander around the tombs.  I was quite honestly not interested in paying the entrance fee and wandering around even more ruins.  It's sad really, but this happened to me in Turkey.. I swore if I saw another ancient Greek amphitheater I'd scream!  The same is happening here. I'm guilty of being a bit spoiled for travel and all the great things I get to see. I know now lucky I am, but not today.  I took a couple photos from the road, and then loved my surroundings even more.

The funeraries are on the hill behind my bike.

The communities out here are unique.  I really like them, they look comfortable.

From what I can tell, under each gate is four homes. You can see the double bulls on the roof's to ward off the evil spirits.

That's not what I think it is up ahead, is it?

Yep, the live sheep are tied to the roof.  It's very sad, and I told this sheep "sorry" when I passed by and hoped it wouldn't be too much longer before they let him and the others down.

Guess what.. I'm back in Peru.  How do I know?  They are dancing in the street.. well, the highway this time!  Peru is just one big party.. all the time.  That is what I've learned of my time here..! ;-)

The good news?  I get to take that little track between the poles for Motocicletas.. and avoid the toll.. I love the countries that do this.  Paying a small toll is never fast or easy on the bike.

And through the lovely and bustling town of Juliaca..

My fuel stop today.  This lady was so nice, I enjoyed talking to her.

Nearly back to Cusco.  The road is always full of dogs along the way.  They don't seem to be hungry, and I can only think they lay along the road for the heat of the pavement.

Only a small 5 day diversion to update my visa. But it was nice. I really enjoy traveling with Petar and I got to see more things I hadn't seen the first time through.  Petar carried on to Uyuni where he visited Kevin's memorial, which was nice to see the photos he passed on to me.  Now I'm really looking forward to being on the road again soon full time when I start my way to Brazil and the Amazon.  Ciao!