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!

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