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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

7 Months, 12 Countries, 15k+ Miles | Greetings From Bolivia...


Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

So yeah, here we are...  In Bolivia!  7 months after leaving home, which has seen me cross through 12 countries and cover well over 15,000 miles.  A few more stats off the top of my head for ya...   

  • 3 - Heidenau K60 rear tires (2 fronts)
  • 4 - Oil/filter changes (1 air filter)
  • 1 - Faulty battery replacement
  • 1 - Chain/sprocket set replacement
  • 1 - Replacement fork seal pair
  • 1 - Replacement front low beam bulb
  • 1 - Set front/rear brake pads
  • 1 - Charcoal cannister removed
  • 1 - Bent rear rim repaired
  • 2 - Sets of wheel bearings (front/
  • 2 - Suicidal birds killed
  • 10 - Minor tip overs / get offs
  • 1 - Major crash in Colombia
  • Craziest drivers - Lima, Peru
  • Craziest dogs - All of em!
  • 0 - Cases of food/water poisoning 
  • 22 - Nights camped
  • 12 - Nights Couchsurfed 
  • 1 - Injury (from a bed slat falling on my little toe)
  • 0 - Robberies, fights, altercations, 'people' issues, etc worth noting
  • Favorite country - Probably Mexico, but highlights from all
  • Least favorite - Peru, but also best riding by far (least fave for other reasons)
  • Most beautiful women - Tie between Mexico and Colombia
  • Least beautiful women - Peru (uhhh...  just figured out why it's my least favorite!)
  • Countless - Number of new friends met along the way, and cervezas consumed
  • Favorite food - Tie between molĂ© tamales in Oaxaca and Aji de Gallina in Peru
  • $65-$70 - Daily average (including big ticket items / travel, shipping, repair, girls, etc)
  • $50'ish - Daily average with just lodging, food, fuel, etc
  • Favorite ride - Too many in Peru, but Huaraz to Huanuco was spectacular

Let me do the rest of this post backwards...  I just arrived in La Paz, and have set up my tent for two nights at Hotel Oberland.  This is a Swiss high'ish end hotel, but the owner apparently loves overland travel, hence the name.  So much so, he has set up a walled section behind the hotel for vehicles and camping.  For approx $5USD per night, you get secure parking, wifi, hot showers, and access to all the amenities of the hotel.  Not exactly roughing it, but being in the tent is always nice, and it saves some cash in an otherwise expensive city (by Bolivian standards).  I'll be here for two nights. 

The rides the past two days were great!  Yesterday I blasted from Arequipa to Puno, which provided spectacular scenery, a decently close, ground-shaking volcano eruption, and a few death bridges that were very high on the pucker factor.  What was supposed to be a laid back day, turned into one of the more memorable.  This morning I woke up early in Puno after a nice night at Hotel Florida (local spot w/ private room and garage parking for $10USD).  I was on the road by 8am.  The first third of the ride was decent, but very cold.  I made it to the border around 9:30.  I'd heard good things about the border at Yunguyo/Copacabana and it did NOT disappoint.  I was in and out (both sides) in less than 25 minutes.  Half of that was spent sourcing necessary copies, and taking a few thumbs up pics with the Peruvian Nat'l Police on site.  PS...  I had nothing but great experiences with police in Peru.  Lucky?  Not sure, but figured I'd give em' a shout out.  I didn't even have SOAT, oops!  Seems a smile and pretty bike have gotten me out of a few jams. 

After the border, the second third of the ride exiting Copacabana was spectacular.  I got hit for 10 Bolivian Pesos by a nat'l policeman that I'm fairly certain was a small 'bribe', but it didn't bother me.  After his makeshift roadblock, the road opened up with clean sweepers, stunning views of Titi, and then a nice ferry ride.  The other side of the lake was more of the same until the road leveled off and took me towards La Paz.  As I got closer to the city I was shocked to see massive snow covered mountains off to my left (north).  Not sure which ones they were exactly, but were beautiful.  However, my emotions were blended as I could see the brewings of a storm ahead.  I rolled the throttle entirely open as I only had 35 miles to La Paz according to my GPS, and I wanted to avoid the storm as much as possible... 

...Then, 17 miles before the city I ran into a major traffic jam.  I thought to myself, "certainly this is temporary, La Paz can't be 17 miles wide!"...  I was wrong.  That was the beginning of the craziest, maddest, most insane 17 miles of my adventure so far.  Seriously, I can't even begin to explain the craziness that is La Paz.  There are literally 3ft wide death holes in the middle of the road, everywhere.  There are massive boulders laying around from previous protests, like rock land mines waiting to ruin your entire trip/life.  The traffic is indescribable!  There are people darting in/out of traffic from every angle, like a retarded Bolivian version of Frogger.  There are mangy looking dogs striking from all directions.  Since I entered in the NW, and Oberland is in the SE, I needed to cover the entirety of the city.  Now if that wasn't enough, the traffic slowed me enough for the storm to catch up.  As I'm descending into the smog bowl that is downtown La Paz, it starts thundering, raining, then hail.  Hail!  Anyway, needless to say it was quite an adventure making my way slowly to Oberland.  Funny thing is, the minute I pulled up to the door, the hail stopped, the clouds cleared, and the sun was shining brightly.  The girl inside asked why I was so wet and dirty.  I just laughed and told her I need to set up camp.  I don't care how bad this sounds, La Paz is a total $hit hole!  I don't have the patience to uncover the beauty here, and am not sure I believe those who have told me it exists. 

Tomorrow I'll spend the majority of the day route planning as I'm headed to Yungas region after this for awhile, then south from there.  The sight of massive heavily snow covered mountains just before entering La Paz didn't exactly get me excited for the cold, but there are roads and areas that I simply can't miss.  It looks as I'll start acclimatizing sooner than later, as it's supposed to be below freezing the next two nights, which will make for a couple of chilly nights in the tent.  If I have add'l time, I'll probably drop by Nosiglia, which is a semi-famous shop in the ADV scene for a few spares, some chain lube, and possibly some clear dirt bike goggles to compliment the smoke visor on my Arai XD4.  

I think that's it for now.  I'm going for a warm shower, and will start layering up for the chilly night.  It's been a long two days and I'm ready for some rest.  

Finally, I've decided that Bolivia will be sans communication for me.  I'll check email on occasion, but won't be updating the blog and/or checking Facebook, etc.  I'll have my SPOT GPS communicator alongside, so will be safe, just need a break from everything, and think it sounds like a nice challenge to shut down for awhile, something I've never done.  I'll keep detailed notes throughout Bolivia and will post a series of updates, pics, and videos once I emerge...  Until then, 

~ D

PS...  If you haven't already, I'd highly recommend getting on board with The Minimalists.  Their recent book (Everything That Remains), their site, and frequent e-mails are great.  Here is an update that was in my inbox this morning.  It was a great reminder that, without paring down my possessions to next to nothing, I personally wouldn't have been able to undergo the adventure that I'm currently experiencing, which of course has provided so much more.  Check it out if you want to learn more about minimalism, or just need some inspiration to offload your crap.  

On a side note, as I was sleeping in my tent last night in freezing La Paz temps, I'd be lying if I didn't miss a warm house/bed.  :)

"At first glance, people might think the point of minimalism is just to get rid of material possessions.  Eliminating.  Jettisoning.  Extracting.  Detaching.  Decluttering.  Letting go.  But that's a mistake.  

True, removing the excess is an important part of the recipe.  But it's just one ingredient.  If we're concerned solely with the stuff, though, then we're missing the larger point.  

Minimalists don't focus on having less, less, less.  Rather, we focus on making room for more:  more time, more passion, more experiences, more growth and contribution and contentment.  More freedom.  It just so happens that clearing the clutter from life's path helps us make that room.  

Minimalism is the thing that gets us past the things so we can make room for life's important things - which aren't things at all." 

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