Monday, 13 January 2014

274 Lake Titicaca

Thursday 9th January 2014   
Miles Today 194  Total 33,557

Today was a long ride to Lake Titicaca. Lake Titicaca is huge. It is the highest navigable lake in the world and sits at an elevation of about 3800m (12,500ft). Bolivia, an otherwise landlocked country has a navy primarily for this lake but also to patrol its large Amazonian rivers for drug traffickers and in the hope that one day Chile, might just give it, it's access to the Pacific back!
The lake is about 100 miles long and 30 miles wide. The northern half belonging to Peru. The lake boasts (boasted!) extremely large (50cm) frogs that breathe through their skin underwater and therefore have a lot more skin that normal frogs and this has landed them the Latin name of Telmatobius Coleus which translates to Equatic Scrotum. Sadly, the gentry of Lima decided this was an aphrodisiac so all the big ones are now gone.
The Equatic Scrotum

Anyway, our journey towards the city of Puno, on the edge of the lake was even more spectacular than yesterdays ride. The scenery and animals just got better.

This was some sort of thermal spring in the center of a wide valley

This one is called a Guanaco. It is tiny compared to a Llama or an Alpaca.

There were Llamas and Alpaca's everywhere.

This was one particularly sexy looking Llama.

We rode through a hail storm and afterwards were presented with some easy riding.
The scenery was incredibly beautiful....

On the way there we rode up to 4400m (14,500 ft). At this height, altitude sickness can be a problem.

 On arrival in Puno, we went in search of a hotel and found one that allowed us to park Wallace in the dining room on the marble floor.

The now obligatory Cathedral

And later when lit up.

A local church.

And one of Peru's war memorials.
We found a small Chinese restaurant and after a crappy meal and a beer went back to our hotel to do some research and write the blog. We failed on both counts and fell asleep.

Friday 10th January 2014  
Miles Today 394 Total 33,951
I awoke at 2 am suffering from a serious headache and vomiting. I had altitude sickness. This is one of the downsides to going too high too quickly. Karen woke at 6 am, also with a headache. We decided the best thing we could do was to go back down to sea level. Normally the advice is to rest for a couple of days to acclimatize but sadly, we do not have the time to do that.
I plotted a route towards Chile using Google maps but did not consider that the roads they use include unsurfaced ones.
Whilst we were filling up, this lot strolled through the petrol station.

We set off and after about 40 miles the  tarmac just stopped and we were on a very rough road. Not conducive to the headache that we both had. We turned around and I got the map out only to see that unsurfaced ones are clearly marked. Doh!
Our 200 mile trip for the day had suddenly more than doubled. Karen was not amused. We were looking forward to getting lower to ease our heads and now that pleasure would have to wait for a few hours more. Double Doh!

We made it back to the surfaced road and after a 1 hour drive south to the Bolivian border, we turned West and back towards the coast. Sadly before we went down, we had to go up some more. It actually turned out to be a lot more. Not good, not good at all.

Still, we soldiered on with no other option and the scenery was again, incredible.

Alpaca's have more wool, are smaller than Llama's and have shorter necks.

The Lake is at around 3,800m and we finally reached 4764m (15,630 ft) before we started to go down.
After the summit, the clouds started. It was all downhill from here, in more ways than one !

As we rode over the pass the weather changed dramatically. We were suddenly in the cloud formed by the warm sea air rising up the side of the Andes. We were suddenly in wet cloud and rain and could only see about 25m in front of us. The temperature dropped to 6C from 16C in a matter of seconds and we were suddenly soaked and freezing. We slowly rode down 2 vertical kilometers before we got below the cloud base. We were freezing but the temperature was rising fast. By the time we reached our interim destination for fuel it was 25C.

After about an hour in the soaking cloud and ran we finally broke through.

The road down was interesting.

As we approached Tacna, the sun was history.
We then had 1 1/2 hours before nightfall to cover the 100miles to reach Tacna, the last town before the Chilean border. We made it.
We found a hostel, on a Friday night as usual but on the plus side it was only £15 for the night.

Saturday 11th January 2014  
Miles Today 40 Total 33,991
Today we set off for the Chilean border. It was a short ride and we were there in 1/2 an hour. That's when things slowed down... a lot.

One of the churches we passed leaving Tacna

We parked at the Peruvian side of the border next to two other big dirt bikes (a 990 KTM and a Suzuki V-Strom).  As we pulled up we nodded to each other as is the norm for bikers. We spent 10 minutes sorting ourselves out by which time the other bikers had gone through Passport control. I then noticed that they were displaying Argentinian plates. As they returned to their bikes I walked toward them intending to ask where customs was and I got as far as "Senor" and the reply in perfect English came back as "I don't understand you". I had met my first Argentinian in South America and he clearly bears a grudge against the English. He was about the same age as me so it is quite possible that he was a soldier in the Falklands as I was. The difference was that we won ! Oh well, how sad, never mind. I found customs and a very helpful customs officer helped me write out the necessary documentation and process the export of Wallace and our own migration issues from Peru.
Entering Chile was fairly simple and our Argentinian friends were there too. I was so tempted to go over and tell him he was a bad loser but the boss was holding my reins. Anyway, the whole process was over in about an hour and we were on our way to our pre-booked 3 star, by the beach, hotel in Arica.
We noticed a distinct change in the civilization. No old bangers of cars and the houses were more modern and most had normal roofs.
After 20 minutes, we turned up at the advertised location only to find that the hotel (loose term) was over a mile away. We got to the hotel and it was a complete tip. It was so bad that after a look around and checking in, we went up to the desk asked for our booking in form back and left. We felt sorry for the woman that prepared our room, but we had booked a 3 star hotel and this was more like a doss house.
This was the pool area and restaurant. It was dump and the pool looked like a it had no functioning pump.

We managed to then find a place in the center of town but sadly there was no secure parking for Wallace but under the circumstances we took it anyway.
From there on in, things looked up. After moving in we went for a walk to get some food. What a change from the rest of South and Central America. It was more like modern Spain. Normal shops, proper bars, restaurants and night clubs. It was a real breath of fresh air and we also discovered that we had time-warped forward two hours so we are only 3 hours behind the UK now.
We found an al-fresco restaurant and we tucked into the first food that we could recognise in a long time. It was bliss and we washed it down with a couple of Stella beers.
Proper food. Pork, fried eggs and chips. Bring it on Chile.

The main church in Arica.

Sunday 12th January 2014  
Miles Today 193 Total 34,184
We had a late start today, one of the advantages of the clocks going forward. We then filled up for the first time in Chile and I did not have a clue how much to pre-pay for the fuel. There are 870 Chilean Pesos in £1 but my small brain could not work with all the zero's on the strange new notes I now had in my wallet. I gave the attendant some pretty coloured notes containing more zero's than a Japanese air strike. It worked. I filled up and the pump said I owed 14000 pesos.  I later worked it out and it is around 97p per litre (about $6 per US gallon). We then beat the 200 miles to Iquique in 4 hours.

Dunno what this is, but in the desert anything is a distraction.
Oh look, no distractions.
There were a few of these ravines cutting through the high desert.

Not all the views were boring though.

Entering Iquique. This sand dune is behind the city.

We found our pre-booked hotel, but we had booked it for tomorrow and the day after, to mesh in with the Dakar Rally. Having arrived a day early, after a bit of umming and arrring, we got the room for an extra night. Only just though, the whole city is bracing itself for the behemoth otherwise known as the Dakar that arrives tomorrow.
The view from the roof of our hotel.

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