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999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
For my final night in Peru I camp on a hill overlooking the mighty Lake Titticaca and after dark I clearly see the lights of Copacabana in Bolivia, less than 50kms away.
In the morning I arrive at the Yunguyo border, a very relaxed place, and chat to anyone and everyone waiting for it to open at 8am Peru time. I get a stamp on my Tourist Card from the Police, then walk next door where the Immigration guy takes the Tourist Card and stamps my passport out of Peru. Just over the road I hand in my Aduana (Customs) form for the Jeep, which gets a couple of stamps and I’m clear to leave Peru.
About 200 meters along the road I arrive at the Bolivian side and get things moving. At Immigration I fill out a Tourist Card and am stamped in for 30 days. Next door at customs a friendly guy takes a copy of my passport and registration, types up the Jeep details, has me sign my copy and I’m all done in less than 5 minutes – a new record.
I ask about required insurance and am told I absolutely need it by law, but can only buy it in La Paz, about 150kms away. I should drive very carefully from here to there though, because there will be serious problems if I get in an accident without insurance. To ward off Police bribes I should just show my Peru insurance (actually from Ecuador), because they won’t know the difference!
I leave smiling and shaking my head at the same time.
At the actual boom-gate two customs/military guys look over my papers before we walk together to their office to stamp and sign things before they’ll let me through. One of them is not happy about the crack in my windshield, telling me it’s illegal in Bolivia and he simply can’t let me pass. I explain I’ve been trying to buy a new one ever since Ecuador, but can’t find just the right glass. The Jeep needs a perfectly flat piece of glass, you see, and they just don’t have them around here.
He’s quite shocked by my completely made-up explanation and can’t do anything other than let me through.
I’ve been playing this game so long, I think I’m getting too good.
I drive ahead into Bolivia, without the border guards so much as glancing at anything inside the Jeep. Just past Copacabana is a Police checkpoint where they “register” vehicles by checking that papers and drivers licenses match. After stamping my papers the officer says I need to pay 10 Bolivianos (about $USD 1.50), which I’m of course happy to do, if he’ll just provide a receipt.
Surely, you guys are the Police, this is an official charge, there must be an official receipt?
He mumbles something to himself, so I take my papers and walk out.
I do, however, pay the 20 Boliviano “Copacabana Tourist Fee” that I’ve been warned about, which does come with an official receipt.
By the second Police checkpoint I’m already familiar with the process, and it is reassuring that if someone stole the Jeep they would not get far at all. Interestingly a couple of the younger guys point out a sign showing I need two emergency triangles, a first aid kit and fire extinguisher to drive in Bolivia. I genuinely think they’re pointing it out because they want to make sure I am somewhat prepared for the roads that lie ahead, not because they want to bribe me.
When I’m about to leave the older officer says I can pay a “voluntary” charge of 10 bolivianos for the stamp he just gave me. He says this in very roundabout Spanish, so I play the “I don’t understand” game for a minute or two before he is so sick of me he shoos me out the door in disgust.
A little further on a huge group of Land Cruisers, Pajeros and Pathfinders with lift-kits, big wheels, spotlights, winches and more lead me to think I’ve bumped into a 4×4 club on a tour.
On closer inspection it turns out they are just taxis waiting for a fair. Oh.
Something tells me I’m about to find some pretty serious roads…