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Days 11-13: Puno & Bolivia FAIL

Days 11-12
Puno, Peru

IMG_5050After the late night arrival, I intended to stay in Puno for an entire day to do some basic servicing on the motokar and look into some options for building a custom cage and the like. Equally importantly, I wanted to edit my first video and share it. Editing video can be very time intensive and is usually done best while stationary (I’ve been known to do it at McDonald’s and the like but there’s less luck at that down here), so I figured it would eat an entire day.

I was right, after walking around town and exploring long enough to ensure myself that I remembered where everything was (weird), I banged out my first video for this trip introducing the motokar. I hope you enjoy it!

The next day I drove down to the parts area and found a mechanic to work on my moto – it wasn’t an official Honda dealer but I’m not too worried about that. I had him do a bunch of work, including replacing all the fluids and five (!) broken light bulbs, as well as miscellaneous other bits. While this was going down I ended up getting hit with a vicious migraine and cut the day short to hang out in the shower for awhile and stay away from bright light. Luckily this handy remedy worked and the next morning I was up early enough to grab an awesome breakfast and head out towards Desaguadero…

Day 13
Puno, Peru @ 11:30AM
End: Desaguadero, Peru @ 4:30PM
Distance: approx. 158km (~98mi) in 5 hours (~31KMH / ~20MPH average)
Average Gas Mileage: ~56MPG
Stopped by Police: 2x, had to bribe once

For some reason, I had it in my head that the drive to Desaguadero was really short, like maybe two hours max. Instead it seemed to go on forever and I almost made it too late to be productive!

IMG_5060As I was leaving Puno, I noticed that my odometer wasn’t moving. I checked the connection by the wheel but it seemed totally fine – rut roh, this could be bad! I really don’t want to rely on my GPS datalogger for mileage because it’s off by more than the speedo (a result of only logging every 5s combined with twists and turns). I turned around and drove a quarter mile to the mechanic who worked on it yesterday only to have him laugh at me as he pointed to the wire hanging loose from the bike dashboard… yeah, not sure why I only checked the wheel!

That fixed, it was off to Desaguadero, hopefully my last gauntlet of police checkpoints before my lack of insurance would matter… and sure enough, as soon as I hit the outskirts of Puno, there they were. This time I had three very nice, very friendly guys explain to me repeatedly that I was awesome, they were incredibly impressed with what I was doing, and they would love to let me go…  but they would have to impound my motokar and force me to pay a s/450 (~$170USD) fine to get it back. That’s what it says in the book, see, here is the book, here is the infraction…  sorry, our hands are tied!

This went back and forth for ten minutes without them ever stopping to smile (and even cracking a few jokes), but I had shot myself in the foot – when I tried to pretend I was a poor confused foreigner they had already been talking to me long enough to know otherwise. One said “I can understand you perfectly, you speak Spanish very well, so I know you understand me as well.”  Round and round we went until finally one of them explained that the reason the fine was so important was that they would receive 30% of it was a personal reward.

Oh, I see… they had tricked me! I didn’t want to offer them a bribe because they were acting all officious, but I should have known better. After a bit of discussion, we agreed that for s/50 (~$18USD) they would let me through. I may have been able to get away with less but they had watched carefully as I opened my wallet to pull out my driver’s license (usually I hide it but I was sloppy) and knew I had a stack of fresh 50’s in there. The truth is that I don’t mind this too much here and there, especially since these guys were really friendly I didn’t mind putting them in beer money for a bit. I know, I’m weird like that.

IMG_5069Ten minutes later I got stopped at another checkpoint! I was about to get frustrated when the guy who stopped me asked where I was coming from and I said “Lima.” His response was one of the best of the trip so far – he threw his hands into the air and said “On THAT?!” Then he called over all his buddies and next thing I knew there were five policemen surrounding me wanting to know about my trip. After five minutes of talking they let me off with only a cursory glance at my driver’s license…  whew!

The rest of the ride to Desaguadero was exactly as I remembered from last time, though I didn’t catch up to Rob & Will this time… I even stopped to take photos at some of the same spots, my favorite being the amazing overlook on Lake Titicaca. The pressure started to shift before long with some evil dark clouds coming in and this triggered another minor migraine, but I rode through it and finally arrived at Desaguadero.

I already knew where a convenient hostel with parking was from last year, so I pulled up to it and was greeted by the same old man (he didn’t remember me). After stashing my stuff I went to the Bolivia side of the border to get a visa like I did last year, only now they wouldn’t let me get a visa unless I checked out of Peru and into Bolivia! Not wanting to get stranded I decided to do it in one go tomorrow and thought I’d check in with the cops on the process to get into Bolivia.

IMG_5086Now, last time I did this, it was with The Adventurists and getting into Bolivia was a MASSIVE hassle that took days of paperwork. For whatever reason, I thought this was a result of the motos being in someone else’s name and that I wouldn’t have this problem. The first border officer I spoke with confirmed my theory – it would be dead simple, just pull up, go into customs, then drive over the border. Elated, I decided to check quickly with the customs guys as well, only to find that no, it was not as easy as all that.

On the other hand, it wouldn’t be too hard, since I just needed to go to a nearby (private) customs agent and get a “Temporary Export” form filled out. Would be really easy and I’d see him tomorrow. Excellent.

I walked over to a custom’s agent (the only one that was still open at 5PM) and asked about the Temporary Export form. He told me he could do this for me, but I needed a certificate from the government explaining that I completely owned the vehicle (bill of sale and registry card didn’t matter). He mentioned that I could get this in Puno and return and it would be super easy. Okay, that’s a bummer, but I can always take a bus back in the morning and bang this out…

I grab a quick dinner of pollo a la brasa and watch some tv before crashing out late and waking up at 7AM. By 8AM the next morning I am out to talk with another custom’s agent just to be sure (see, I’m tricksy like that!) I knew what’s up. This time I walked into a completely different place and received a totally different service; this guy gave me a line by line breakdown of all the forms I would need, all the fees I would need to pay, and all the hassle I would deal with. It included doing everything we did with The Adventurists, such as getting the vehicle weighed, crossing the border with the trucks, paying hundreds of dollars in fees and the added convenience that upon returning to Peru I’d have to go through it all again and pay all the fees again. As a bonus, he explained that since I bought the moto in Lima, I could only get the form I needed saying I owned it in Lima, so I was basically in a world of hurt.

Then he told me something magical, that made all the little fluffy bunnies in the world perk up their ears: If I drove to Tacna and went into Chile, I wouldn’t have to do any of this hassle and then I could enter Bolivia from there if I wished, as long as I returned to Peru from Chile. Victory? Hoping this wouldn’t be another wild goose chase ending in me being told someone else told me the wrong thing, I set off for Tacna and some of the craziest driving of the trip…


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