After almost three months in Bolivia, it was only right that we felt both happy and sad to be leaving. We’d explored more of the beautiful country than we could have imagined, met incredible people and had more than a few highs (and lows).
Maybe the country sensed our hesitations in leaving, as we ended up with a few false starts. Our first attempt to leave La Paz was stifled when we reached the city outskirts as the Shetland Pony of the team, the Thunder Kitty, decided driving just wasn’t its thing anymore. This would be a constant theme over the next few months. We checked the bike into the moto hospital and found the cheapest hostel we could. Given we’re not used to paying for accommodation, we didn’t want to spend another dime. Their lack of a kitchen didn’t hold us back and we cooked our own meals stealthily in the room.
Our second attempt to leave La Paz was nearly put on hold when, again at the city outskirts, the Yamaha again decided to pull another practical joke on us. We weren’t laughing though as I towed Lachie through the crazy Bolivian traffic until we reached the plateau above the city. A quick lunch and the bike was no longer hangry and happily smashed out the remaining distance to the Peruvian Border. A beautiful sunset and some stamps to the passports saw us riding into a brilliant new country.
With the night closing in the border guards pointed us in the direction of some unfinished buildings where we could find shelter for the night. Squatting in a dodgy building or beside a road has become somewhat of a ritual for us when entering new countries, and our first Peruvian night was no different.
The following morning, the waters of Lake Titicaca disappeared over the horizon as we passed by on our way to Arequipa. We continually try to take us the shortest route possible so as we suddenly dived off the highway and started moving cross-country on tiny dirt roads. We were once again in remote country. With a storm rolling in we found refuge in another great abandoned building beside some train tracks. It's hard to say if going from a half-built house to an abandoned train station is a step up or a step down, but there were no complaints from us as we happily rolled out our mats and bags. As long as there is a roof over our head we are satisfied, and even that feels like luxury sometimes.
With the morning sun lighting up the room and the highway once again in sight we knew we were in for a good day. However, prior to arriving in Arequipa, we had some serious business to take care of.
Back in our early Bolivia days, we visited the haunting mines of Potosi. The mines felt like the could collapse at any time with dynamite going off left, right and centre. It was only natural that we then endeavoured to acquire some for ourselves. We had lugged the four sticks of dynamite through the entirety of Bolivia, and even misplaced it and later found it in the lost property of a hostel at one point. After months with them by our side, we realised it was time to properly dispose of them.
The minute we set our eyes on the desolate and remote mountain plateaus of Peru we knew we’d found Mr Boom Boom’s final resting place. Always the cautious type, we tested the waters with a restrained explosion of one stick of dynamite first. Upon confirmation that it worked as expected, we bundled the three remaining sticks together and set about burying them under a pile of dirt, rocks and a solitary sacrificial beer. To say we were impressed with the results was an understatement. The rocks and dust sent a wonderful cloud sky-high, the beer was utterly obliterated and Scott even peed his pants a little bit.
With Mr Boom Boom gone in every sense of the word, we made for Arequipa and set ourselves loose on the city. What was meant to just be a quick pit stop for supplies on the way to our next adventure turned into a few frustrating days when Thunder Kitty started playing tricks on us again. However, as with any challenge we’ve faced this year, there’s always a silver lining.
Arequipa was a nightmare to leave. Roadworks led to detour after detour and resulted in us getting hopelessly lost (although this could have been due to Scott leading, who can be out done by a coin flip for navigational accuracy). Fortunately for us, Alex, a local who’d motorbike toured himself, saw us strugglingly and told us to follow behind his car and he would guide us out of the city. At first we had our doubts. Everyone knows how following a bloke you don’t know through backroad shortcuts and dodgy neighbourhoods in a foreign country could end. However it didn’t take long to realise that Alex was our Angel of Arequipa.
When Thunder Kitty cut out yet again and refused to start, Alex jumped into action and told us not to worry. When he couldn’t work out the problem himself on the side of the road, he called some mates who rocked up with a ute to take the bike to a local Yamaha shop. Turns out his mates work for a security company and rocked up during their shift with their work car to help us out. They even used their siren to speed up our progress through rush hour traffic.
The help didn’t stop there. He accompanied us to the Yamaha shop, stayed with us for another hour while he explained the problem to the mechanics and then tried to sort a place to stay for us for the night in case the bike wasn’t fixed.
This was all from a guy we’d met only hours before. He didn’t ask for any money, favours, or anything from us. He was simply helping us because he wanted us to continue our travels and explore his country. The craziest thing about it all is that in the months we have spent in Peru since then, we’ve learnt that while Alex went above and beyond, his isn’t all that rare. The Peruvians that we’ve come across (and Bolivians, Chileans, Argentineans and all other South Americans) have been more than helpful. It started in Patagonia with countless offers of food, drinks and places to stay while hitch-hiking and hasn’t ceased since. We’ve constantly been overwhelmed by the generosity and genuine care that the diverse people from all walks of life have shown us this year.
Unfortunately, the issues with the motorbike weren’t able to be fixed in Arequipa so we did what most would consider the logical next step. With a barely functioning bike, we made a beeline for the remote Canyon de Cotahuasi and surrounding mountains. What could go wrong? - Pat