One Year On The Road

Today we celebrate one year since we set off. In that time we have driven 41,000kms, through 14 countries, from Halifax, Canada to La Paz, Bolivia. It has been a great time with innumerable special moments and things that we have seen. And we still have a lot to see!

We are all doing well and have adapted to life on the road. The girls have finished a year of schooling and are doing well even if there are the odd moments of drama during the teaching. I think I can say we are all thoroughly enjoying it and everyone is keen to continue at this point.

So what have we been up to since our last blog?

Well after leaving Puno we crossed the border into Bolivia. The border was very quiet and even though we crossed at 11.30 I think we were the first vehicle to cross that day. The process went very smoothly and we were through in an hour. I passed on the offer to pay the policeman for a stamp I needed to continue as I knew it was just a rouse. Once he could see I was not paying he just stamped the paper anyway.

From the border we headed to Copacabana which is a resort like town on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Although it was sunny it was pretty cold only reaching highs of 12 degrees. Still I suppose it is to be expected when you are at nearly 3900m. The town was a little tacky and even had a beach which was popular with local tourists.

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We had a wander around and visited the cathedral. At the cathedral it was even possible to have your vehicle blessed. We decided not to do this although the cars looked funny in their finery.

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The next day we headed out across the lake on a boat to the Isla de Sol. This is the island from which the Incas believed the sun was born. It is a pretty island in the lake about 12 kms long and only a couple of kms wide. There are no cars on the island so you need to walk everywhere. We decided to do the walk along the ridge at the top of the island and walk along most of its length.

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The walk was very beautiful with views of the lake and across the lake to the mountains of the Cordillera Real.

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We stayed in a basic hostel for the night. It was an early night as it was very cold and there was no heating although the massive thick duvets meant we were warm for the night.

The next morning we headed back to Copacabana and a relaxing afternoon. The hotel where we were parked had a mini golf course so we decided to have a game. Little did we know Margaret (Gilly’s Mum) was an expert and she won easily.

The evening before we left there was a large thunderstorm and it rained heavily. We could see that further up on the hills this had fallen as snow and on our drive that morning we passed through a light falling of snow.

But first we had to get out of the car park. With it being Saturday night the car park was a little full. One of the local minibus drivers had decided to park his minibus in the car park for the night but rather than park it sensibly had parked it blocking our exit. A car could have squeezed through but there was no way we could. After asking around no one knew where the driver was or when he would be back. So this is where there is an advantage in having a 10 ton truck. Out came my tow rope and I just hauled his minibus out of the way. We did not stay around long enough to see his face when he came back to find his minibus in a different position. The hotel staff said it would teach him not to park so stupidly in future.

Driving to La Paz we had to cross some straits between two parts of Lake Titicaca. Unfortunately there is no bridge to get across but only some smallish wooden barges. The only alternative route was to cross back into Peru and then back into Bolivia. As we arrived at the “dock” we were waved onto one of the barges. I advanced slowly with trepidation. I was comforted by the fact that I could see a coach on another barge. When we were on board the boatman said “you are heavy, look how low in the water we are”.

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It was only about 650m across but it seemed to take quite a while. On arrival we had to reverse off the barge while hoping it would stay attached to the bank.

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We arrived in La Paz, the highest capital in the world on a Sunday morning. Initially the road was quiet but as we hit the ring road it became clogged with minibuses jostling for space. Gilly kept shouting “careful you are too close to the vehicle next to you” but if I pulled back 30cm another vehicle would just try and squeeze in. So I had to drive just like everyone else pushing my way through the throng. Again size can sometimes help here but it was pretty daunting.

We eventually arrived at Hotel Oberland a well known stopping spot amongst overlanders travelling in South America. The hotel has a car park that is well kitted out for overlanders. On arrival it was pretty empty but during the afternoon another 3 vehicles arrived. We knew 2 of them having spent time with them before. Tania and Max also have 2 children so the kids were quickly off playing.

We headed down into La Paz to see the markets. It was pretty quiet with it been a Sunday. The main market we wanted to see was the Witches Market. Here you could buy all sorts of things including dried Llama foetuses which you bury under your new house for luck.

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La Paz is set in an interesting landscape. Around the city there are strange rock formations which give a rather lunar landscape. The city is set in a bowl underneath these formations.

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That evening we had a nice meal with Margaret as it was her last night. We were joined by most of the other overlanders so it was a good night.

Gilly and I were up early the next morning to see Margaret off. The girls have loved having their Grannie with them and Margaret has easily fitted into the overlanding lifestyle.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing, obtaining insurance for the truck and getting ready for our next adventure, a trip to the Amazon jungle.

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