On the Bolivian roads

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Once the Bolivian border crossed, Bolivia offered us one of the nicest roads of this trip. Between the small city of Copacabana and San Pedro de Tiquina, we went alongside the Titicaca lake across a pine forest remembering us the Mediterranean Coast. There were many curves, one after another, following the relief of the coast over thirty kilometres. In front of us, a strait at the bottom of the cordillera. To continue, we needed to cross this strait separating the major lake from the minor lake with a wide wooden boat. To divide the weight with the other vehicles, we went on two different boats. Ours was manoeuvred with a long wooden paddle by a grandad and his grandson before to start its old engine letting a “sweet” smell of petrol. 

Once the strait crossed, the Bolivian roads didn’t offer us anymore a good playground. Only straight lines on the large flat and monotonous fields until we reached the desert of Uyuni at the South of the country. 

In Bolivia, the main challenge that we needed to take up was to get petrol for the sidecars. First, the petrol sold usually in the petrol stations have an octane rating of 85. However to maintain the engine in good conditions, it’s recommended to use an octane rating over 90. As we read online that some petrol stations have a “Premium” petrol with a better quality and an octane rating of 90, we tried to find this rare gem. From the border to La Paz city, which means 150 kilometres, we asked to each petrol station on our way if they were able to serve us. On the advice of a bus driver, we went to the Automobile Club of La Paz having a petrol station. By telling our problem to one of the employees of the club, we learnt the Premium petrol is indeed very rare in the various stations of the country and, anyway, it cannot be served to the foreign licence plates.  

Other difficulty in Bolivia, the petrol is offered at two different prices. The first one is for Bolivian people at around 0,35€/L and the second one is for the foreign licence plates at around de 1,10€/L. This meant that, once our tank was full, the petrol pump attendant gave us a receipt mentioning the price per litre paid. Then, this proof can be requested by the Police. So we needed to make sure the petrol station was able to give us this receipt.

Once we got this precious paperwork, it was possible to use another strategy and ask to the petrol pump attendant the foreign price with a receipt, the Bolivian price and then to get an “in between” price for foreigners with a receipt. As we didn’t have any other choices than getting the “Corriente” petrol with an octane rating of 85, we opted to add an additive increasing the octane rating of three or four points before filling our tanks; plus we negotiated this average price for foreigners. 

These constraints influenced our itinerary and comforted our wish to reach Chile for the celebrations of the end of the year. So, we opted for a short itinerary to reach Chile. After exploring the desert of Uyuni and the South of Lipez area we took a last Bolivian path with a dry clay over 300 kilometres to reach Ollagüe, the first Chilean village. 

Since we left Colombia, a routine was settled when we needed to ride over 200-300 kilometres.

The day starts by packing. When we sleep in our tent or in a hostel, the day usually starts with a Tetris game to fit again each item removed the previous day. The breakfast is prepared, we build up our strengths for the day by getting a generous meal often including a hot drink, butter, jam and eggs. Sometimes, in a small restaurant, we follow the local habits by ordering eggs with a plate of rice.

Then, we usually ride over one hundred of kilometres before to take a first break. The engines are cooling down while we are sharing a small pack of biscuits before to change of pilote. One hundred of kilometres further, if the destination has not been reached, we allow us another break for a lunch in a small restaurant along the road. We often eat an “almuerzo”, the equivalent of our menu of the day, including a soup as a starter and a meat or a fish dish as a main. 

Then, we start the Urals for the last kilometres separating us from the place we will stay overnight. It could be a hotel, a campsite or a wild camping spot, it has been usually noticed on “IOverlander.” This application for mobile phones shows all the good adresses and the nice spots where it’s possible to stay overnight. This database is collaborative and completed by the travelers depending on their discoveries.

Behind the Licancabur volcano, the Chilean asphalt replaced the Bolivian roads and paths.