Bolivia 5 – La Paz – Tiwanaku – La Paz

7th – 15th March – Back camping at Oberland, people come and go.  Two very large German vehicles arrive and we swap news with their occupants, Ollie, Sylvia and Peter. They leave after a few days to tow another German couple whose gearbox went in Peru, the courier DHL, somehow managing to lose their new one somewhere in Germany.  The Swiss couple that we first met in El Calafate in Argentina and then travelled with to the remote Chilean border post, arrive here with another couple also from Switzerland. Very nice to see them again, but they also soon leave for work to be done on both their vehicles with the German mechanic in the city.

Lovely singing from the nearby church this evening, even the neighbourhood dogs went quiet!  Soon the usual car alarms will go off playing a tune and the dogs will join in, this is a very amusing nightly ritual but fortunately it doesn’t go on for too long!

We have our first evening meal in the restaurant here – it is excellent and the chocolate mousse must be the best we have ever tasted….maybe a Swiss recipe!

Two German motorcyclists arrive, Claudia and Werner, with their bikes well loaded.

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Bill orders rear drive flanges and halfshafts as ours are beginning to look a bit worn, plus spare dust caps from Dingo Croft in Buckinghamshire who have always given us reliable service.  They also use DHL but we are told the parcel should be with us in 3-4 days.

Whilst we are waiting, we decide to visit the ruined city of Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco), situated high on the Altiplano approx. 70-80km west of La Paz along Ruta 1, which also goes to the border with Peru at Desaguadero.  Once we have left behind the hectic traffic of El Alto and been excused by a gendarme for having gone through a red light which we didn’t even see amongst all the chaos, Ruta 1 goes all the way to Tiwanaku through a wide valley lined with mountains, some still with snow.  Tiwanaku was once the capital of a massive empire that lasted nearly a thousand years.  Originally it would have been spread over several square kilometres, housing many thousands of people.  Only a small part has been excavated and you need to use a bit of imagination to envisage how it used to be, but it still remains one of Bolivia’s most impressive archeological sites.

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Although very hot, it is still interesting to walk around the large site, with explanations in both Spanish and English. Some very attractive and noisy birds are amongst one particular section of ruins, along with a number of guinea pig-like creatures, scurrying amongst the undergrowth.

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The semi-underground temple with 175 heads fastened to the walls and 3 monoliths, was very interesting…….

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……..and this looked across to the impressive entrance of the Kalasaya Temple – a rectangular ceremonial enclosure.

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There is only time to visit one of the two museums, as it is near to closing but it has some impressive displays.

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Just as  we are leaving, a Toyota pulls up with a young couple – Pavel and Bepa, from the Ukraine.  Really nice to meet some travellers from a completely different part of the world…..and they are aiming to travel around it!  Good luck and we hope we meet up with you again somewhere.

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The sky is looking incredibly stormy over the mountains on our left as we head back along Ruta 1 and into the congestion and fumes of El Alto, where rain has turned the wide, dirt sections at each side of the road into mud and puddles. Men and women struggle through this with big packs on their backs and pushing loaded handcarts.

Bill has been complaining that the clutch pedal has been feeling a little strange at times and suddenly at traffic lights in the middle of El Alto, surrounded by traffic, it goes completely!  We manage to push Moby into a side street and sit there pondering our situation as the light fades, with thunder and lightning in the distance and the threat of rain.  We are parked outside a pair of big, metal gates through which people come and go, pushing handcarts home and their contents taken inside.  Am sure they wonder what we are doing parked here for so long, but with the help of my little dictionary, I am able to write down enough for me to be able to explain. We can’t get a signal here with our mobile phone so our satellite phone comes in useful to ring Hotel Oberland and the Swiss owner very kindly arranges for a breakdown truck to come and collect us.

Darkness falls and the truck is obviously having difficulty finding us in this little side road, although we have been able to give him the name. I ask the guy living behind the metal gates, if he could use our phone to speak to the truck driver (Marcello) and explain directions.  Within 15 minutes he arrives, Moby is winched on to the truck and we have the indignity of sitting inside him watching the world go by……..what a good thing it is dark!  Marcello drives really carefully up and down the steep hills and by 10pm we are back at Oberland, where Claudia and Werner were becoming a bit concerned about what might have happened to us.

Bill is able to investigate the next day and it looks like the clutch, probably the arm, as a new clutch was fitted only a few years ago but not the arm, as it was not worn at the time.  This will mean another parcel from the UK and with Easter approaching, it looks as if we are going to be here for a while yet!

16th March – We take a taxi to the DHL central office to see if there is news of our parcel as this left the UK on 11th or12th. No definite news yet and we are told that we must obtain a number from the Aduane (Customs) and return it to them before they can release the parcel after it arrives. Good thing we called in at their office to discover this!

18th March – We visit the Immigration Office in the city centre to extend our stay here for another month and  this is done extremely quickly once we get photocopies of our passports from just across the road.  Our next stop is the Aduane to get our all important number   for DHL and we hope that this will be just as quick!  However, when we arrive we are told that we need to have in our possession, a completed Form 170, photocopies of our passports, a letter from Hotel Oberland confirming we are staying there and a drawing to show where the hotel is situated.  Why couldn’t DHL have told us yesterday that all this extra paperwork is needed before we can receive our number!

Fortunately we are shown a photocopier a short distance away, who knows all about the Form 170, copies our passports, draws the map for us and then kindly  phones the hotel to see if they will email the necessary letter, to save us going all the way back there.  We wait a long time for this and many more phone calls are made, there is obviously some problem with one or other of the computers but at last we have everything, pay the helpful girl double for all her time and trouble and return to the Aduane….who is now closed for lunch!  Later, every detail on the papers is checked closely and approved with ticks, Bill’s thumb prints are taken and we are ready to return to DHL and hope for good news. However, after an uphill climb all the way, no definite news can be given by the girl there and we are not feeling very happy after doing all the work!

19th March – Bill’s birthday.  We visit the German mechanic, as when our clutch is done, the gearbox will have to be moved over – not something that Bill can do himself at Oberland. The Swiss couples are still there and like us, wanting to move on.

As we are near to the DHL office we take a chance and call in again and this time the guy there is really helpful and tells us that we can collect our parcel tomorrow! We wonder again what we are paying DHL for, but this is very good news!  He even gives us both a chocolate bar as we leave for all our troubles!!  We celebrate with a very good pizza lunch and then enjoy the downhill walk into Calacota where we call in at a garage advertising Mann Filters.  Although the guy there can’t help us with an air filter, after hearing about our clutch predicament, he gets his keys to his big, black Mercedes and offers to take us to two mechanics that should be able to help us. Another kind deed by a complete stranger!  We hope that the second mechanic – Dr. Auto, which we decide to use, will live up to his name, as he specialises in Land Rovers and is also able to speak excellent English!  He is also willing to start on our Land Rover immediately after the Easter break, but the price for the clutch (which will have to be sent from Santa Cruz), is incredibly expensive at 1000 US$……due to taxes!  Bill will order this from England instead, but this time from Famous 4 in Lincolnshire as we want to choose a different courier service using UPS.  Now we have to just sit back and wait, which is really hard as we seem to have been doing this for quite a while now…. but how lucky that we are having to do our waiting at such a nice place with all facilities….we could have broken down miles from anywhere!

21st March – 3rd April – Travellers still come and go. Hubert, a German motorcyclist on his way to Alaska, Peter and Margrit from Switzerland,and Logan and Reid from Lake Tahoe in a big Chevy with a demountable. Leticia (Brazilian) and her boyfriend from USA – the ‘Sustainable Living’ couple entertain us with their music and we all have a barbecue outside.

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We repeat all the paperwork and thumb prints with the Aduane for our second parcel which we collect on the Thursday before Good Friday and Moby is booked in for the following Monday with Dr. Auto. Our parcel was certainly delivered more quickly by UPS.

A young French couple from Nice (Elodie and Aurelien) arrive in a yellow Pinzgauer. Aurelien speaks very good English as he has spent a year in Australia. He is determined to have a shower fitted in his vehicle, but after returning late for the next 3 evenings with only a hole in the floor of his vehicle to let the water out he gives up with the mechanic and also with the idea of a shower. Instead, they arrive back one day from the huge market at El Alto with a little boxer puppy!  A lucky puppy to have found a good home, but like a new baby it cries a lot in the night which neither Elodie or Aurelien had expected!

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Monday 1st April we are ready for Dr Auto by 8am however Marcello and his truck arrive Bolivian time….. an hour later.   It’s hard for Bill to sit back and watch other mechanics do the work when he is so used to doing most things himself, but he does keep a close watch and we keep our fingers crossed. The new clutch is fitted although it was only the arm that had broken along with a rod.

4th April – Karin and Coen from The Netherlands arrive at Oberland.  They have been traveling for 10 years in a wonderful, old 1984 Toyota Land Cruiser, full of character. Many thanks for all the useful information that you have both shared with us and perhaps our paths will cross again in the weeks ahead.

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It’s wonderful to have our wheels turning again!  We plan to leave tomorrow back east to Cochabamba and then to Santa Cruz and the border with Brazil.  We are both looking forward to visiting Iguacu Falls and then the Pantanal which we have heard so much about and its incredible wildlife. Whether we will be able to visit the Amazon will depend on the condition of the roads and bridges after the rainy season… this space!

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