I had based my original estimate of 400Km a day on smooth roads and big bikes that could sit happily at 120 km/h and even 180km/h, not that you would like to hit one of the unmarked speed humps here at that speed.
The cafe I’d earmarked for breakfast in Puno was closed so I skipped it heading south through town to pick up highway 3S again. Losing track of the shore, as it diverged away from the road, I’d also lost track of the days, Friday, I think it was. I turned left off the bypass into Ilave for breakfast just as the chill was getting to my knees and fingers. Ilave rang a bell. I had prepared my documents earlier ready for the border ceremony, into Bolivia, and checked the insurance details. La Positiva, There was a La Positiva across the road at the Yamaha shop which was closed. Well, well, if it wasn’t the exact same place as the address on the document. I still had three weeks to run on it so not worth hanging around for, besides it appears it can be done online decoding the Spanish notes.
The farms weren’t solely confined to the land. Cresting a rise on a bend, Lake Titicaca once again presented its full fresh water blueness in the early afternoon sun, supporting floating frames far along the shoreline with fish farmers in their boats tending to their trout cages. I pulled over in a layby for a while, sitting my cold carcass on the ground leaning back on a rock absorbing the sun’s rays.
When my blood temperature rose above reptilian levels, I set off to Copacabana. It was only 45Km away so I would be there early afternoon. Time enough to get across the border and find a reasonable hostel. It was too cold to camp.
Today’s ride was decorated by the proximity of the lake under a deep blue sky over a deeper blue water. The anonymous-looking unmarked junction east to Copacabana almost slipped by unconsciously, disguised by a shanty looking town. I only recognised it by the curved triangle that each lane made with the main route. Checking the sat nav I doubled back the twenty metres plus braking distance.
The border town of Kasani was a handful of Kilometres and I was at the border control by 2pm. Two offices required my visit to depart Peru, one for me and one for the Yamaha (Khamakha, they confusingly pronounce over here.)
The place appeared abandoned but for the uniformed agentics and me, their only customer. Emerging from the Sunat traffic office, the chain that had been draped across the road had mysteriously dropped and Senor Yamakha and I idled across through the tentative arch on the hill that heralded Bolivia.
The border complex resembled an abandoned barracks with assorted militarised looking individuals meandering as if searching for significance in their lives. I viewed them as sharks in a pool. If I showed no fear they might not feel the need to justify their existence and attack.
Office one: Migraciones, Passport. “Occupation?” (Restricting the temptation to say Journalist or Wizard) “Computer Engineer “(always a safe bet.) “How long are you here?” (quick think of a number) “Two or three weeks” where are you going? (What’s best, near or far?) “Copacabana.” “Fill in form. Mesa aqui!” “I fill in the form with a plastic pen secured to the plastic table tethered by plastic string. Stamp! Vamonos!
Office two: Aduana Nacional. Senor Yamakha! “How long are you here… etc.?…Will you go to La Paz?” “No, just Copacabana.” (I don’t know why I said that, even I don’t know my plans”) “I give you one month!” “ Gracias, Adios!” I have 30 days to explore Bolivia… still, I’m not rushing. I’ll probably go to La Paz.
Office three: Policia (I don’t know why). The office is cool and bare with a shrine to Santa Maria in the corner with a candle hissing its last moments as the wick approaches the melted remains of its predecessors. A small shaggy white dog lifts its head up half disinterested and puts it down again. The officer behind the battered wooden desk reflects the same attitude. There are no computers here, the only item giving away which century we are in being the cell phone the officer glances at as it buzzes a message.
“Buenes Tardes,” I say as I offer my passport without him having to ask, holding crash helmet and fresh documents from the border experience in the other hand. He’s a friendly guy and smiles at my broken Spanish accent. My passport indicates Hannover as my birthplace “Allemagne?” he asks “Nein, Inglaterra… Great Britain.” I reply. “Ah, Gran Brettagne.” “Si.” I nod “Manchester Hunited!” he exclaims excitedly “Si.” I smile. He opens a hardback ledger, similar to what hostels and campsites use and fills in the hand-drawn columns using the closest pen to hand. I am now fully written into Bolivia, I exit the office, cross the deserted square and mount my iron horse, drifting out onto the high plains on the Bolivian shores of Titicaca, thinking of Clint Eastwood and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Even John Wayne gets a couple of brain cells.
Fifteen minutes later, I’m rumbling the Copacabana cobbles, so close to the border that it is. Still early I turn left down the bouldered surfaced road down to the beach. There’s no doubt that this place exists for tourism; the floating water busses moored in the bay, cafes lining the harbour. I turn left away from the harbour to explore the camping spots marked on ioverlander.com, a great app that Nikita showed me while buying the bike.
I buck and swerve along the lane a couple of kilometres past camping ecolodge and Kasa Cultural as far as I can go: a mound piled across the road as it continues along the shore out of view. The sun still looked a way off the horizon, too early to pitch up for the night so I return along the shore earmarking flat patches of grass suitable for my tent.
After dinner at Totara’s roof terrace watching the sun plummet toward the horizon, chased by the invisible chill of night, I delicately ride across the dust and boulders lining the shore back to where I hoped I remembered. Dogs leapt unseen out of the darkness under the trees, barking and chasing the bike almost knocking me over. One bit my leg and got a mouth full of shin protector before letting go and disappearing somewhere behind. Ignoring dogs is my only strategy for staying upright, so far it’s working.
Moments later I found a deserted spot on the lane with a patch of grass big enough for the tent. It was flat and smooth and best of all, silent apart from the waves lapping at the centuries smoothed boulders on the beach. The lights of the town shimmering across the surface of Titicaca.
Within half an hour the tent was up with the interior decked out for a good night’s sleep. Annoyingly, the thin pole for the door shelter broke leaving the porch limp and forlorn, not that there would be rain tonight. The sky was a pure indigo with a bright crescent moon above a Venus on full beam, the distant horizon lit by the fire of the sun. Inside the tent, it didn’t feel so cold but then, the night had only just fallen.
Peace on the lake seeped into my heart.