Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Bribe And A Beer... Please!

We've tag-teamed this blog post as Azure had a more, erm, interesting experience on the Peruvian side of the border and Roel definitely had a more interesting experience on the Bolivian side - we hope you enjoy!
I get back to the shore after my tour of the Uros Islands and the guys are ready to hit the road. Roel has a sheepish look on his face. It turns out that the hotel manager had quoted him the hotel price in dollars yesterday, assuming he was American. It was $100 dollars per room - no 100 pesos - DEFINITELY not in our budget. Apparently, the manager realized it was his mistake and honored a price of 100 pesos… Some things really are too good to be true. 

Colorful parade passing by our hotel in the morning. Nice kind of traffic jam!
Oh Peru, we'll miss you!
We ride around Lake Titicaca to the Bolivian border and enjoy running into a few Carnival celebrations, here and there. The line at migration is huge, and Roel waits with the bikes while David and I get stamped out before he waits in line and does the same. With the bike paper work, David and I head into Customs to get the bikes stamped out of the country, and are relieved to see we are the only ones here. This should be quick. But we’re ignored as the official tap-tap-taps away on the computer in a side office. And then we’re told another official will be with us shortly. Shortly, is 10 minutes later. 
This parade was so energetic and captivating, Roel dropped his bike. Blame David for the lack of photographic evidence ;)
Very "Official" in here. There should be no problem whatsoever!
This guy closes to the door to the office and then comes out and tells us that the official we originally spoke to is too busy processing a backup of documents to handle ours today. Apparently, they had a computer problem and now have a backlog of customs documents to process. He gestures to the stack of papers the official is supposedly working on. I politely ask if it wouldn’t just be possible to add our papers to this stack. We wait, rolling our eyes, knowing what is coming.  He opens the door and closes it behind him as if not to bother the other official who is busily working away on his stack of papers. He gives David and I the international gesture for money. If we can give the official a little money it will be possible to process our paperwork today. 
We are livid. And I am adamant that we are not paying. (1. I have made it this far without paying a bribe, I am certainly not going to start now. 2. We actually have no Peruvian cash left as we stocked up on good Peruvian fuel before crossing the border and used the remainder of our cash to do so. This would mean parting with precious USD. No, this is not happening.) The problem is that the Bolivian border will close in an hour, so playing the “waiting” game here on the Peruvian side will mean camping at the border. No problem, we have tents. Sorry, dude. The border official decides it would be a better tactic to speak to “my man” and goes outside to tell Roel to come inside and talk to him, fully ignoring me. I am used to waiters talking to Roel about my food instead of me. I’m used to gas station attendants only talking to him. But this takes it to a new level. I’m mad. I tell him Roel doesn’t speak enough Spanish to discuss this matter with him, and he continues to ignore me. I am now fully enraged. 

Roel tells him in his worst Spanish that he does not speak Spanish. The official shakes his head and continues to gesture to Roel to come inside. I am a heritage mutt, the kinds of which this sorry Peruvian man has obviously never encountered. I am Irish, Polish, Hungarian and a little bit Native American. Not the kind of women you mess with. Not the kind of women you ignore. So I ask if we can camp there. He says sure. Sweet! Game on!
I grab the tent bag and point to a spot on the grass next to their office and ask “can we set up our tent here?” Now he’s pissed. He doesn’t look at us, but points to the paperwork we’re still holding and gestures to us to come in. Where is the STAPLES “That was easy” button when you need it?

Proof we exported the bikes from Peru. Just in case we want to come back here one day and they did not actually process the paperwork.
There is a long line up with people that want to join the party on the Bolivian side of the border. Colorfully dressed people and wheelbarrow loads of beer cross the border. After our exit out of Peru we worry about making it through within the hour that’s left to process all the paperwork. The passports are done in no time. Azure, being an American citizen has to cough up a whopping 160 US Dollar to get in whereas the Dutchy goes in for free. A very welcoming and helpful man takes care of our bike paperwork. He seems to be as eager to finish his day, as we are to cross the border. All is well until he sends us over to the police for an approval stamp. 

The Aduana building is behind the blue sign and the police building is to the left of the white sign.

Someone is ready to celebrate. We'll join you in a second buddy!... or so we hope.
The officers are professional and we answer their questions. He is about to give his ok when he asks: “Do you have your insurance papers”? Damn! “No, we do not sir. We tried to get it in Puno but no one could sell it to us”. “But you have to have insurance in Bolivia... It’s the law”!
I try to explain again that we tried but he is not having any of it. I get frustrated with the situation but before I can utter another word, Azure takes over. She had noticed my mood change and gives me a gentle kick against my shin to make me shut up. As she pleads for forgiveness I drop to my knees to be smaller than the officer behind the desk and promise to get insurance as soon as possible. A few more minutes go by before the officer looks at his boss who nods ok. “But you have to get insurance in La Paz or you will be in a lot of trouble. ”These guys are not looking for a bribe. They are officially allowed to refuse us entry without insurance and it fully depends on your behavior whether they let you in or not. Thanks to Azure for saving they day! With 5 minutes left on the clock we make it back to the Aduana official where we get our final stamp and a copy of the paperwork and we are off into Bolivia!
With all of our paperwork done and no bribes paid, we truly enjoy our last sunset over Lake Titicaca.
From our first border crossing with David, back in Guatemala, we always celebrate our successful navigation of bureaucracy with a local beer. While David and Azure suss out the beer situation, I go for a wander to figure out what the party is all about. I still have my helmet on so I can capture all the festivities with my SENA camera without the crowd getting upset with me. Initially they look at me as if an alien has just landed between them but seconds later they start laughing and I get a beer pushed into my hands. I take my helmet off and say: “salud”!
The noise was horrible but the atmosphere was simply amazing!
Before finishing my first cup I find myself with two more cups shoved into my hands. When the bottles start appearing I excuse myself and tell them I still have to ride. I climb back up the hill where David and Azure are still trying to buy beer. “No more for me guys!” David is having difficulties getting clarity on the price of the bottles. As the discussion lasts, the price only goes up. “Oh well, we’ll just have 3 beers please”. We ride away from the border and find a quiet place on the lake to set up our tents and enjoy our beers.

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