After lingering much longer than expected, we finally left the peaceful shores of Titicaca. We had no idea that these little communities would 1) be so endearing and 2) mask how difficult the rest of the country will be.
The day started easily enough. First, check the freshness of our flowers – still perfect. Then, stop to fill up the tank. There was a line of about 20 cars at the one gas station in town. Hmmm, small town, we figured. “Should we get in line or take our chances?” Take our chances. Besides, you get charged twice as much here if you have foreign plates (Bolivian gas is 1/2 price compared to Peru, so they charge extra to discourage border-hopping fill-ups.)
We hit the road and drove up a 4300 meter pass and the views continued to be stunning. We were headed to a ferry at the end of a peninsula and on some sections we had panoramic lake views in all directions. Titicaca is BIG.
The ferry crossing was simple enough – just drive right on to a little wooden barge. Angela suggested we shouldn’t share one with a big autobus… right as we were directed onto the one with a big bus. Cozy.
It’s an impressive one-man operation. First, out come the big sticks and the barge is manually steered from shore. Then, a little outboard motor slowly pushed us across the lake. Twenty minutes later we pay the guy 30 B’s and we’re off. We ask around for gas and we’re pointed down the road.
We find a station – no line – and pull in. The attendant looks at us like we’re fools. He’s got diesel, but no gasolina. He suggests we look for someone with a sign in front of their house and buy from them. Huh?
Our gauge is on “R” (empty), so I manage to find a house with a lady washing potatoes in her front yard and ask. Yep – she’s got gas – for 10 B’s per liter (about $1.50 USD, and even steeper than Peru.) Quite a markup. We’re desperate, so I give her 50 B so we can keep searching. She pours it in from a dirty plastic can into a dirty funnel.
We make it to the next sizable town – passing multiple closed gas stations – and it’s the same story. A few people suggest we just start asking around at tiendas. We waste gas driving about town, but nobody has any gas. We covered the entire town. It seems odd asking for gas at a tienda selling chips and sodas, but you do what you gotta do.
While we’re stopped, I pour in the little bit of gas I have left in my stove and a few drops from our empty mini-jerry can. Things aren’t looking good and we decide to make a break for the capitol of La Paz instead up north to the little town of Sorata. We are a little disappointed to leave the lake – we still snicker every time we say “Titicaca” – but we’ve learned that we will eventually drive past Lake Poopo.
Later, we get to a toll booth and the guy won’t even look up from the paper to collect a toll. I get his attention and he says we can get gas in 1 km. No toll. A few kilometers later, there are more gas stations, but the same story. No gas.
The needle is way below the “R” and we assume we will sputter and stall at any minute, but have no choice but to keep driving. We slow down each time we see a station, but have learned not to stop until it’s obvious the pumps aren’t covered in plastic. Still, no gas. Almost to La Paz and amazingly, Angela spots a tiny “Hay gasolina” sign hanging from the doorway of a welding shop. It’s a relative bargain at 6 B’s per liter and I buy all 10 liters. Enough to coast down the hill into La Paz – the highest capitol in the world.
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