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Touratech Travel Time 03_2011_en

24 2 2011 BOLIVIAOFF-ROAD olivia? Ok, Bolivia. The decision for this travel destina- tion was felled quickly. Herbert and I know the country from previous trips, and this country in the Andes fits our joint venture perfectly. Herbert wants to make a film and, quite naturally, wants to take the new products with him on the tour. We planned on a four week tour. And we wanted to get as many of the diversi- fied landscapes in Bolivia under our belt. On as little tarmac as possible, whereby this is not too difficult, as only a fraction of the Bolivian road system is paved. A bit more challenging is selecting a route. It is quite am- bitious to discover the entire scenery this large country has to offer in a single month. But this is where the rather special topography of this country comes into play. Roughly at the latitude of La Paz, the Andes drop steeply to the Amazon valley: from over 5000 metres to virtually sea level. In essence: a journey from the polar region to the tropical rain forests in just 100 kilometres is a distinct possibility – on the Camino de la Muerte, the »Road of Death«. The airport of La Paz lies at over 4000 metres above sea level in a desolate wasteland. Howling ancient jet aircraft of the Bolivian Air Force come in to land, gusts of wind blow clouds of plastic waste and dust round the corners of rusting corrugated iron shacks, the smell of kerosene is overpower- ing and makes breathing difficult in the thin air. All in all not a pleasant experience, so that even the poorly ventilated customs office and its cheap wobbly furniture full of bustling official and self-appointed “agents” come across with welcoming serenity. The mere thought of having to process the paperwork for the ”temporary import of a motorcycle by airfreight“ drives a number of customs employees to do an instant vanishing act. I showed my documents from an earlier trip to a lady who was not quite fast enough to make it to the door. The lady reads, nods, and comments with a smile: “Bueno, un modelo“, ”Great, a copy to go on“. This solves the question of finding the right form, which may sound a bit petty, but last time round a few years ago, I had a day-filling major ordeal to two ministries and some subordinate authority, only to be told that the forms were available in sufficient quantity at the customs office in the airport. Anyway, with help of our modelo“ the procedure is complet- ed within a short space of time. Immediately we removed our bikes from the transport crates and started assembling them: one BMW R 1150 GS as Touratech Revamp conversion each for Herbert and me, and an R 1200 GS for TV journalist Astrid Neudecker. Condensed water runs from the helmet, fogged up glasses reduce visibility. Despite it being the middle of the day, the headlamps have difficulty penetrating the thick fog. In just one hour’s ride we worked our way from La Paz ba- sin to the La Cumbre pass. Ahead of us, still shrouded in dense clouds, is the eastern drop of the Andes. The humid air from the tropical lowlands rises thousands of metres to this impressive precipice where it condenses to a wall of fog which virtually lasts throughout the entire year. We now need to keep all our senses together, as we will be riding along the infamous Camino de la muerte for the next hour. Unless you have seen it with your own eyes, it is difficult to imagine how this narrow band of gravel and mud clings to the cliff side and reaches for the sky. However, one has to con- cede, this track is simply brilliant for motorbikes. With our nar- row and agile bikes, even the oncoming buses were no reason to panic. Admittedly, none of us would have felt comfortable behind the wheel of one of those overloaded vehicles. And the countless crosses adoring the roadside are witness to the dangers of this road. With our BMWs, the Camino is simply pleasure, gazing into the depths a mere shudder. Cascades of water plummet HHHard to believe how exposed the narrow track hugs the cliffs rising to the sky BB