It takes pantyhose to keep my Guzzi rolling. The good thing about panties is that women legs fit into it. Another pro is the elasticity of the material. The V-belt of the Guzzi was torn to pieces, the one I bought in Cusco, Peru. Didn’t last long. It brought me to Copacabana, near the border of Peru, no further. I arrived there after a frantic ride on the Altiplano. With no V-belt the battery doesn’t charge as you know and the battery died on me at eight o clock in the evening at an altitude of 4000 meters, when there was nobody around but some lost donkeys and stray dogs sniffing on this stranger. It was cold, dark. Obviously I felt alone. Started to wonder. It can be freezing cold up here at night Don Pablo. I had no sleeping bag. The tent I gave away to friends in Quito. No light or whatsoever. And just one cigarette. Just before a fatal nervous breakdown – I get easily upset – this cab driver stopped and offered his help. He tied one end of a rope to the front suspension and the other end to his bumper, and then all hell broke lose. I kept my cool, thanks to some experience, but realized that I was being dragged for 40 k’s by a Bolivian taxi driver at night, while sitting on a fully packed Guzzi on a 4000 meter high mountain range filled with nasty holes with no vision but the cab’s taillight. It’s a horror movie with you in the leading role and you’re about to die, or at least humiliated. Motorcycle madness. Try to avoid stuff like this and you’ll be fine. And everything was going so well in Peru.
I heard about Copacabana in Lima. Some travelers told me that it was one of the biggest chills in South America. I like to speed up the Guzzi, but I also like to hang out, as you know by now. I know motorcyclists who blaze their bike in four months time from top to bottom, merely counting the signs on the asphalt, thinking that they’d seen South America when they’re at the end of their journey. When you take it slow, like I do, you get to know the continent, the people and their habits and those of your own.
Luckily for me there where no Moto Guzzi V7 V-belts Copacabana, a three hours ride north of La Paz. Four if you’re unlucky, it seems that you had to wait for a ferry at Tiquina. Copacabana was the perfect place to cool of after the from time to time hallucinating but tough ride through Peru. It is the first town after the Peruvian border. The place overlooks Lake Ticicaca, the highest pool in the world (3800 meters), and it’s without a doubt one of the biggest chills in South America. The main attractions are the nearby Inca islands Sol and Luna, a bate for the incoming tourists. For the rest there’s not much going on. There’s this unusual big cathedral, a bunch of restaurants lined up in the mainstreet, hotels and only three bars where you can listen to life music after nine in the evening. Life is cheap; you need only 10 to 15 dollars a day to do your thing. I concentrated my activities around my hotel Las Playas (1.20 dollar a night) near the lake. For sure you end up in Andreas place, a very friendly but very crazy (aren´t we all?) German guy who runs this small restaurant at the beach. There’s where I’ve met my friends Fernando, Emanuel (El Pelado) and Charlie, a South African girl. Don’t ask me what I was doing all day in Copacabana, I don’t recall. When you crawl hammered in your bed you realize that another day has passed and that the coming day will be pretty much the same; eat, drink, laugh, play cards, an other drink, eat, sleep. The trick is to save as much energy as possible, because everything you do you do on an altitude of 4000 meters and that’s damn high when you’re used to the flatlands of Holland. One day I stepped out off daily routine and climbed with Swedish Bettina the hill that looks out over Copacabana, my only wapenfeit in three weeks time. The first week I was still in this travel rush and managed to do some things to keep this Guzzi show rolling. The second week the low speed life of the town swelled me up. The third week I felt like owning the place. The fourth week I realized that I probably would run for mayor if I would stay longer in Copacabana and packed the Guzzi. I touched the ignition and nothing happened. Damn, I totally forgot the V-belt misery.
A local mechanic charged the battery and said it was enough to get at La Paz. I wasn’t so confident. Batteries don’t last long on the Bolivian Altiplano, that’s for sure. A guy on Internet mentioned panties as a reliable alternative for a V-belt. Yeah right. On the other hand, by now the Guzzi is used to improvisation, so why not. I dressed the Guzzi up with one panty and carried an extra pair with me. I was convinced when I left Copacabana. Nothing could stop me. Wrong. The first panty broke after 30 k’s, the second lasted only 20. No harm done, still had the loaded battery, but not for long. The bike died on me at a dusty little village called Rio Seco. The wife of the local mechanic Alberto sold me two pair of stockings. She looked kind of suspicious while she gave me her socks. Who can blame her? Not too many motorcycle travelers stop in Rio Seco looking for panties to fix their Moto Guzzi. So the whole thing started again. The fist panty broke after 30 k’s, the second after only 10. With no light and a dying bike beneath me I arrived late at La Paz. After one month in Bolivia I made a progress of 140 k’s. That’s even bad for a 33-year old Moto Guzzi.
So I’m counting the days in La Paz now. Tried over ten V-belts. The one I use is a little too tied, but we’ll see. The worst thing is that I realize that the Guzzi is vulnerable; she is not so invincible any more. She’s a machine that needs to be fixed now and then and I’m not that talented when it comes to mechanics. Tomorrow I’ll leave for Corioco, a place at the end of the Most Dangerous Highway in the world. We need some adventure the Guzzi and I. We have to continue, whether things are perfect or not. It’s the law of the Universe; chew or be chewed. But still, I’m confident. Next to my hotel in La Paz this indigene woman sells shit loads of…