Thursday, August 17, 2006

No 4 Legged Animals this time to La Paz!

I drove to La Paz yesterday for a meeting. Four hours each way is a long day, but it is never uneventful. Always amazed at the lack of safety issues here, especially when I was following this flatbed of people up the long winding mountainous roads. This truck was going well over 100 km/ph. The riders in the back didn’t seem at all nervous and were having a great time watching me try to take their picture while driving with one hand and one eye on the road. This picture demonstrates just how narrow the road is, and the truck seems a foot from the edge of the cliff. It may be slightly more, but not by much!

I did get stopped at the entrance to one of the smaller towns along the way. It is common for different organizations and fundraisers to stand in the middle of the highway with large cans wrapped in white paper. This is the collection tin, and I’m never sure what the cause is, but when I drop a few coins in worth 10 pesos, they seem very happy and grateful. This is pittance compared to the raffle tickets and candy that I usually buy from the kids in the neighborhood in the USA for $10 to $15. These boys were standing in the middle of a highway in 95 degree temperature. Their uniforms were clean and pressed, and although you can drive on without contributing… why would we? I paid my “toll” and continued on only to realize they had another station set up at the other end of town to get you in case you had any remorse about not contributing the first time. What the heck, I went crazy and gave them another 10 pesos. This is good karma.

Although you have the option to stop at these fund raisers, it is never a good idea not to stop when they carry guns. There is a military stop before La Paz. These guys are young and speak very little English. I just smile sweetly, and show them my FM3. It explains who I am, what I am doing here, and for how long. This saves a lot of aggravation on both sides. They let me “paso”.

I went to Office Depot in La Paz, and it’s a nerd’s paradise. Everything you want including a business copy center. When I paid for my goods, I was asked if I wanted a “factura”. This is an official receipt. If you don’t need it for your records, then they will give you a discount. They showed me my total on the register, then the discount. Of course, I was too confused to acknowledge what the discount was … because I never got a receipt! Oh well, next time.

Driving back through the military station 4 hours later, I was stopped again by the same young officer. This time, I had to pull over while they searched my car, including under my hood. They again wanted my FM3 and vehicle registration. They were very pleasant and it took 4 guys to conduct the search. I’m not sure this is because I was wearing shorts, or I somehow fit some notorious terrorist profile. They had the good graces to put their rifles down before they came near the car.

Continuing on my journey, I was speeding down a straight stretch of road and saw a police car so I slowed down well in advance. The policeman waved me over to the shoulder. Asked me if I spoke any Spanish. A little “poco”. Again, I pull out the FM3 and he seemed satisfied. Asks me if I’m single or married? Nice to know men are men all over the world! Waves me on, no “problema”.

I was tempted to ask to take pictures of the military men and policeman, but figured that would be bad form. I’ll wait until my Spanish is better.

Drove through the mountains about 8:30 pm and it was very dark with a few animals grazing by the side of the road. Going slow is the only way, but it’s scary with the hot shots passing you at 120 km/ph not being able to see what may be in the road ahead.

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