We woke up to find that HJ had a puncture, but thankfully with a small bike shop nearby that was no problem – I wouldn’t have to repair it! While the bike was getting sorted out, we walked over to the immigration office to stamp out. The office is fairly new, and the 3 surly officers didn’t seem to want to make us feel welcome. They each fingered through every page of our passports, tried claiming there were problems, that HJ’s visa was wrong, and other bull so I started laughing. The head guy was definitely certain that it wasn’t a laughing matter and told me to be respectful. I kept my mouth closed until he finally stamped me out, before asking him a question.
In our brief conversation the Canadian girl the night before she had mentioned having had issues with that immigration office when they had entered. You have to stamp out of Peru in Puno, about 200km away from Puerto Acosta, and the immigration officials had given her a hard time about it. They’d said that she should have entered on the same day as she had stamped out, clearly impossible to ride that far in a day, and asked how many Peruvian Soles she had. Feeling like they were going to not allow her in, she gave them the one remaining note, a 50 PEN note – about $16. With my stamp safely in my passport I asked him to please stop his policy of bribing cyclists and how the Peruvian/Bolivian agreement states that you have 7 days to get the stamp. He tried to justify himself, but couldn’t and rather than continuing the argument I just repeated that bribing people as they enter your country is a horrible impression to set. As I walked away, he tried to tell me that I was running away, but I just laughed and told him to stop asking for coimas (bribes) as he kept shouting at me.
With HJ’s puncture fixed, we headed out and got the fun of a 6km climb on a rather rocky road. It was rideable, but HJ didn’t seem to think so and so we just pushed up most of the way. It was probably only a little slower than actually riding up. At the top, there was a lovely view of the lake, and then a rather bouncy descent, and part way down I was in my 25th country – Peru! The first house belonged to the police, and after checking our passports confirmed that we had to go to Puno to stamp in. I’d seen plenty of pictures, but still the Peruvian political signs were wonderful to see. Instead of just having names, each party seems to have a symbol, the ones I saw included a house, a miners pick, a panpipe, an orange, a sandal and a coca leaf. I don’t know if it was introduced to combat illiteracy, voting for the orange is easy, remembering that the party you want to vote for is the Judean People’s Front and not the People’s Front of Judea is probably slightly harder.
The rest of the way was lovely pavement as we skirted the lake and went through countless small communities on our way to Moho and met so many smiling faces and waves from people who shouted Mister or Gringo at me. Bolivians hadn’t been unfriendly, but the Peruvians we rode past were on another level of loveliness. This was further proved as we got to the main square of Moho. I entered a little stationery shop and met the owners Hugo and Cecil while looking for a flag. As I entered they offered me a seat and we chatted for more than 30 minutes. By the time we left, one of the customers – a primary school teacher called Vicky – had said we could stay at her place, which was just up the hill on the way out of town. After grabbing some food, we headed to Vicky’s place and passed out.