In search of Ibibobo…   3 comments

After a good night’s sleep I enjoyed a varied breakfast buffet in the El Rancho’s comedor. Jeidi, a cousin of Yessime, Juan-Carlos’s wife from the Paraguayan border post, who happened to work in the hotel’s kitchen, showed me what was on offer, how the Maté dispenser worked and just very kindly looked after me during my stay. The hotel owners sat down at the next table, asked if I felt better this morning (oh, yes!) and allowed me to wash the bike in their immaculately kept garden. The gardener was called to give me a hand and somehow the lovely man took over and cleaned the DRZ all by himself; I was hardly permitted to get near my baby. As a small gesture of my appreciation I let him ride the bike around the building to the front entrance. When he didn’t turn up at after five minutes, it suddenly dawned on me that I had forgotten to turn the fuel tap on. Quickly I limped round the corner and found José checking the bike over for possible faults. Sorry…

Then some serious maintenance was called for: after the hardships of the last days I tightened all the nuts and bolts, adjusted and lubed the chain, shortened the luggage straps that had become loose, replaced the lost O-rings on my GPS cradle and fixed other little things – all under the benevolent eyes of the hotel owners who were happy to let me work in the beautiful courtyard of the El Rancho.

Does anybody know what flowers these are?

There is no immigration office in Villamontes; I could either go on tarmac to Yacuiba on the border with Argentina further south or return to Ibibobo, which I had missed the previous day. Well, with my passport showing the Bolivian customs’ entry at Infante Rivarola from 1st September and the Paraguayan exit stamp from Mariscal on the 2nd, it seemed a safer bet to go back to Ibibobo – I would have some explaining to do how I could suddenly turn up near the Argentinean border – especially as there are only minor dirt tracks and, more importantly, no bridge over the Río Pilcomayo from that direction… And also, I wanted to find out where this elusive Bolivian border post was and where I had gone wrong during the night.

With the bike looked after, I then went into town for a cash-point, as I still didn’t have any local currency in my wallet yet. Banco Bisa has reliable ATM’s that don’t charge you an extra fee and give you a maximum of 1,000 Bolivianos, about £93 at the time, which last you a long time in Bolivia. I refilled bike and fuel canister and made my way back to the Bolivian border post, hoping that I had just missed the turning to the tarmac in the dark.

But no, look at the sign on the junction where I had emerged onto the paved road the previous night!

Obligatory route to Ibibobo – so it was exactly the same dirt track I had to take…

… a bit quicker though now due to daylight and carrying no luggage apart from the tank panniers with all my tools and spares. There were even road signs along the track – 13 km to Ibibobo, then 8 km, 3km…

Interesting vegetation –

And a shrine – for the solace of the soldiers and something probably more serious than the shape of the bottle tree suggests…

To my great surprise, the dirt track joined the tarmac again and I stood at the very same military check point as the previous evening. I limped down the hill for a second time and showed the officer the entry with my name in the book. When I asked for the actual border post, he pointed to the east – just 500 m further down the road towards Paraguay. ¿Qué? 

Can you imagine, I had passed the building the day before in daylight without recognising it as such! Ibibobo was only 50 kilometres from the border and not 70, as the Paraguayans had told me (or maybe I had understood…). I should really have asked the soldiers at the military control post – but in my hurry to reach my destination before nightfall I had missed the most obvious course of action… 

The Bolivian immigration office was just an adobe hut with goats, piglets and children running around.

Have I ever mentioned my fondness of piglets?

Anyway, the official was apparently having his siesta and harshly asked from the next room “what do you want?”. I did not explain anything, he had not seen from which direction I had arrived, and so I just said that I was coming from Mariscal and would like to enter Bolivia. He did not question the dates in my passport, just stamped everything and tried to persuade me to change some money with him. The ATM in Villamontes would not be working (yeah, right…), it was Friday afternoon and the banks were closed at the weekend and if I had any Paraguayan Guaranís or Dolares? No, I said, using an old travellers’ trick divulged to me by John, only my credit card. And off I went.

At the military control they knew me in the meantime, even smiled and we started chatting. So I asked if it was possible to use the closed tarmac road (because it was still under construction), as I had already done the 70 kilometres of dirt track twice and was getting a bit fed up with it. Claro, there were some obstacles but they shouldn’t be a problem on a motorbike; the sergeant was using the road on his commute from Villamontes everyday. Gracias, señores, have a nice day!

Happily I carried on, enjoying the smooth surface, but soon ran into the first trouble: I took the wrong side along the construction site and ended up in lots of deep, soft soil, where I could only push the bike downhill but not back up onto the road again.

Probably not a big deal for many of you, dear readers, but I’m a bit of a chicken and with no one around for miles to help me out should my attempts of climbing back onto the road go wrong, it was reverting to the track. By now the official Ruta 11 didn’t bother me anymore, it seemed like a well-known trail and I started to enjoy the ride, testing different techniques through the sand and trying to identify the spot where I had taken my luggage rail apart the previous night.

However, when I got stuck behind a slow-ish truck I took one of the service tracks which are used by the heavy plants to get to and back from the new road. And soon I was on the tarmac again. The next obstacles seemed a piece of cake, as I was in good spirits and full of confidence in my riding skills…

I even got off the bike to check for an escape route before riding to a potential point of no return…

A few horses, cattle, sheep, goats and the occasional truck was all I encountered, no one stopped and questioned me what I was thinking riding on a closed road under construction; the workers even waved to me. Just visualise the same situation in the UK. 

I was wondering how the road works would be barred at the other end but suddenly I arrived at the junction with the “obligatory route to Ibibobo” sign and there had been nothing advising the public on a construction site at all!

In a fraction of the time I was back in Villamontes.

What an adventure!

In future, I will read the travel guide properly, keep an eye out for buildings that could potentially host an immigration office within a 250-kilometre radius from any border and try to avoid night rides at all costs…

Posted 21 May 2011 by Pumpy in Bolivia, The 2010 Bike Trip

3 responses to “In search of Ibibobo…

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  1. Already you are a legend! Keep it coming. I was reunited with my SP yesterday and immediately took a 2 hour ride. The kickstart snapped so back to the shed for me. It was a kind of adventure getting it started!

  2. I am certain of it.

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