To Pay or Not to Pay

After travelling through Peru we were slowly getting the hang of how all things work, one such example was the collection of road taxes etc. We often came across booths similar to the one in the photo where a tolls officer inside his booth would charge the trucks and cars the appropriate toll. Motorbikes were exempt and we were often waved by bypassing the normal queues. We became accustom to this and as we crossed into the Bolivian system a similar approach was adopted in which the bikes would simply bypass the queue and wave as we went past with payment.

All was going well until Chris and I reached the northern check point of Oruro. The group plan was to bypass this town as there was a massive festival so we had all agreed to meet the Van just after this check point. Chris passed the check point surprising some of the guys who were standing around however as I approached I was blocked from passing and forced to the side just through the check point. It was at this stage that I noticed that these guys were somewhat different to the normal check point security people. Firstly they were not operating from the booth nor were they in any uniform. Two guys stood guard over me one holding my bark buster so that I could not take off, the other dressed in a blue denim jacket had glazed eyes, I think he had been on the Coca leaves for too long. The guy holding my bark buster reminded me of the Aswan Custom officials and their corrupt ways. We continued to debate the position, them wanting money me explaining that Motorcycles are exempt. The situation became tense and my only thought was to get away from this situation and join Chris and the bikes and Van all ahead of us. The guy let go of my bark buster to scratch some details on the road, with this opportunity I hit the start button and took off as one of the guys tried desperately to grab my panniers.

I was free from what I considered a scam, I pulled up alongside Chris and said let’s get going to the meet point with the van. We entered the roundabout meeting point only to see that there was no van so we pulled to the side of the road to gather our thoughts and reset the Zumo for Potosi our next destination, suddenly a yellow utility comes screaming to a halt in front of our two bikes, blocking us from any forward movement. Out of the driver’s door jumps our friend a little more upset as you can imagine. I said to Chris that this is the guy from the check point. He was really pissed so we both agreed to push our bikes back and try and avoid this guy. In our attempt our rear panniers got tangled this unfortunately gave our friend enough time to get a firm grip on Chris head light enclosure. I on the other hand had produced enough space to ride out behind the utility. Somehow Chris also broke free and we both took off heading into the town of Oruro, the place we wanted to avoid. On looking behind we noted that we were now being chased by this yellow ute. The heart rate was up and we darted in and out of taxi vans putting space between us and our yellow ute friend. We continued this for around 5 kms until well clear then pulled into a side street to gather our thoughts. Did this guy have mates, what about the check point on the southern end of the city. We set our new waypoint to Potosi and managed to navigate through this very busy city.

Still quite nervous and shaken by this experience we rounded the corner to see the southern check point and toll booth. As we approached a uniformed guard leaned out the window, smiled and waved us by. We caught up with the rest of the group in Challapata, not feeling that great we skipped lunch and rode on to Potosi. On speaking with the driver of the girls van he assured me that motorcycles did not need to pay so it appears that we could have been part of some scam !!!!


Tony A

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