My last night in Humahuaca Argentina I got a message from a facebook friend, Gustavo Prado. He and his girlfriend are only one village away and wondered if we could ride together in to Bolivia. It was like an answered prayer! I can not say enough how nervous and not wanting to ride in that country alone I was.. and out of the blue his message. Wow! and Yes!
Ahh border crossings. The Chile to Argentina was super easy. For some reason I expected the Argentina to Bolivia to be easy.. Nope!
Gustavo Prado (who took the photo above), Lorena and her brother got through no problem. I had a problem. No insurance. The immigration officer sent us to find our way around the border town streets to a little wooden door on an unmarked building with no sign whatsoever, and pay a guy $35 USD for me to have “their” insurance. Dodgey!
It also gave us some time to have a somewhat good lunch out of a very dodgey rusty bus.
Then I went back to the aduana, where the computer systems were down. They told me I have to wait.. WAIT! I’m not good at waiting. The guy said it could be 10 minutes or 10 days, he didn’t know. I continuously try to talk the guy into HAND WRITING whatever information he wants. This is Bolivia! The poorest country in all of South America. They barely have a paved road, and I can not get in due to a modern computer?? He eventually got a piece of paper and wrote down the info and let me go (I think just to shut me up.. ;-). He said he would enter it later. Good. Seriously. IF he had a long line of people needing the same, I would wait and understand. But it was just me, and the guilt of having the other 3 wait for only me for however long gave me the need to fight for the old pen and paper.. the stuff they used in the old days.. (???)
There was a long line of people wanting out of Bolivia on the other side, not coming in..
Our first views of Bolivia..
About 5 minutes in to the country, we are stopped. Now what.. You have to pay a fee to ride on this lovely road. Okay then.
Luckily it’s the building next door. Otherwise, crawling into the building I parked my bike might be a bit of a challenge.
The further north we went, the road got a lot prettier.
And our first stop for the night is in Tupiza. It’s a bit rough, but I quite like this town.
The next morning it was all paved road into Potosi. The KTM is a bit sluggish still and even more so at 4100 meters (13,452 ft). Early morning and early evening are cold riding, but during the day is actually more pleasant than I expected.. that’s good!
So here I am, in a town I don’t want to see or be in. This is where Kevin spent his last night. I’m not looking forward to what is ahead of me, however, I’m so grateful to have ridden here with new friends. And hopefully I’ll be finding my old friend (ha! because he’s young) Patrick at the hostel shortly.
Following Gustavo and Lorena into Potosi
Yup.. can’t mistake that guy.. thhhhhhere’s Patrick!
He told me how to find his hostel, funnily enough called the Koala Hostel. Luckily it had INDOOR parking! Very cool! It required him riding my motorcycle up a ramp and a couple stairs, but once inside, it had it’s own little wall heater. Fantastic. And really happy to see Patrick. Gee whiz.
A reminder of how I met Patrick. James and I were riding through Baja California. We bought our tickets for the ferry to take us from La Paz to mainland Mexico, Mazatlan. We were the last in line when another big motorcycle pulled up, Kevin. He is really late and needs to get a ticket quickly to make this boat or he waits another 24 hours, so James told him where to go. Luckily he got one. James and I got on the boat. Kevin boarded the boat with his bike shortly after and met Patrick with his Suzuki down in the hold. The two of them came up to the cafeteria. We all met the same day and the four of us began our never ending motorcycle story telling! Which led to us all riding together. We’ve all gone separate ways here and there, but the last time Kevin and I saw Patrick, was in Quito Ecuador.
Patrick is a really cool guy, and Kevin thought the world of him. He was always checking on Patrick, and when a few days went by that Kevin couldn’t reach Patrick online, he would worry until he knew Patrick was okay.
Patrick has already been in Potosi for a couple days and he shows me around. There are two big things we want to accomplish.
1). Find the police officer who can show us the accident site and hopefully give us some insight as to what actually happened to Kevin.
2). We both want to build Kevin a roadside memorial. We shared our ideas for this, and needed to start working out a way to do it.
The next day, Gustavo and Lorena set off to see the only thing people come here to see, the mine. While Patrick and I started off on our mission.. after lunch.
Potosi is an interesting and unique town. So far I like it.
Patrick knows right where to go to get his daily hit of fresh orange juice. It’s hard to believe we ever live in a society of drinking orange juice from a box. The real thing is so easy and tastes so much better.
As we set off wandering around more of Potosi. The first idea we had is to find somebody who can help us build the memorial we have in mind. There is a super size cemetary in town and the caretaker showed us all the different “styles”. Bugger, I can’t believe we’re doing this.
Back in town, and the streets are alive with people selling food.
I bought some peanuts here.. yum.
The orange future juice truck overfloweth..
You have to admit, they have an abundance of very good looking food here in Potosi. Patrick and I bought lots of vegetables and made a super huge stir fry that I had trouble sharing. Getting a good meal in Bolivia has been hard and completely without vegetables, so to make our own the way we want was super exciting. I admit itt made it hard for me to want to share.. ;-0 (which I didn’t for a while, buy my eyes were too big for my shrunken stomach).
I do need some new shoes. but shoe shopping is fairly uneventful here ;-/
Moving around town trying to find the supplies we need for our memorial idea. We asked in a construction shop for a bucket and concrete mix and got very little help from the four year old staff! 😉 Too cute.
And this little dog didn’t know where we could find blue and red paint, but we tried!
Over the next several days we looked for supplies. Walking around the streets of Potosi is hard work in itself. Living at this high elevation makes for walking to corner a bit difficult, let alone the entire town. Potosi Bolivia is one of the highest cities in the whole world at 4100 meters. Lots of huffing and puffing in the very thin air and feeling very old. Even young Patrick said so!
We walked into a small shop to buy some water. I opened up one of those shop “Coca Cola” fridges and I got punched in the back! I turned around and thought Patrick did it as a joke, but it was actually an old Bolivian man who punched me. Why? He didn’t like me opening the fridge for the water. I still have no idea why. How can he sell water, coke, juice etc, buy punching his customers!? So I left. Patrick kept teasing me that I should have punched him back. He’s an old man, I’m not about to.. But I did have a few words for him… (some of those words Kevin taught me.. 😉
The next job was finally getting the police officer who attended the scene of Kevin’s accident to take us to the location.
This was Kevin’s last view. Besides the details the officer told me, we found a large piece of Kevin’s helmet, and other broken pieces of his bike. As much as I didn’t want to believe this could be true, there is no questioning it now.
After getting past a big cry, so glad to be with Patrick and he is doing his best to cheer me up. He’s very upset too, but somehow it helps us both to see this place.
We tried the photo below a couple of times, of which we agreed I looked horrible. Patrick gives it one more go, “Smile, da__ it!”
It’s a bad photo, but it’s from the front seat of the Police Sargeant’s car on our way back to town. There is a super big truck PASSING a car ON THE OUTSIDE OF AN UPHILL CURVE! Anybody coming around that curve is going to hit that truck .. Why is that driver doing that??? I looked back at Patrick and said.. “I wonder…”
That night back at the hostel I had a dream. It was one of those realistic dreams. Kevin was in my room and in this dream it was the ACTUAL room I am staying in. That does not happen often in my dreams, usually I am somewhere I’ve never seen before. Anyway, Kevin had returned and keeping the details short, I remember pinching the skin on his arm. I kept saying to him, that I know he is just visiting me from above and how incredible that I can actually feel and touch his skin! I pinched him some more and remember saying, “I can’t believe I can actually feel your skin!” and he kept laughing.
I couldn’t wait to tell Patrick about that dream in the morning, it was so real. We joked that Kevin must have followed us home from the accident site.