The next few days were really full in Potosi trying to organize the memorial. It’s not a funny time at all, but Patrick and I couldn’t help but to chuckle when we picked up a little marker for the site. Kevin had a much longer and fulfilling life than we knew!
We finally have all the materials and the builders organized so we can head out to get started. The accident site is just 26 kilometers (16 miles) from Potosi on the road to Uyuni.
My friends Barton and Dean, had come into town on their travels. They never met Kevin but wanted to join us for the day. I think it may have something to do with Patrick’s idea to blow dynamite up at site when we’re finished?! 😉 The miners shop sells dynamite as mentioned in the previous mine post to anybody and we thought it would be a good and proper (albeit mischievous) send off for Kevin.
We did our best to have some fun with the day. Once the blocks were set, Patrick brought along some music, I brought the beers, Barton and Dean scouted for a place to blow things up!
Near the end of the day, a nice new red truck pulled over. The people got out and walked straight to me. Why me? There are four of us here! I felt worried that they heard us blow the dynamite and were angry or maybe even this is their land and we didn’t officially get permission to build the memorial here. We asked the police how to get permission when he brought us here, he said we didn’t need any.
Anyway, the lady grabs my hand and kisses it and she kisses both of my cheeks. She had a tear in her eye and wondered who we were. I explained. She then told me they were here that day. She wasn’t too far behind the accident and they had to wait in traffic here for hours because there was no way around.
She further told me some details of what they saw and that there were two trucks involved and confirmed my suspicion! I couldn’t believe it when she told me there was one large mining truck passing the slower truck ON THE CURVE! Damn it! I was so upset. So you can see by the curve and the rock wall on Kevin’s side of the road, when he was cruising that curve, there were two GIGANTIC trucks taking up the entire road in front of him with nowhere to go. That’s not what the police report said AT ALL. On top of that, the license plate of the one truck they did put in the report was not traceable. I can not prove it.. but what these people tell me seemed really heartfelt and I can’t help but to believe them. It’s only my opinion as nobody was there with Kevin that day to back up any facts. But I can’t help to imagine that the mining company and driver who hit Kevin paid off the already corrupt police not to report the truth to avoid trouble with their company. Anyway it was really nice for this family to stop and tell me what they knew. By the way they directly walked up to me, it seemed as if Kevin had sent them to tell us. At least in my own mind it helped me piece together what didn’t make sense on that horrible day.
I really want to mention it here because this road is so well known for anyone riding to one of South America’s most popular biker destinations, the Salar de Uyuni. It’s a really beautiful road and nicely paved. However mining operations all the way. So if you are reading this post and plan to ride here, be aware that I have now seen many times (even just this one day while building the memorial) that the mining trucks do pass each other often with no concern about who’s coming around the corner. It can happen anywhere, but it’s definitely worse with the amount of mines transporting ore on this one road in Bolivia .
The music is still going into the night.. the boys set off the dynamite 3 times, it was dark and a final goodbye. The base paint is still too wet so we decided to leave the maple leaf off the Canadian flag. I guess I should explain for those who don’t know Kevin. He was born and raised in Scotland, however spent the last 20 years living in Whistler Canada. Like myself, he has two citizenships, so we included both his countries. We decided to come back tomorrow to finish off the maple leaf part of the Canadian flag.
We tried to leave in the dark, but Patrick has a flat tire. Hmmmm. Kevin doesn’t want us to leave! Dean has heaps of tools and together they fixed Patrick’s tire. He tried to pull out once again.. FLAT.. for real?!? Kevin really doesn’t want us to leave! Just kidding, but it was super ironic. Or maybe it is just plain bad luck on this part of the road in Bolivia.
Now I have a decision to make. Barton and Dean are heading north in the morning. After we paint the maple leaf, Patrick is heading south. Originally I was going to take a break from the world in Buenos Aires, Argentina. However, now I’m closer to Cusco, Peru. One of Kevin’s favorite towns and the one I missed when I had to rush to get to Chile in time. I’m usually a very solo independent sort of girl, but I’m not wanting to ride alone again. So if I can leave with Dean and Barton to the north, I’d at least have someone to ride with until I stop in Cusco.. Patrick went back to finish the maple leaf himself the next day and I left with the boys. A very emotional two weeks was complete and the fear of being on the road again was pretty strong. I’m really grateful the boys are letting me tag along for a few days.
Here is a photo of the memorial including the maple leaf taken by UK friend Ian Moor who stopped by a month later. It was great to see that people have been visiting with flowers, beers and even a Spanish poem for Kevin.
If you happen to be riding past and want to visit Kevin, the coordinates to the memorial are: S 19.71325 degrees, W 65.86806.. almost right on 26 kilometers from Potosi on the right side of the road toward Uyuni.
The next morning I packed up and headed out of Potosi with Barton and Dean.
On the way to the fuel station we came across a protest.. hmm. They tried to tell us we can’t get through but we went anyway.
Ever since I’ve been in Potosi there have been mining protests from the miners and their families. Since witnessing the mine myself, can’t blame them for protesting!
Getting fuel is another big issue in Bolivia. They have a local rate and a foreigner rate. When I paid for my fuel, they charged me the local rate. I happily paid and moved forward. Then the worker came after me wanting more money. I argued that I already paid. Yes, but you didn’t pay the foreigners rate which is 4 times higher! Too bad, you charged me fairly and I paid fairly. So I am not paying that much more just because I’m not a Bolivian. He was adamant and called the police guard over. A crowd brewed, so I guess I have to pay more. It just ticked me off.
The police guard in front of my bike smiles, but won’t let me go until I pay more gas money.
We did our best to get through Potosi. Lucky for us we are on motorcycles. The people didn’t seem to have a problem with us and many cheered us on.
The locals and backpackers are a bit stuck though. Some are off the bus and making the long walk with all their luggage to Potosi. Fuel trucks can’t get through either, so I’m feeling very lucky we could fill up even if I was angry at the way we are treated at the fuel pump.
Ahh.. we’re free and on the open Bolivian road toward La Paz. It’s a bit like surfing though! The weight of the mining trucks has made a dent in the road, at times being very deep. Passing slower cars is a motorcross event!
I’m not liking the emotions of what feels like leaving Kevin behind, alone again. I know he’s not really there, it was just a bit hard. This is the first time I’ve been alone with myself in my helmet for several days and a lot is going through my mind. The one thing I do have is a large piece from Kevin’s helmet that we found on the side of the road. I really want to get that piece down to Ushuaia, at the very bottom of Argentina for him, and in a small way, help him complete his South American journey as intended.
About half way to La Paz, the police pull us over. They say we are speeding and the officer is demanding $300 USD. I refuse for the second time today. The officer tells me to get off my bike and walks me over to his car. He tells me to get in. I told him no. He said he wants to take me to the station so I can pay the fine. I refuse. I explain to him I am a woman and in no way am I getting in to his car alone. He seemed somewhat understanding to that so he went to try his luck with getting the money out of Barton and Dean. We’ve been warned about these corrupt cops, and luckily I’m traveling with experienced world travelers who have a trick up their sleeve.
I wouldn’t take a photo of the officers faces in fear of getting in more trouble. But Barton and Dean are goofing off and laughing and acting like total crazy fools. They were acting like monkey’s, talking really loud, even singing! Besides proclaiming they don’t speak Spanish, the craziness lasted for 15 – 20 minutes? Just a guess, but it was a really long time. The cop finally gave up… called us a rude Spanish name and told us to go. Ha!
Another stop to pay a toll again to travel this lovely road.
Regardless of my dislike to how things are going in Bolivia, it is a really pretty country to ride a motorcycle.. and I can see the snowy tipped mountains coming up.
We saw a huge gathering of cars coming up and wondered what it was.. A Bolivian party! The women are dancing away, the men are drinking beer. The same anywhere in the world, hey?
We haven’t managed to have lunch yet and we are getting really hungry. The next little town we saw was time to pull in.
It’s standard for us to head to the plaza in the center. We’ll have our most luck here. Whatever they are celebrating today is happening with this small group of people as well. Dean wants to ask them where we can get food. They’d rather ask us questions and offer beer!
These two happy Bolivians offer me beer, and I politely took one sip. I’m also not real keen to know where that glass has been, but they are the nicest Bolivians I have encountered so far. Even though they are totally drunk.
The only place we could manage some food was in this little convenience shop. We had chicken and chips. We were so hungry, we ordered it twice, while an old man patiently waited and begged for our left overs.. Of which he scored well. He was so happy to walk out with his food and we were glad to give it to him.
After that long late lunch we though about finding a place to stay tonight in this town. There was nothing, so we decided to continue riding to La Paz.