Sunday, 25 December 2011

Day 45: Southern Bolivia and into Argentina (292 kms)

Patching Peter's tire took took a few hours this morning. But once we got on the road, the riding was great. The road was still dirt, but better than the sand, stone and washboard hell connecting Uyuni with Huari and Atocha.

After lunch we were back on asphalt making the trip to the border uneventful. Once there, my rule of border crossings was again proven, at the very final step: Argentine customs. The weather was threatening as we rolled into the border town. There was a violent electrical storm about 50 kms southwest. As the officer was entering my info into the system, the power flickered. All info lost. He rebooted. Five minutes later, same thing. And then again. This man was a one-finger typer, and he could barely reboot his computer. At each juncture he called a junior officer to set him up again. It was excruciating. By the third failure, he packed his bag and headed home. I couldn't blame him. I thought we'd be stuck there for the night, but another officer finally completed the process for Andrew and me, and we could leave.

We got back on the road, planning to head another 100 kms. At first the riding was beautiful: windy, stormy and scenic in the high plains. Then night fell. Then we entered into the hardest rain I've ever seen. I was in lead, and my visibility fell to about 15 feet. Hard even to find shelter. I thought about a tree, but rejected it as not substantial enough. Then we came to a deserted bus terminal, perfect. Another car was already there taking refuge too.

The rain continued. At first the terminal seemed to be an adequate spot to overnight. Nathan found the electrical breakers and some interior rooms. Not quite cosy, but dry and safe.

But the rain continued. Soon the level of the water was up above the bikes' rims, and then nearly to the axles! We brought the bikes up to the platform, but the water kept rising. The primary platform was breached within 45mins. Once the secondary platform was also damp, the choice was made for us: we had to leave. There was a little debate, which I filmed while the level steadily rose, but we all knew there was only one option.

I went first and a little too quickly: water was forced up an over my headlight and came splashing under the windscreen into the cockpit. At its deepest there was likely just over two feet of water. We all made it through and were rewarded by a warm, dry hotel with Argentine steak for dinner.

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