So in the interests of full disclosure and being honest with my dear readers I have to admit to more than a little bit of anxiety about the next couple of weeks. I’m currently holed up in the lovely town of Salta in Northern Argentina (I’ll create a post in this place later) preparing for the days to come in Bolivia, and there’s a lot to prepare for.
Has served me so well for the past two months deserves some TLC so I took her to the BMW dealership for a full service and new rear tyre. Roberto looked after me well, despite injuring his wrist the night before hitting a dog on his bike. Incidentally the roads have been a bit grim on the way to Salta, several dead dogs that never seem to get cleared up by anyone. BMW dealers don’t come cheap but I thought the hassle saved and the peace of mind of getting the work done professionally was worth the expense. And Bumble deserves it. “Do you want the bike washing sir?” …”err does it cost anything?”…”no it’s a courtesy…”, “go on then”. I’m in two minds – adventure bikes are supposed to be caked in dust, bugs and mud, they’re a badge of honour. However, the cack can get into parts of the bike and do damage, so on a practical level getting her washed makes sense. Also, I quite like the idea of her getting fawned over with a soapy rub from two Germans in pristine overalls. I digress. So a sparkly, lubed up Bumble emerges on time with all the work done, bar the rear bearings for which they didn’t have the parts.
Helpfully, there’s a bloke that does. So the following day I trek the backstreets of Salta in the “lively” part of town to discover Luis, his large workshop decked out in racing trophies and a few handy looking bikes on the jacks. Super friendly, helpful and knowledgeable he quickly inspires enough confidence for me to entrust Bumble to his care. “How much will it cost?”,”when can you fit me in?”, “mmmmm now?”. Blimey, OK let’s do it. I nip back to my flat for the bike, Luis nips to his supplier to buy the parts, one hour later she’s all sorted. That’s quick, efficient, fairly priced service if ever I’ve seen it, thanks Luis!
So Bumble is all sorted for the next leg, should be all plain sailing then right? Not quite. I have a slight sense of creeping doom about the next bit. It’s out of character and perhaps sharing will be cathartic and help me keep perspective. I think partly what has happened is that I’ve lost my “I’m an adult, I can deal with anything that arises” attitude with which I kicked off the trip. Landing in Santiago, collecting the bike was all an adventure and I felt confident about it. Everything was new, I was ready to deal with it. Since then, I’ve got used to the way things work (or don’t). I’ve settled into a middle-aged spread of adventure travel, the routine of road, new town, new bed, lack of language, nice people, has become comfortable. Too comfortable. As a result the challenge of the next two weeks seems more daunting than I would like it to be.
There are reasons to be concerned though, or at least challenges that need to be evaluated and considered. Bureaucracy – I still haven’t been able to locate a solid answer on whether mandatory insurance is required at the border, or where to buy it, but plenty of people say expect to be asked to pay a bribe. Money – I want to have Bolivian cash in my hand but Argentine ATMs will only dispense £40 max each time and charge £6 on top of other fees for the privilege. Not sure if Bolivian ATMs will work. Internet – will definitely be off-grid for days at a time. Altitude – I’m currently at 1200m, I plan to climb to 3,600m in La Paz, lots of warnings about altitude sickness. Roads – poor and unsurfaced in many places, La Paz has some of the worst traffic in the world. Human zebras required (funny!!). Sat-Nav – only basic map for Bolivia, no street directions. People – surly and unhelpful to gringos, may refuse to serve you at shops and petrol stations. Petrol – poor quality, shortages at times, triple the price for foreigners, queues, distance between petrol stations greater than my tank range. Political unrest – it’s still kicking off from time to time.
So there are reasons to be concerned, but I just need to get my head around them and get back into the attitude of being able to deal with challenges when (if) they arise. I expected there to be difficulties on the trip and up to now I think I’ve been spoilt really because it’s gone so smoothly. I’m really looking forward to a trip on the Uyuni salt-flats, I’m hoping it will be a real highlight of the trip. I did consider swerving La Paz altogether and hustling through to Peru but – in for a penny, in for a pound – I’m here to explore and see what each country has to offer and make up my own mind right?