Mar. 6 – Tupiza, BO to La Quiaca, AR

2009 March 16
by joe

We got up early (for us!) and had complimentary breakfast in the hotel,  which was a pretty nice place, with lots of foreign guests on their way to the salt flats.  I repaired the left hand-guard that was damaged in yesterday’s fall, and replaced the clutch lever, and installed new rear brake pads on my bike.  The clutch on my machine seems to have taken a real beating these last few days, and is engaging much further out than it was before.  this part of Bolivia has really taken its toll on these bikes! I hope there is enough clutch left to finish the trip.

We find the road out of town, OK, but at the gas station at the edge of town, I find I have to  disable the kick-stand safety switch in order to get the bike into gear.  Another casualty of the three days of constant river crossings, no doubt.

We have a decent road for a while, way better than before now, and it continues to improve, although there are lots of construction delays and hazards, and still lots of un-bridged rivers to cross, one of which was 4-foot plus deep.  Once again, we are soaked from helmet to heels, and covered with sticky, brown mud.  This is another straight day without rain, which really helps with the road conditions, but after a few hours we are riding in extremely dusty conditions, and when we are passed by on-coming trucks or buses, we often have to slow way down or stop until the dust clears enough to see the road again.  The thick, yellow dust sticks to our wet clothes and jackets, and make us look like some sort of desert creatures, with raccoon-like faces.

Close to the Argentine border, the road improves and becomes a ‘real’ road, and we finally start to make some headway fro the first time in days.  Getting out of Bolivia turns out to be very easy, especially when we figure out how to bypass the huge line of people waiting for exit stamps by grabbing a guard and getting him to help us, and so we get out quickly.  But, then we wait 5-1/2 hours for n immigration stamp on the Argentine side.  This is just unbelievable!  Levi stood in a line that seemed to not move at all.  He only got the passports stamped after 5-1/2 hours because a group he was standing in line with had some girls that chatted up a guard, and got him to take the passports into the building and get them stamped.  I don’t know what the problem at this border was, but there certainly was a problem here!

While Levi stood in line for all that time, I was stuck sitting on a curb in the customs area, watching the bikes.  After a couple of hours, I noticed that Levi’s from tire was completely flat!  I blew it back up with our compressor, and found that he had picked up a thorn in the tread, and had a slow leak in the tube.  I also watched the patternof activity at the customs section, and identified the chief customs officer.  I made sure to chat with him, and let him know that we had been waiting all this time.  He told me to come see him when we got our passports stamped.  Amazingly, when Levi did finally get back with the stamped passports, we had the motorcycle transit papers, and had cleared customs, in less than one-half hour!  Still, the 6-hour delay at this border has prevented us from reaching our goal of getting well south of the border before dark, and with the leaking front tire on Levi’s bike, we decided we had to stop in the border town of La Quiaca for the night.

We ride around town, stopping a a dozen places looking for a can of  ‘fix-a-flat’, and finally do find one!  We shoot it into the leaking tire, and drive around to see if it will seal up the leak.  We find a telephone ‘cabina’, and Levi makes contact with a friend of his from the US that is in the nearby town of Jujuy.  We make plans to meet up there the next day.  We bargain hard with a landlady for a room in a decent hotel, and get one with a great shower – which we badly need tonight!  Our water sterilizer had exhausted its batteries, and so we need to track down replacements for those.  The tire seems to be holding pressure, and  so we consider ourselves lucky.

We are now in our 13th country, and I have travelled over 11,500 road miles since leaving home.  The border crossings are the most frustrating part of the trip, for sure!

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