Tomorrow, July 19th, I leave Sucre for a 2-3 day journey to Salta, Argentina. My original plan was to leave today, but due to a cold front that came up from Patagonia, the weather here and in Argentina has been terrible - with road closures because of ice and snow. According to weather reports I have a one-week window of good weather before the next front hits.
I must be out of Bolivia by July 25th, the end of my initial 90-day period. Based on Bolivian logic (a contradictory term in it’s truest sense), I must leave the country in order to apply for an extended visa, before being allowed re-entry. My suggestion of, “Why don’t I pretend to leave Bolivia and fill out the paper work here?” did not go over so well - with the immigration officer looking at me like I was the idiot. So, I am traveling two days for a rubber stamp. Of course, I am screwed if I am denied re-entry (anything is possible here) because I am leaving a lot of important belongings in my Sucre apartment.
Once I have the sacred stamp in my passport, I will have 30-days to complete the visa application process. This will include a city tour the medical and bureaucratic establishments of Sucre. I will need; blood tests, chest x-rays, fingerprints on file, bank account reports, police background checks, two different letters from an attorney, a letter by an notary, a letter from where I am volunteering, and tax and utility records from my landlord (who, like most people here, does not claim the income and is unable to furnish the tax information. I will have to worry about this later.) On my best day in the States, I would not wish to tackle this mission, but here it’s going to be a completely different “sport”. Once I have the visa, I am good to stay in Bolivia for up to one year, and will be able to leave the country and return as I wish – enabling me to go home for a visit.
Within two-hours of leaving Sucre, I will be passing through Potosi to pick up the dirt road heading south. At 14,000-ft Potosi is one of the highest cities in the world. I have traveled on this particular road twice before, and in exactly the same spot both times I have encountered a hailstorm. Bizarre, but I have heard the same from other travelers. I could be wrong, but I am convinced that the spirits of the over eight million men killed in the nearby Cerro Rico mines are sending an unwelcoming message to gringos that get to close, and who can blame them. (Yesterday, this portion of road was closed due to snow.)
The longer I am off the bike, the more anxious I am about getting back on it. I don’t know where this comes from, because once on the bike I am always reminded how “kick ass” the experience is and how much I have missed it. I have always felt safe and confident on the bike, and have enjoyed every mile (well, enjoyed some more than others), but for some reason I get a little apprehensive. To overcome this sensation, I go through a process of psyching myself up, so by the time I need to go I am “jones-ing” for the road. Usually, just the process of packing the bike with some old Stones on the iPod will do the trick, other times it takes a little more.
This trip is going to be damn cold, so I have needed a bit more motivation getting back into the saddle. After watching the movie “1492” yesterday while keeping warm under the covers, I have decided to go with the visualization of a Spanish conquistador preparing for battle. This should do the trick, and because I always cheer for the home team, I have vowed not to slaughter or pillage during this particular trip. My Gore-Tex “armor” has been reinstalled inside my riding suit, heated electric vest has been dusted off, and winter gloves are laid out and ready to go. My stallion has fresh oil and the seam in right pannier has been welded shut again. Ready for battle!
Tonight, I will offer up some coca leaves and rum to those 8,000,000 spirits and see if I can get a little help deicing the roads.