Tuesday, July 8, 2008

To Bolivia - 5

Friday 28th

Sand does not hold heat. We awake freezing. I try to put in contact lenses and they have set solid in their cases! All my water is solid. I measured minus 8 degrees in the tent last night. That was midnight. I woke at 4am and it was colder! Way colder... I estimate minus 15 in the tent, maybe minus 20 outside. I do a sleeping bag sun dance and try to sleep....

Morning... and we have to push the bikes back up to the road. Through sand. Sand may not hold heat, but it sure holds tyres. Dani and I get to the road and sprawl gasping for breath. Welcome to altitude thinned air.

A gentle climb gets us past Tres Cruces and the highest point of the pass. Cue cheezy pose by sign...

3780 metres!! That´s why I can´t breathe.

In Abra Pampa we stock up at a colourful market. Rumour has it that Bolivian food leaves a lot to be desired and we hoard the good stuff....

And then eat most of it in the dusty plaza...

A coach driver informs us that all climbing is done until the border. We celebrate as speed increases along pancake flat tarmac...

We make good ground past the locals....

And make a stop in Pumahuasi for water and I am accosted by more locals. 6 drunks in a bar and I am forced to drink a stronger brew. It´s 3pm and they are so far gone, my Spanish is better than theirs - and that´s not good. Communication is limited to toothless grins, gurgling laughter and much back slapping before I am finally allowed to wobble away, a few glasses worse for wear. Maybe the strength of the local fire water explains the parking outside...

It´s our last day in Argentina!! We camp 5kms short of La Quiaca, the border town and the chance meeting in the bar sums up some of the hospitality I have been lucky enough to encounter here. People will just invite you into their world for a brief visit and I have always felt the better for it. It´s an amazingly warm and hospitable place and a stark contrast to the jaundiced view often taken of South American countries. I am glad of my time spent here redressing the balance and I recommend other people visit this spellbinding country. I know I will be back again!!

My last Argentinian sunset.

Tomorrow - BOLIVIA!


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