I intend sleeping the night in Santa Maria. Santa Maria is a small market town in the centre of nowhere. The road I take is surfaced with ripli. Ripli is Argentinian for corrugated dirt. Honda and I share an antipathy for dirt.
Should I have known that Santa Maria is holding a world conference of Camels? Morales, President of Boliva, was due to attend. Now he is attending funerals of Bolivian miners dead in a fratricidal battle between miners from a co-operative and miners in the State sector. Miners from the co-op are militant. They detest the subsidies and State contracts that advantage miners in the public sector. Their weapons are sticks of dynamite.
Morales or no Morales, every hotel in Santa Maria is full with freeloaders of the conference circuit. A pleasant elderly gentleman with few teeth mans the tourist office in the central square. He is a keen biker and owns an Alpina. He bought the Alpina as a rebuild job. It lies in bits in his garage. It has been in bits for the past fifteen years. It requires spare parts. Parts require money. He doesn’t have any. And he is getting older. Sixties? Hopefully my visit will rekindle his dreams. He advises Tafi del Valle as an alternative destination. 90 Ks, and I have two hours of daylight. Does he hate me? Is my liberty salt in the wounds of his disappointments? Why else would he fail to mention that the 90 Ks includes altiplano and a mountain pass? The sky up there is overcast. The temperature falls faster than lead. My tears snap and tinkle on the rutted tar.
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