Feb. 13-16: the road to heaven ain’t paved yet

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We left Uyuni after a four-hour excursion to the salt flats on Feb. 13 and headed southeast toward the Villazon-La Quiaca border crossing. The road from Uyuni to Tupiza (“you piss,” oddly enough…) is still under construction. We weren’t able to go faster than 30 miles per hour band had to wild-camp on the way. Harry didn’t mind at all.

 

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Our spot for the night turned out to be a quiet blessing.

 

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On Feb. 14 we rose early and continued toward Tupiza. Although the road did not get any better, the landscape improved markedly.

 

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I knew from previous visits to the Argentinean Quebrada de Humahuaca that rocks in this region come in all kinds of colors, and yet the variations we came across were still fascinating.

 

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Red, green, gray, brown, white…

 

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… more shades of gray, purple, and ocher…

 

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… and even more bright red.

 

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Sadly the light did not help — this rock is, in fact, emerald green.

 

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For some reason this formation reminded me of an elephant foot…

 

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… while this one, to the right… well.

 

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Cacti were blossoming — I had no idea how beautiful their flowers are.

 

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However, the beauty ended abruptly when we got to Villazon: because of Bolivian carnival, the border was only manned by one official; everyone else was reportedly too drunk to work. Cars–the vast majority of them with Argentinean number plates–were lined up for two kilometers, and two drivers positioned roughly in the middle of the line told me that they had already been waiting for over twenty hours. At first I thought that I had no choice and dutifully steered la bestia to the tail end but, after two idle hours of pointless waiting, I decided that there had to be a ‘plan B.’

 

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And so we left the line in Villazon and went for a detour via Tarija in the hope of crossing at Bermejo-Aguas Blancas on Feb. 15.

 

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The stunning scenery partially made up for another five hours of demanding backcountry driving…

 

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… as did the occasional wildlife sighting.

 

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Still, Bolivia seemed to work hard to keep us inside its territory. The gentleman dressed as a jester in green and yellow first threw confetti at us and then, for good measure, also sprayed party foam at la bestia.

 

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Following a late-night stopover in Tarija–a lovely city, I wish to point out–and its Toyota dealership (la bestia’s brake pads needed to be changed once again) …

 

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… we finally made it to the Bermejo border crossing on Feb. 15…

 

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… where there was no line at all. Indeed, 50 minutes marks a new record for completing two countries’ customs formalities. Viva Argentina!

 

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We continued for another five hours and reached Volcan (35km north of San Salvador de Jujuy) at 2:20AM.

 

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On Feb. 16 I emptied out la bestia for a thorough cleaning…

 

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… and finished off the day by celebrating our arrival to my personal Promise Land.

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