He’s Not Dead, He’s Just Resting

It was a dark and ominous night in the hills of Bolivia. The road wound through the rocky mountainside like the back of an untamed bull, lomo del toro. We were about 45 thrilling minutes into our passage from Potosi to Sucre. Our not so reliable steed was a hired car, born circa 2000, although the driver would lead us to believe it was a mere 2 years old. “Cool car yah?” he would often repeat as we eagerly sped past incoming and outgoing traffic. A trip expected to take 2.5 hours, was seeming more like 1.5 at our F1 pace. Tail lights turned into blurred red lines as we raced through the cool Bolivian air. At around the near hour mark we came to a near complete stop, with a massive shapeless figure blocking the road, impending passage. Our fears were quickly realized as it was in fact a massive burro, which had come to an untimely death. From the backseat emerged the question, “is it dead?” “He’s not dead, he’s just resting on the hot pavement,” replied the cheeky driver in Spanish, his only language. Our gringo team was a mean threesome not so fresh out of the salty Uyuni desert. A British couple consisting of a musically inclined Morgan and the quick witted Clara. After 3 days of dry high desert, we were more than ready for the welcoming respite of a warm shower and unfrozen bed. A beer and meal sounded all too appealing as well. These primal desires urged us to suppress our fear that could normally boil over in dangerous circumstances such as these. And so we pressed on into the night…

Just after 1 hour into this 4 wheel voyage, we stopped for what appeared to be a routine refuel in front of a checkpoint. The refueling was not for our steadfast vehicle but our mouth breathing driver. Our not so loyal captain stepped out of the car, lit a cigarette and walked into the dimly lit convenience store, conveniently located on the side of the road. The remaining crew burnt their own down as we idly chatted, waiting for the ride to resume. Captain South America reemerged a few minutes later, engaged in a lively conversation with another gentleman. As the words fell silent, so did the ember of the man’s tobacco. Grabbing an unusually large handful of coka leaves and an uncomfortably audible swig of some sugary drink, he rentered the vehicle, acknowledged our readiness and reignited the beast. And so we pressed on into the night…

As we silently passed through the watchful eye of the checkpoint, something subtly changed. We suddenly lost our usual velocity as if cold brakes were clutching hot wheels. Our once unbreakable captain now seemed unsure of his purpose on this journey. The cabin fell silent as we all pondered the same question, “what the fuck is going on?” On high alert and ready to steer the car away from the looming cliff side, we allowed 5 silent minutes to pass before words would fall out of a mouth. The words that fell would come out of the no longer captain like captain, paired with minced pieces of coka leaves. Seated in the front seat, I had a front row view to this daring escapade of a ride. Despite my close quarters, I could not make heads or tails of his jumbled words, furthermore muffled by a unconscionable amount of coka. “What?” I repeated as he attempted to communicate in a now doubly foreign language. This went on for about a minute before Morgan’s voice emerged from behind me, “dude I think he’s asking you if you know how to drive?!” “Pull over” we urgently demanded in Spanish. Now that the groan of the car had died, I could more clearly hear, “can you drive? I need to sleep, I’m so tired.” Caught off guard, I asked him to step out so we could talk it over. With the other two silently and understandably confused in the back, the driver and myself exchanged tense words. “Are you drunk?” I asked, wondering if the sugary drink was not so sugary after all. “No man, just tired, I need to sleep. Can you drive?” A bit baffled I opened the rear door to confer with my companions. “What do you guys want to do? Should we just get out and hitch the rest of the way?” I suggested. “No man we’re in the middle of Bolivia in the middle the of night, fuck that,” they responded. Quickly followed by, “so do you know how to drive?” A bit caught off guard by the holdfast commitment to this now sketchy situation, “of course I know how to drive, but what the fuck?!” After a calming breath, “fuck it, I’ll drive.” 

With a final preparing inhalation, I informed the no longer captain, but now steerage boy, of our intent to agree to his plea bargain and take the wheel. Opening the driver door and asserting my claim to the throne over this useless metal body, I adjusted to a new vantage point. More than ever, his fallacy over the age of the vehicle was even more evident. Nevertheless as I turned the ignition, she came to life. And so we pressed on into the night…

Cruising along at a pace not nearly the speed of our original ascent into the darkness, I began to become familiar without my new position in life as a Bolivian cab driver. Passing trucks reluctantly and accelerating patiently, I clearly had a ways to go. While my timidness was real, the car was still not going as fast as I hoped. With the pedal to the medal, I was barely pushing 60 kmh. Something was up, we were easily exceeding 120 kmh just an hour ago. Meanwhile the driver who was not napping, but still asking if I thought his car was cool, began signaling something akin to suggesting I hold the wheel at 10 and 4, or 8 and 3, whatever it is. A bit put off and very reluctant to take any advice from this asshole, I brushed him of. Yet he persisted,  until I realized that was he was actually indicating was that the shifters of the car were paddles behind the wheel. “Ahh, I see,” I responded as I began to find new life in the accelerator with the addition 4 more gears. “Cool car yah?” he responded happily with a shit eating leafy grin. And so we pressed on into the night…

I weaved, swerved, skidded and twerked my way through uncharted gringo territory. What was supposed to be a quick 150 minute joy ride to Sucre, was now a likely 200 minute Jew ride, with a newly minted taxi driver behind the wheel of a rickety old beast. Accompanied by some infrequent direction suggestions from the buffoon next to me, we were hopefully heading towards our warm showers and beds in Cusco. It was an experience, and I couldn’t help but hear an Yvonne Choinard quote in my head, “adventure doesnt begin until everything goes wrong.” Conversation and laughter, both genuine and genuinely nervous, filled the car. While this was an adventure, we were still a bit leery of our drivers motives, and were acutely aware of his actions whilst sitting shotgun. Unbeknownst to me, Morgan, had silently borrowed a sharp pen from his girlfriend Clara, just in case the worst came to fruition. Because, this whole time, our incapacitated former captain was still navigating us to god knows where. What would meet us around each bend was unknown. And so we pressed on into the night…

Hours turned into an hour or two and we finally spotted the welcoming lights of Sucre. At this point I had comfortably settled into my new role and as confident as ever. After a snooze our driver signaled that he should take over before entering the city, because after all, I am not actually allowed to drive a cab. Begrudgingly I admitted his validity and we found a pull over just outside of the city. We switched seats with a breath of relief that we actually had made it to Sucre. Quickly resuming his absolutely crap driving we putt putted into the city limits. To keep him alert and avert disaster we passed the time by pestering him about his favorite bars in Sucre and classic rock bands. Only reassured that at this point if he crashed it would just be into a curb, and not over a cliff, and we could walk the rest of the way. Sure enough we reached the front door of our destination. Exiting the car, we grabbed our backpacks and made smiled with liberation. “150 pesos,” he demanded. “Fuck you, you pay us!” we responded, “we drove you!” To which he replied, “whatever, I gave you an experience.” Admittingly and harshly I responded, “yea it was awesome, but still fuck you!” Ultimately we paid the man, just thankful to be alive and each only short $7 all in all. Too late for a hot meal that night, we feasted on pringles and mojitos, celebrating our success. Ultimately he was right, it was an experience. And so, with half filled bellies and a mild buzz, we slept on into the night…

Now you may be thinking, “dang boy, y’all a bunch of scardy kitties!” To which I reply “nah you a scardy kitty!” 

Since finished my days as a Chilean model, ive gotten back to the roots of traveling. Spent about 4 days in the San Pedro de Atacama desert with a bunch of Dutch dentists and a Chilean cowboy. I hitched a ride in their rental vehicle and we bumped reggaeton while seeing the finest the Chilean desert has to offer. Also met a pretty amazing French Canadian who I would later travel with through Bolivia and Peru. (The French just get me I guess)

Went of a guided tour of the Bolivian high desert and salt flats with what seemed to be all French people. Also go altitude sickness for the first time which friggin sucks. Almost sucked as much as when half the group got food poisoning on the last night. Sorry y’all! Otherwise the trip pretty incredible. Also ridiculously cold, like super sub zero. Wished I was an alpaca about then. 

Hung out in Sucre, Bolivia which is an incredibly beautiful city. Ate so many meals in Bolivia for the price of just $3. Like four course home cooked gems that rocks your socks with flavor. Lots of vegetarian dishes. The soups are the best though. Actually made me reconsider my stance on quinoa. Wish I had longner in Sucre to take the well known cheap Spanish classes. 

Filmed, directed and produced a shitty iPhone film in La Paz -> see “Midnight in La Paz” link in Facebook. Was reunited with my best French friends for a couple days in La Paz. Love you guys so much. Don’t die on the bikes out there, so we can meet up again! La Paz is sweet, check it out. In general Bolivia is an amazing country and provides what I assume to be the most quintessential Sputh American experience. I.e. sans hella gringos. 

Onto Cusco, which is undeniably beautiful but filled to the brim with gringos. No I did not do Machu Piccu. I feel bad saying this but I feel a bit jaded from all the beautiful places I’ve gone and just didn’t have the see desire to go. Sounds shitty, but it’s true. I don’t want to do things just to do them, or cross off a list. Don’t worry I still love what I’m doing, I’ve just taken a turn away from the big attractions for now. Figure I should save it for a time when I feel the burn. Also running low on dough and don’t mind pocketing the couple hundred dollar price tag.

 

Lima is cool. There’s ceviche, surf and a love for basketball, but that’s kinda it. It reminds me of Miami, although I’ve never been to Miami. 

I’ve blown through 2 countries like that and am now en route to Colombia. My final country.

Peace ma people,

Joe

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