I pulled out of the driveway in Cochabamba, the sun rising over the city, only a vague idea of the road ahead. Destination: Buenos Aires, 2000 miles away through mountains, dirt highways, prairies, bugs, and border guards. I was lost within an hour, riding slowly through the deserted early-morning stone streets of Tiraque looking for someone to point me in the right direction.
I was in my new tent, camping by myself in Jose Delgardio’s backyard in the jungle town of Villa Tunari. At one in the morning, the grass around the tent was flooding and the rain pelted above my head like a cold shower.
We finally got the bike in fighting form and high-tailed it to Mizque, arriving several hours after the others as the sun dipped below the mountains. Somebody handed me a beer, we made our way to the grill, and I learned that I had a new nickname: “Pinch Tire Luke”.
After almost two weeks in La Paz, it was time to move on. I chose Cochabamba. How could a guy not visit a city with a name like that?
The salt desert itself is beautiful, with its hexagonal cell-shaped ridges, white featureless horizon highlighting the cloudless blue sky, and vastness of scale reminiscent of being in the middle of an ocean. Then there were the colored lagoons, tinted red and green by various types of bacteria, home to huge flocks of pink flamingos.
Our bus tickets had become quite worthless when we arrived to find every seat full. A confused troubleshooting session found us in a private car trying to catch up with the bus so we could get the Japanese’s luggage, still tucked away in the smoke-belching belly of the bus as it pulled away without us.