Some people might know I spend half the year in Argentina guiding mountain bikers over the second largest mountain range in the world, the Andes. This year I got the opportunity to combine my photography with my knowledge of Argentina and play the part of Guide, translator, photographer on Freeride Entertainment's filming for "Where the Trail Ends". http://www.wherethetrailends.com
It was an amazing two weeks. I jumped in the van that I had just picked up for my tours and embarked on a 2000km drive across the country to meet the Freeride crew. I borrowed a trailer from a friend and loaded my dirtbike on for the trip.
As per always in Argentina, I knew my mission across the country in the newly aquired van would be full of bribing police officers and, at times, un-predictabe moments..But thats why I'm down for these missions, the adventure. I got my paperwork "more or less" in order and still knew I would have issues. At the last minute a good friend of mine from Argentina decided to make the trip with me to get to the north, where he would meet famiy and harvest grapes the next week. It would be nice to have the company. We loaded three oak barrels into the van and hit the road.
About half way into the journey, middle of the night we approached the military checkpoint diego (my friend) had warned me about. He said that every time hes ever crossed through they have found something to get him for. When we pulled up, Diego was asleep and made no move to wake up. I decided it woud be best anyways if I delt with them on my own. Sure enough as I got near, out came the officer out of his little shack, towards the centerline and up went the hand, the god old hand..I had to stop. Next was the same old circle around that the cops always seem to do, this guy was looking for something. I handed him the papers and he didnt even bother to look at them, I guess he just assumed because I was a gringo, they would be in order. But he was going to find something, even if everything was in order, he would find something. When youre in the middle of nowhere, trying to cross from one province to the other, in the middle of the night, the cops can do whatever they want to you, and they will. He went to the motorbike, "Do you have the papers for this" I handed them over. He handed them back. Where's your safety chain?. he had found it, the only flaw of my whole show..I just hadnt been able to get one in order before we left. "Do you know the fine for not having that", I shook my head, "1500 pesos", silence. "No, please no, I begged". He proceeded to tell me all the details, how he would have to take my license and I would have to go back to the last city, over 300 kms back, wait two days until the government buildings opened and pay the 1500 peso fine. There was absolutely no way he could let me past that point without doing so, and it was the only road for 500 kms. I knew there would be a way and started to initiate the "bribe". "is there any other way?", he shook his head no. We stood there in the dark, on the side of the road for 10 minutes more, he wasn't budging. Just my luck, I had got the one cop that is totally "by the book" not interested in a bribe or willing to turn his head and let me go on the promise that I will get the chain in the next town. Then he motioned for the motorbike and started to chat me up about dirtbiking. In that moment I knew there was going to be a way. 5 minutes earlier I was overcome with a feeling of defeat, the whole freeride crew would arrive to Salta and i wouldnt be there to meet them at the airport, now I saw a window of light. He talked about when he was a kid he loved to ride motorbikes, I aggreed, then he said the words, "how much can you pay?". I was on the spot, I just started handing him hundreds, I had put aside any bargaining I once had in me long ago, time was ticking and I needed to get that diesel motor humming again and get on the road. He accepted the bribe and, as is he felt he had justified the bribe by explaining to me it was for taxes or some nonsense, he let me past.
Nothing can explain the relief of being let go on a bribe. It is a feeling Ive come to know, here in Argentina and an addrenaline like no other..
I rolled into the Airport in Salta just in time. I still hadnt slept and on the last hours of the drive I had been in touch with Derek at Freeride on my cell as I entered in and out of reception. I hadn't been under the impression that I was organizing accomodations that night but nobody had. So I frantically made some calls and tried to find 12 guys a bed in the same hotel, not easy in high season. I finally found a whole house that could be rented by the night and made the reservation. Then another call came in, Andreau had arrived way earlier than the rest of the crew and was trying to find out where the hotel was. I couldnt get ahold of him, so I got his dad in Spain on the line and managed to convey the address. I would find out later that Andreau never found it and ended up having an epic experience with some strange locals before he just made his way back to the airport to wait for the rest of the crew and myself to arrive.
The gear pile was HUGE, but luckily I had a trailer and the bike boxes stacked on nicely. I had rented two cars as well, to meet us at the airport so between my van, the trailer and two cars we were abe to transport our convoy.