Today is the day that I decide if I am going by motorbike or by bus. Much earlier in the week I had decided that today would be the day that I left, with or without my bike. Even so, when I did leave, it still seemed very sudden.
Being a Saturday, today was the last day of the week that my motorbike documents could arrive in the mail. Without these documents, which are asked to be seen at police checks all along the way, my bike would be confiscated immediately. Sometimes it is actually stolen, in the name of the law.
The mail, I was told, normally arrives at 10.00am in the morning, but by 10.30am nothing had arrived. I start to give up hope when the mailman finally arrives at 11.00am. Racing out to meet him, I discover that there is no mail for me. After explaining that I am looking for a special letter, he tells me that there is a chance of finding it down at the central post office, but I need to get there before midday.
This news means that I need to get into the city center, and fast. We try calling a taxi, but the number is busy. Time keeps running. If I take my bike they could confiscate it if I am found, but I can see no other way.
Even with the great risk that it posed, I climbed aboard my bike and raced into town. It never occurred to me at the time, in the midst of my desperate run, that my high speed weaving between cars could draw attention to me in a negative way. Fortunately I managed to arrive at the central post office without problems.
At the post office I explain my dilemma and ask if they can search out the envelope that I so desperately need which should have already arrived. They search through all of the normal places but find nothing. I send them back again to search under another name, that of Isaac. Again they return with nothing.
My luck seems to be failing, but I ask again. They tell me that I need the nine digit number that allows us to track the letter. I had many numbers: date, time, attendant, receipt number. None was a nine digit number. The lady suggests I call to get that number. I agree.
The Phone Call
Calling from inside the building, the signal is so bad that I cannot hear the other person, nor can they hear me. To improve the signal I walk outside, concerned that with only 15 minutes to go before closing that they may lock me out.
When I can finally hear, I ask to speak to the person who sent my documents. He is on the other side of the mission property and it takes a couple of minutes to get the cordless phone over to him.
My first question is about the nine digit number, but there is none. The letter was sent as common mail. Only letters sent as registered or rapid mail are assigned a nine digit number. I was very surprised to discover that such important documents had been sent as common mail.
Although the conversation was near the end, there were still some important unanswered questions that I wanted to ask when suddenly the line went dead. Every time this happens it is because my mobile phone credit has run out and the company cuts me off.
Frustrated, I ran across the road to the nearest shop and asked them for a card to recharge my phone. They told me that they had run out, so I ran to the next shop. They too had run out. So had the next shop, and the next one.
My time was getting very short now, with eight minutes to go before the post office closed. I ran around the corner to yet another shop, and finally found the card I was looking for. Recharging the credit on my phone required wading through long and wordy menus to finally enter the number and get the credit I so desperately needed.
I rang again. As soon as they realised it was me on the phone, I was offered an apology for the low battery on their cordless phone which had caused the line to be cut. It was not my credit at all.
The time it took for all of my running around looking for credit meant that the cordless phone had been taken back to the other side of the mission property. There were only four minutes left by now and the questions I had were more for me than searching for my missing letter. I let it go.
Walking back into the post office, I return to the ladies that had tried to help me before. Explaining to them that the letter had been sent using common mail, they gave me the answer that I was not looking for, but by now had most expected. We would not be able to locate it.
Common mail in Argentina can sometimes arrive very quickly, but most times is the slowest way that you can send things. When I said it was sent by common mail, the lady simply looked at me and shook her head, saying that it always takes a long time to arrive. To her, the five days from Monday to Saturday was not a large amount of time at all for this sort of mail.
You Are Out (Of Here)
With my papers now unable to be retrieved, I considered my options. Tomorrow was Sunday and the post office was obviously shut. Monday could have provided some hope, but it is a national holiday here in Argentina and so most places are still shut, including the post office.
That means that even if I stayed here in Salta, it would be close to midday on Tuesday before I received my documents anyway, and the journey down to Buenos Aires would still take me three days, landing me there on the Thursday or Friday. This was too late for the way I had already planned things, and I would be leaving before being able to see all of my friends there.
So with the determination to leave anyway, with or without my bike, I realised that it was going to be without it. So I ride over to Isaac’s shop and tell him the news, then find out if I can send my bike on a truck to Buenos Aires. Even sending the bike on a truck requires the paperwork that I am missing.
I buy a ticket for me on a bus that is leaving in two hours, and head back to collect my bags and farewell my friends.
The Wait Is Over
For almost a whole week I had waited and watched to see when my papers would arrive. Throughout that entire week there was no sign of them. There remains a slim possibility that they will never arrive. Most likely is that they will arrive much later next week. When they arrive I can decide then what I will do.
One option is to return to Salta again so I can ride the bike down to Buenos Aires. Another is to send the bike down to Buenos Aires on a truck. This is an option that I quite like. Or I could send the bike over to Corrientes since I left some stuff behind which I need to pick up, and it is half the distance to Buenos Aires.
Right now I am just happy to be on the road again and looking forward to catching up with my friends in Buenos Aires. The decision is over and the wait is finished.
No more bike adventures for now.