Saturday, October 9, 2010

59. Uruguay getting the economy tour and having a gun pointed in my face in Argentina (04/22/08)

After finally crossing the border at 12 pm the next day I was on a mission to make it to Montevideo as quickly as possible. Unfortunately my picture taking suffered greatly for this and I missed taking photos of some beautiful farms and scenic landscapes. It took 6 hours to make it to Montevideo and when I finally arrived the sun was setting so I had to do my best to take photos fast. After some procrastination I decided to call my friend Sebastian and possibly stay another day in Montevideo to explore.

BTW: (For Motorcyclists) There is a ferry from Buenos Aires to Montevideo and I recommend taking it because it is much faster and you do not have to double back (The price is $50 I think). Right now the Fray Bentos border crossing is out because they are rebuilding the bridge. If you want to drive you have to drive all the way up to Paysandu and cross there. The best option is to take the ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacramento and than drive 2 hours to get to B.A. This is the least expensive and also will have the best scenery I think.

 Sebastian was not there so I decided to camp the night in Montevideo and head back to Argentina the next day (I did not have my tourist visa for Brazil yet). Unfortunately I missed out on one of the most beautiful places in Uruguay: Punta del Este. The drive from Montevideo to Punta del Este has spectacular ocean views.
I camped for the night in Montevideo at a marina and set up my tent next to the shacks of some friendly fishermen. The next day I woke up at dawn and set off for Argentina. I made great time but hardly took a single photo. The riding was utterly painful because I was so down. I crossed the border at Salto into Argentina but I do not recommend crossing it here because the roads from Tacuarembo were very bad with many dangerous turns and sudden changes from pavement to dirt in poorly marked construction sites. It would have been faster to drive from Tacuarembo back to Paysandu and cross there.

 After crossing into Argentina things were going fine until I was stopped at a police checkpoint on Ruta 14 km 341. The officer who stopped me asked to check my papers and than asked me in Spanish if I had the required fire extinguisher. I did not understand so he took me to his car and showed me a fire extinguisher in the back and than took me to the office and showed me a form that said fire extinguishers were required for motorcyclists.
I was very skeptical about whether this was real or not but I did not question him and thought there was a chance that he would just give me a warning. Five minutes later he told me that I would have to pay a fine. After arguing for 10 minutes I asked how much the fine was and he pulled out the fine paper but it did not have a price listed on it. I watched as the officer wrote 1200 pesos. I asked him where the punto  (point) was and he told me that it was 1200 pesos ($400 US). Who did this guy think I was with dirty hands, messy hair, and a beat up stitch jacket?

 After hearing 1200 pesos all doubt in my mind was gone that this was a real regulation. I told the officer that I had never seen a local motorcycle with a fire extinguisher and that it would be very dangerous to carry a pressurized canister on a motorcycle. He responded by making the handcuff gesture multiple times. I asked to see his identification and he told me that I could read what his name was from a stamp that he was going to use on my fine. I told him to show me his wallet but he refused and made the handcuff gesture again. At this point I was really starting to get fed up and I asked for my passport back. The officer told me that he was going to keep it and lock me up. I told him that your passport in private property and no police or immigration official has the right to withhold it from you. He than left the room and I took it back off the desk.

 When the officer returned he asked me for the 10th time how I was going to pay for the ticket. I told him the same old that I did not have any money and he made the handcuff gesture again. Having had enough of this crap I put my hands out for him to put the handcuffs on and asked to make my phone call (I am not sure if you get a phone call after being arrested in Argentina, but I figure you must). He told me that there was no phone call and than took out the handcuffs like he was going to put them on, but than told me to leave.
I walked out of the station taking note of the license plate number of the car inside and when I got back to my motorcycle I took out a pen and wrote the number on my hand. The officer had been watching me from inside and ran out and told me to go back to the bathroom to wash it off. I went to the bathroom and the officer followed me in and closed the door behind him. He took my helmet and threw it on the ground. Than he pulled out his gun and pointed it at my face. I knew that he was going to shoot me but it is still pretty scary to have a loaded gun pointed in your face. I made ducking actions and some fake cry moans. He told me that I better forget this happened.

 I walked back to my motorcycle still remembering the numberS FVK364 (still remember from memory now) and left slowly doing my best to be really scared. I decided that I better wait a good while before stopping and writing the numbers again. After about 10 miles I noticed that it seemed like a suspicious truck was following me very closely for a long time, but it was hard to say whether he was a friend of the police or just a bad driver. After 2 hours of driving I finally stopped in Curuzu Cuatia and wrote the numbers down.

1 comment:

  1. We had not practiced well until this week and that has me more optimistic. The kids understand the offense and defense and our long-term goals. They realize it is more of a journey than a short trip. We may get beat, but we can still move forward from there. If we win we have a better shot at the conference, but either way we can move on.

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