Argentinian Police (BUSTED!!!)
May 9, 2010
Breakfast! (Included in the spendy room rate)
Get this: the waitress comes by and asks if I want coffee. of course! (Although I never exactly know the country’s customs with regards to coffee–it’s always an experience the first few days figuring out how to achieve strong, yummy coffee. Home run on the first Argentinian morning…the waitress has a pot of steaming black coffee in one hand, and a pot of steaming hot milk in the other. Hot Milk? I think I like Argentina!
OK, so I am basically just passing through Argentina…I consider whether to take 2 days and ride up to Iguazu Falls…and because I am having some irregular email correspondence With Sandra at Dakar Motos (who is supposedly going to help me ship my bike back to the USA), I decide to be safer than sorrier and just
Apparently, Route 14 in N Argentina is known for the police scam…unfortunately I fell into it. I’d been so proud of my mordida-evasion (bribe-evasion) techniques in Peru, I was caught completely off guard and didn’t realize I was getting stung!
So they flagged me to pull over, saying I was riding without my front headlight. Now, for anyone who has traveled in Latin America *everyone* travels without their headlight!!! I mean, in every other country, people were flashing me that my headlight was *ON*!!! Apparently it’s the law to ride with your headlight ON and technically, at that moment, my headlight was NOT on, because it was cold and I was running my heated hand grips. I was having problems with the Denali lights–the fuse box had a loose connection and they’d flicker on and off.
Anyway, good cop makes nice nice with me, I think I am getting off the hook, then he refers me to bad cop. Bad cop never takes his dark sunglasses off. bad cop is ALL bad cop, telling me how horrible I am for breaking the law, etc. Tells me that I should know to ride with my lights on since I am from the USA. basically, he goes round and round with me. The are doing a whopping business here, lots of folks with no headlights or other terrible sins.
I tell him I want to see the book, where it is in writing that drivers need to operate a vehicle with their headlight on. I make a big production of taking a picture of it (I’m a journalist after all!)
Next he goes into this elaborate fine calculation, punching numbers like crazy into a calculator. The numbers seems steep, but I still think if I am patient and act dumb enough (my latest trick since I’m well past the point where I can pretend not to understand him).
Well, he finally touches on my Achilles heel…I can pay the fine here, roadside, or they will tow the bike and I can pay an ever larger fine wherever they tow it to.
Two days ago I was robbed, and I’m making a beeline to Buenos Aires to end my trip…and this dude tells me that they are going to tow my bike. ARGH! I FELL FOR IT!!!
They got me for $100.
(When I got to dakar Motos in Buenos Aires other travelers told me they’d gone through the same deal with the same cops, and basically they just waited for the cops to get tired of them. they refused to pay roadside, waited for the bikes to be towed, which never happened, and finally got the cops to write them paper tickets and ride away.)
I am told they are not allowed to collect fees roadside, bt evidently these particular cops make a handsome living at it. They are so well set up that they even have a briefcase full of money so they can make change. Such effective businessmen, you can pay in US dollars OR Argentinian pesos.
I stood there for quite some time taking pictures of other people passing through without lights, and there were plenty. The cops preyed on obvious tourists and old people, from what i could tell of the people they pulled over. I stayed a while and even took pictures of what they were doing, but when I started talking to someone else that got pulled over, they got really upset. I just wanted to see what the other guys’ fine was. Never did find out.
Bummer. Bummer Bummer. Hindsight (which is usually 20/20) says I would have been better off of they’d impounded my vehicle…I ended up paying $1500 to get my bike back to the USA.
I cut my losses and moved on. More flat and straight highway to Buenos Aires.
Here’s a pic of me trying to get the Dakar Motos way-point into my GPS.
It’s almost dark as I enter the City. Sheesh, My Garmin 60 Cx doesn’t calculate quick enough, and i miss my exit. It was an absolute nightmare trying to get to Dakar Motos. I finally stopped at a taxi stand and asked for directions. I despise cities.
But I roll in (coming the wrong way down their one-way street) and get a nice welcome from the man himself–Javier.
Justin, the fellow that zip tied my broken fingers together in Cuzco, is there waiting for him BMW to arrive (the shippers sent his 800GS around the world without him!) There are also two Swedes Jonas and Roberto (Swedes are the BEST! the joke became).
Ah. Nice to be in the final stretch.
10 days before my flight.