The plan was to ride from Antofagsta to Salta, other 410km of non-paved crispy roads with my non-4×4 vehicle: green P106 featuring in this odyssey. Woke up, fell out of bed, drove a comb across my ‘hair’ (writer’s getting balder day by day). 7:30am I was on the road, prepared for the at least nine-hour trip through the unspoiled Puna.
After an hour and a half and just 35km driven, the star, the legendary Velvet Goldmine, the green P106 decided to quit his job again: he collapsed. I was 34km from Antofagsta and 370km of San Antonio de los Cobres, Salta. So I chose some basic things (water, some food, knife – small one, jacket) and abandoned car, guitar, suitcases in middle of Puna.
Walked for two hours non-stop, my shadow was a small spot beneath my feet, midday, really hot and no car passed yet, it was really silent, the only sound I would listen when I stopped walking was my own breathing, the Lord turned mute his remote control. No sound other than the sounds of this writer, who started this column to recommend trips and now just relates his own antihero adventures, yes… Why? As ever, just because!
Suddenly I saw an indigenous farmer woman and after staring at each other as if we were two illusions, I offered her a cigarette – which she happily accepted. I believe she must have been no older than 55, but she looked like an old healthy lady in her 80s. Her hands were stones, she lives in a rancho (humble house) and eats what she plants, irrigating her plants with a very interesting Inca method. Of course no phone, no TV, no electricity.
Her name was Celedina and she invited me to wait until a car passed at her rancho, which was close to the road, an offer that I gratefully accepted. Celedina’s house was the most humble place I ever been, and she needed nothing from me or from you, she was absolutely in harmony with her reality. After five hours at Celedina’s I finally heard to an engine, a car. ‘Salvation!’ I thought.
I stepped outside and saw two guys riding a motorcycle pulling a bicycle with a third guy by a string. “And who are these?” said Celedina in a calm way. They stopped at her place without us making signs for them to stop. Each guy had a bottle of dark non-branded wine in their hand. Celedina chatted to them whilst I had my small knife in my hand inside my pocket. After a small chat Celedina realised one of these guys was her son. Osvaldo, a friend of Celedina’s son, offered me a lift to Antofagasta de la Sierra.
After ten minutes I was in a motorcycle diary (maybe I’ll plan a revolution some day), no longer the P106 diaries since he abandoned me and then I abandoned him on the road, to be with this guy Osvaldo, who was certainly drunk, on his quite obsolete motorbike on my way back to Antofagasta with one mission in mind: finding a doctor for P106 and some ‘organs’ to replace and fix him in a pueblo with just one mechanic who I knew was on vacations.