Some important figure once said that insanity was doing the same thing over and over again but hoping for a different result, so hoping for a different result I set out for a re-try at what yesterday should have been. It started the normal way, with the ride from Brazil to the beginning of the border bridge being the calm before the storm, then the similarity continued when just seconds onto the Paraguayan side a member of the local Traffic Police and his buddy spotted me on my way towards them and began with their usual waving and pointing me to the sidewalk routine. Then in another reproduction of yesterday’s recital I held the throttle wide and blew past them, wondering how it was me they had to try to stop every time. This is where the day added a dash of extra excitement, when a second after passing the now probably in pursuit traffic cops, unlike previous times where I was able to whisk away into the horizon in a second, I this time only meters past the police post caught up to the underdeveloped world’s only slow motorcyclist. Seconds ticked by like minutes while I waited and expected to feel some police hand wrenching me from my bike while I tailgated fervently almost too nervous to check my mirrors and give away some of the coyness I’d cling to if apprehended. I gave in to temptation and checked, hoping to see they were disappearing uninterested into the background or maybe pulling someone else over, they were nowhere to be seen but now I was out into the wild open street and into the dense cover that is the constant traffic jam that is Cuidad del Este and feeling cautiously optimistic.
And as I made my way from the perceived threat of having to pay a bribe, still on high alert for who might be giving chance I was just 100M up the street when breaking what had almost by now become standard practise, out from behind a parked van popped the helmeted head of the very action and adventure that I’d set out to find – and it was partly hiding the sheepish face of a man who had just pulled out in front of me on his motorbike and was about to be T-boned, which I then proceeded to complete quite thoroughly.
My marshmallow soft front suspension compressed and the front wheel locked, and slid along the asphalt for an unenviably short moment before we produced that sound that in my life so far has become so familiar in different situations that it now almost feels like home. So, like the meeting of helmets in those movies about American football, or an advertisement for slightly better corn flakes, the two entities met together with that always satisfying “CRUNCH”
Given a normal day’s luck, this all seems to fit in well enough with the next discovery of that moment – which was of a stout woman standing on the kerb just a car’s length away witnessing the event. Being the modern man I am, I don’t have any problem with woman being let outside by themselves, but I suspected this one might instead have a problem with me – this was a deduction I had keenly observed while glancing at the badge across her pocket that so menacingly read “Policia”
I’ve watched LA cops enough to know this is usually the part where the apprehendee becomes the apprehended and is invariably rewarded with an on the spot police issue beating, then is cuffed to be better kicked and punched, before being taken to the station perhaps to be beat up, or lawyer dependant, to get a pardoned release – or both, with the last two not necessarily in that order.
There was nothing I could do about it, this just t-boned fellow and I untangled ourselves from each others’ machines and wheeled them to the sidewalk occupied by the one I was sure would issue me my life’s first black eye, but this wasn’t LA and neither was it going to be filmed and narrated, in fact it wasn’t even going to be acknowledged – apparently the camouflage of a motorbike in a 3rd the world city had been enough to separate these two incidences that made up my most recent 30 seconds, and the indifference of the average cop here was enough that “ah, they were pretty much even” will suffice as reason not to react. The Policewoman just stood and watched as these two accident participants, helmets still on, made ‘what were you doing?’ hand gestures at each other until one left, and the other was me with a bike that now refused to respond to any input from the start button. I replied to the problem with a few unsuccessful tries at push starting the bike, but the knobbly dirt tires just skidded on a road made slick by mystery refuse liquids from who-knows-what shady developing country activities. The streets were packed with the traffic and mayhem you’d only see at home if the apocalypse and christmas eve coordinated to happen on the same day, but eventually I got life to the engine through the never before successful kick starter, in all of it’s wobbly glory, and left the city confines without so much as eye contact from anyone with ideas of extorting any on the spot ‘fines’
While writing this section and still only part way through my trip I had originally posted that the rest of the day took an unrealistic turn for the better, that I’d met Pablo and we went together to the municipal council and I got my licence & ownership papers. The reason I described it as an unrealistic turn is because it wasn’t realistic, and it didn’t happen. We didn’t go to the municipal, I didn’t sit a licence and I didn’t leave Paraguay with any more ownership papers than I’d arrived with. The municipal was closed Pablo told me and as a foreigner there I had little chance I’d be leave with either, let alone both. Instead I committed to defy what even I had written on the subject just weeks before; to set out to ride across this continent without any kind of actual motorcycle licence.
Of the two problems this presented, the much less life ruining threat was of being given un-necessary fines by which ever non-Paraguayan police force might decide to target me in the near future, hardly an actual problem, but to negate this, Pablo, who worked in PR for one of Paraguay’s biggest political parties, guided me to a guy who had contact details for someone that knew a guy who worked with a fellow who could point us in the direction of someone called Ernesto, who forged licences and ownership cards. An hour later and after paying something like $15 I now had a forgery even your average 13 year old basic computing student would be ashamed of. Wrong font, wrong colour, badly laminated and then trimmed into shape perhaps with the lights turned off. More attention needed, Ernesto. C-.
The more important implication of this licenseless state was that I’d forfeit any kind of insurance policy – medical or otherwise that I might need if or when hospitalised in an accident. If it ever came to me lying in traction in a hospital bed piling up debt higher each day I might like the luxury of choosing to submit my poorly copied Paraguayan Licence as proof that I was legally entitled to be in this crash, and the last thing you need is some nosy insurance investigator reading a blog writing yourself out of that option. So, sorry Mum.