National Roadblock Day

March 16, 2006
Day 169

Today I got on a bus with Chris, from Germany, and Andre, from Holland, to go to Humuhuaca, in the far north of Argentina. The bus was a double-decker, and the seats we were given happened to be on the top floor in the front row, with a perfect view of all the action. And what action there was.

When we approached a small town about halfway through our trip, we ran into a roadblock. A bunch of natives brandishing makeshift drum sets and flags featuring Che Guevara stopped all traffic and proceeded to make a lot of noise for about half an hour. It wasn't violent; in fact, one of the protesters was smiling more often than not. He probably realized that while he had all day to raise hell, he was stopping everyone who was in a hurry from passing through his town. Finally, the protesters got tired of playing their makeshift percussion songs and let us through.

As we left town, we ran into another roadblock. It was set up in the same way as the first one was, but this time I think we were a little more lucky because we were allowed to pass through after only a few minutes. After seeing two roadblocks in ten minutes, I began to think that the entire village was involved in stopping traffic.

A few minutes later in our journey, the unthinkable happened: another roadblock! The people running this one didn't do a good job, though. They were all eating lunch, so we got through without any kind of fight.

Finally, when we were almost to Humuhuaca, we hit our fourth roadblock of the day. This time, I wasn't too surprised, though. I figured that the entire northern part of the country must have been protesting something today. This roadblock was the most inefficient of them all. Instead of people banging out their message with an empty soda bottle and a piece of wood, they just sat around and watched us go by. I wonder if the union they were representing realized what a lazy chapter was running their protests.

Back when I was in Bolivia, I heard lots of stories about roadblocks, but I was lucky enough to avoid them completely. My luck ran out in Argentina. Although there was no violence, my bus got to Humahuaca one and a half hours later than is was supposed to. By the time we got situated in a hostel, the day was practically over. Yet another reason why traveling on a rigid schedule in this part of the world is nearly impossible.

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