M/Cing to SA: Buenos Aires Dos

New use for a bidet. Two days of rain made for long nightly sessions of drying things out. Here KR improvises. I wouldn't want to be the next person to use the hair drier...

Back to Buenos Aires: 1400 kilometers, two days of rain, one doctor visit, and still no Now Voyager

Let’s start this report with the good stuff.  KR and I got our passports back from Jim in Purmamarca and we immediately started riding back to Buenos Aires on the rented Iron Duke Dos.  We made it back to BA in three days with no accidents or mechanical breakdowns. We have not had ONE bad night, as each town, hotel, restaurant and Wi-Fi bar has been a unique experience.   We roamed the streets of Purmamarca and fell in love with this charming little town at the foot of the Andes,  flooded with kids trekking and camping.   We rode into both the oldest town in Argentina (Santiago Del Estero built mid-1500s) and the third largest (Rosario) without a clue or map of where to go and we found our way about pretty well.  We got lost several times and figured out how to navigate with no Spanish.  We are staying in the part of Buenos Aires we like the best, San Telmo – home of the Tango – in a bed and  breakfast located  underneath a freeway.   We love this place and for $25/night, it’s the buy of the century. I’m loving Buenos Aires so much that I’ve set a goal of finding a house-exchange partner here in which we can each live in one another’s homes for a month or two each year.

And then there’s the not so good stuff. Two of our three days of riding were 10+hours long, entirely in full assault rain storms.  Riding the rented Iron Duke Dos was extremely uncomfortable for both of us and we dragged ourselves in every night.   My entire right thigh is black and blue from banging on the gas tank of this one-size too small m/c.  Along the way we learned that our rain suits weren’t rain proof and that having the right gear is the difference between happiness and disaster. Once into Buenos Aires, I had two new pain attacks on my right hip, couldn’t walk for long periods, and have just seen my first doctor.   His prognosis: I have arthritis in my right hip, take lots of pain killers, and man-up about the pain.  And finally, we found out today that Now Voyager is still in its container and it will probably be a couple more days until we see what condition he’s in.

We have learned a few things, even during these first few days “on our own,”that will be useful.

  • I no longer feel scared riding a m/c in Argentinian cites of any size. I can tell that I’m starting to ride like an Argentinian more and more.  What does this mean?  Going with the flow, not getting too upset when a (pick one) car, bus, truck, or bicycle moves into your lane, and realizing that the rear view mirror is your best friend as a warning to get out of the way from that VW going 140KPH.  I’m also not particularly worried about getting lost anymore.  Each city requires its own navigation strategy:  I followed delivery vans in Rosario,  kept following the same signs in Santiago Del Estero no matter how small the road became,  and finally pulled into a (what else) bar and asked for directions.
  • Adaptability is king in solving problems on the road. It might have taken me two ruined jackets and a baseball-sized hole in our bag to make me realize that I had to figure out how to tie our extra baggage onto the rented Iron Duke Dos, but it was KR’s adaptability that solved the problem.  She found a couple of pieces of fiber board lying on the side of the road and we fashioned a luggage rack from them!  We never lost another item due to exhaust heat:)
  • Rain is serious business in this part of the world. When it rains, it rains for days. If your rain suit doesn’t work (shame on you BMW), you get soaked and stay soaked for a long time.  Rain gets into everything and you better make sure all electrical bits and important papers are wrapped in plastic several times over.
  • Currency is going to be more of a problem than thought. My plan was simple:  when we’re out of cash, hit the local ATM machine.  Except 90% of the small towns we rode through on our three day ride didn’t have an ATM.  And the gas stations don’t all take credit cards.  None of them take dollars.  Even getting cash in BA was a challenge this morning as there were long lines at ATMs.  It seems that the government doesn’t have enough pesos to meet demand.  As Pablo, the man who rented us Iron Duke Dos observed, ” Last week we had cash and no gasoline.  This week we have gasoline and no cash.  This is Argentina!”
  • Either everyone in Argentina is paranoid or there is a real prhttp://therestlesstraveler.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1542&action=edit&message=10oblem with theft. We have met so many wonderful people in this great country and almost every one of them cautions us on being careful of theft.  Cameras. Motorcycles.  Money.  Credit cards.  The newest scam is that “gypsies” spray foul smelling liquids on unsuspecting tourists  and then “help” them clean it off, while in the process of picking their pockets.  This happened to us, but KR had read about them and we survived without loss.  I found out today that one of Rawhyde’s motorcycles were stolen yesterday in Chile.  It makes a guy want to get theft insurance for his motorcycle.

Buenos Aires is a great city, but I’m having a hard time figuring out how to explain why. I know I can get overly passionate about things, so I’m trying to damper my enthusiasm for BA as a result.  Even KR tells me to cool it as its the first South American city we’ve seen. But here’s my net:  Buenos Aires makes every city I’ve been to — except NYC and Paris — look plain and boring.  Buenos Aires has become my favorite city and I’m feeling the urge to get back here often.  Buenos Aires is a city…

  • Of grand scope.  It’s huge in size, its boulevards are grand, its government buildings are expansive, it’s parks are plentiful and its port is impressive.
  • In which interesting architecture resides in almost every section.   The buildings here are just interesting with intricate detail.  Your basic BA building would be a historic treasure in LA.  Somehow they have melded the old with the new.
  • Of parks and statues.  Every dead general or saint or angel or artisan or merchant has a statue in some park, square or roundabout.  There must be hundreds-perhaps thousands- all over the city.
  • I in which there is a real sense of style, fashion and sophistication.   People in BA have a sense of grace and style about them.  And for a guy who is used to getting dinner by 6:30, I’m cool with starting dinner at 10 or 11.
  • f contrasts.  Palermo, San Telmo, Ricoleta, La Boca are all wonderful, but totally different neighborhoods within BA.  Each has its own groove.  We stayed a week in Recoleta and realized it was too nice for us.  San Telmo is our favorite because its the oldest part of BA and home to Tangos and antiques.
  • A bustling, commercially happening city.  There’s a ton of  business being done here.  The newest and tallest buildings have names like Microsoft on them.
  • Where almost every bar, restaurant, hotel, fast food place, has Wi-Fi and it works  and its for free.  Yes, their technology is a little weird, but there as “connected” as anywhere.

The situation as of 9:00AM on January 11. 2011 in Buenos Aires. We are still in limbo as we await the status of Now Voyager.  Federico has stopped calling, which can only mean not-so-good news.   In the meantime, we’re trying to deal with my hip and find all the supplies that we need based on our first 1400km trip.  We should know about NV today — and if we get him — we’ll be out of Buenos Aires on Thursday…ish.

On the road to the Andes. The last day of dry weather.

And we think we had it tough? Purmamarca was jammed packed with kids back-packing their way over the mountains. Purmamarca was one of their last stops going up. Try walking up a narrow winding road to 15000+ ft carrying back pack. It's a young man's game.

A few yards down the road from the camping site, FW was hard at work in his office -- a porch in the El Adobe hotel

KR is hard at work, as well. Here she gets photography lessons from Steve (a professional journalist), John and Charlie. KR is really getting into photography this trip. I suspect that she'll want photo credits pretty soon.:)

Big ass truck. Jim Hyde hauls across Argentina's pampas trying to catch up with his tour group. Truck was delayed in Customs, which required the late start. Most valuable cargo? Our passports : )

First brush with the law. We were stopped at an inspection point and were pulled over for a document inspection. And no, I wasn't doing anything illegal (then). Typical case of some government guy wanting to feel important.

KR uses her indepth understanding of Spanish to ask this innkeeper how the hell do we get there! The result of this conversation? She ordered two bottles of beer instead of the intended one. We still have a ways to go on the Spanish language challenge.

Not an official BMW accessory. Our fiberboard luggage rack did the trick, which is more than I can say for BMW's official rain sit.

Whenever we got REALLY lost, we'd stop in some bar or restaurant and have a pop. We got really lost in Rosario and stopped here. The waiter not only brought us a drink, but also the news that we were only one block away from some hotels. Rosario is a great city, not often mentioned for its beauty, but KR and I were both impressed and would like to go back when time permits. In this instance, we reach Rosario after another 500kilometer day all in the rain

Besides being Argentina's 3rd largest city, Rosario is also the birth place of Che Guervara. This building is now a Che youth hostel that's pretty run down lookiing on the outside. I guess Argentina doesn't celebrate its revolutionaries, just its generals.

Another day of 300 kilometers and we arrive back in Buenos Aires. KR found a little B&B in San Telmo on the Internet. This is what we were greeted with: an address, no sigh, and immediately to the left is one of BA's freeways. But, my mother always told me we should never judge a book by its cover.

This is what's behind the blue door-- La Casita De San Telmo -- a wonderful place. La Casita is owned by a docter (more on Eduardo in a minute) his wife and son. Wife and son are Tango singers as well.

Which room is ours? The one with the wet boots and socks in front. La Casita has three or four groups staying now (from Germany and France). We all share common bathrooms and kitchen. It works out remarkably well.

Doctors office? Our room in La Casita became the examination room for my visit with a local orthopedic doctor... Who just happended to be the proprietor of the B&B as well. I swear I'm not making this stuff up!

Current office -- La Casita's kitchen. I spent the entire day working on Sunday in here and actually pounded out two pretty good docs. This is semi-encouraging, that one can pull-on-the-oars-of -commerce from anywhere. I actually like working with Tango music playing in the background. I'm not the only one working in the kitchen office as one of our fellow travelers is a German girl doing translations from Chinese to French

We found this group of drummers outside La Casita on Sunday morning. Not sure what they were doing, but they had a fire surounded by their drums. Not sure if this was a "good vibe" ritual or actual instrument prep.

One of the things that Karen likes most about San Telmo is its many small stores that have wonderful art deco furniture and decorative items. The only thing that has saved me so far is we can't strap furniture on Now Voyager: )

Tango in the streets. Three blocks from where we're staying, these two dancers entertained a crowd for hours.

Night life. It wouldn't be a post from us if we didn't show a bit of San Telmo's night life. This group is standing in front of a French bar in the heart of the Tango district of San Telmo.

La Brigada is one great steak house. To prove the point, the waiter cut our steak in two with his spoon.

Nothing is too old for use in Argentina, which is probably one of the reasons I feel at home here 🙂 There are still lots of Fiat 500s running around BA, in addtion to tons of 1960's Ford Falcons and thousands and thousands of Honda 50 step-throughs!

4 replies
  1. Chuck Brown says:

    Good to hear you two are settled safely back in BA. Looks like a wonderful B&B. To bad about all the equipment issues. I imagine you have “your” bike by now.
    What’s next? I will keep watching.
    Have fun!!!!

  2. FHW says:

    Thanks Chuck. I’m “suppose” to pick up Now Voyager sometime this morning. The one problem that we need to fix is the lack of Argentine insurance. Once I get that, I think NV will be released from Customs. I’m not sure what to expect when the crate is opened. fw

  3. Chuck Brown says:

    Keep ‘um coming. I’ll hold down the fort.
    BTW, I got an article published in a local rag about our Dakar trip.

  4. Peter says:

    Marvelous adventure. Keep enjoying and learning and to hell with the setbacks.
    Your postion as a travel writer has already been established and keep it up for our education of what is good and bad about international adventure on a 2 wheeled…semi-powerful mo-sheen.

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