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Day 101 - Rio Grande to Rio Gallegos
Breadfast initially consisted of yesterday's leftover rolls at the restaurant. I went and asked the lady if they had any croissants, since, while we may not be a fan of Breadfast we do enjoy the Argentinian croissants with a bit of sweet brushed over the top. "Oh, yes. I'll go across the street and get them." Across the street being the delicious bakery.
Breadfast was much improved upon her return as neither of us was interested in the leftover rolls.
We hit the road around 9:30, which is pretty good for us, and both hoped that maybe, with a good start, and a little luck at the borders, and dry dirt we'd be able to make it beyond Rio Gallegos today. Dachary was hoping for El Calafete, which is another 250 kilometers beyond Rio Gallegos, but I never really thought we'd be able to pull *that* off.
We both agreed that while we'd ridden the same roads on Day 97 it was far more beautiful when it wasn't raining.
More llamadeer, a couple more not-emus, and generally excellent dirt which Dachary went nearly 70kph on the whole way (except when the gravel got thick at the corners). Just after the Dirt began the Chileans insisted we fill out the same damn form for the bikes that we'd filled out the last two times we'd entered the country. So annoying. We don't understand why they can't just pull our info from the last time they entered us into the computer.
We stopped for lunch at the same place we ate with Joe and Vern last time, and had some delicious roast beef. We also split the marrow from the bone Dachary got and both agreed it was very tasty. I, however, also decided that it was way to disgustingly jiggly and squishy for me to eat again unless i was reeeeeally hungry. But, I had to try it.
Lunch wasn't quite the same without the boys though. And, the ferry charged us this time: 4,200 Chilean pesos per bike.
Dachary's note: riding this route in the sunshine was almost like a completely different experience. It was overcast and raining last time, but the sunlight cast a completely different light over the scene and really highlighted the beauty of this part of the world. There are practically no trees - just short scrub - and it's a lot of flat with gentle rolling hills thrown in, but in the golden sunlight, the landscape really shines. Was a world different from the other day, and much more pleasant.
Tierra Del Fuego
Tierra Del Fuego
We got dusty
Returning on the ferry
Amongst good Company
Another long line at the border, but nothing compared to entering Costa Rica so it didn't really bother us, although we could have done without the six year old girl who, judging by the way she threw herself and her ball across the floor the whole time we were in line, was probably high on speed… or cocaine. It's hard to tell at that age.
Entering Argentina again was slightly exciting in one aspect… it was our last real border crossing; according to Dachary "Airports don't count".
But somehow all the borders and miles, and dirt added up to us rolling into Rio Gallegos a little after 7:00 PM. So… no going to El Calafete. The Hotel Paris which we stayed at last time had only one room left, which had no private bath, and after declining to subject herself to the "shower" in last night's bathroom (can't blame her) Dachary had declared that she wanted a shower and didn't want to deal with showing her bootie to the hall.
So we went down the street. Same deal. So we went down the street. I'm not sure what hotel we're in but the twin beds are even smaller than the teeny ones we encountered before, and the whole place smells like old-people, cigarettes, and something we can't quite place, costs 220 Argentine pesos, and doesn't include Breadfast. Fortunately there's a window with a breeze in our room. Unfortunately there's a bidet in the shower… like IN the shower. I was sitting on the toilet, pulled back the shower curtain out of curiosity to see what we'd purchased for ourselves and felt like I'd suddenly interrupted the bidet just before it had finished.
There is space to shower, but if you really really want to get clean fast you can use the bidet and shower at the same time.
It didn't rain on us today, which meant that Dachary's boots were dry, which meant that she could waterproof them. So, like a gleeful little schoolgirl, she did. Or, she sprayed them with waterproofing spray… no telling yet if it'll actually work.
Waterproofing Her Boots
Waterproofing Her Boots
We pondered Gas Station Dinner at the YPF across the street, but both feared the the hamburgers had been there all day and would be gross… so wandered back to the restaurant we ate at last time where Dachary accidentally got excellent steak and I got totally boring ravioli.
Back at the room we got an e-mail from Naomi and Alberto saying that they're in El Calafete and shall be awaiting our arrival tomorrow. We can't wait. They're staying at a campground and it's hovering just below 40 F at night, which will be a bit chilly but we'll totally do it to hang with Naomi and Albert.
For future Runaways:
When you find yourself needing to stay in Rio Gallegos head for Centro. When you see the flags outside the Hotel Rio… something fancy looking take your next left (illegally). Go a block and a half and there's the Hotel Paris ( GPS is S 51 37.245 W 69 13.023 ). Parking is to the left of main entrance. Should that fail continue about a block and a half down and look for the hotel on the left which is a bit lower quality. Parking is to the right of the main entrance. Should that fail go two blocks down, hang a left, and just after the next intersection there will be a hotel on the left corner which is a bit lower quality. Continue to the far side of the building for the parking. Should that fail you're on your own.
Day 102 - Rio Gallegos to Calafate
We got a surprise e-mail from Naomi with directions to the campground in El Calafete where we were headed, and they were staying.
We were pretty bundled up against the cold and the rainclouds we saw off in the distance, and the road was a lot more of the same we've been seeing lately so there wasn't much to note from the early riding until I asked Dachary how she was doing and she responded that she was "… trying to figure out if I'm getting shocked" … "O… k…" That's not good. I'm imagining some intermittent little shock being delivered from her electric jacket until maybe ten minutes later she tells me to pull over. She never tells me to pull over so I'm pretty concerned.
She says she can't deal with the shocks any more and describes it as a "… sharp stabbing pain…" and pulls up her shirt to expose a line of red unhappy skin on her belly. This is not good. We need the electric jackets to keep from freezing. Dachary grabs her lightweight Buff, folds it up and shoves it up under her shirt on top of the red aggravated area, which appears to be at the same place as where the wires come in to the jacket… hmm.
We drive on and that seems to have done the trick, although neither of us is happy about it.
Eventually we get to a gas station about 90 miles down the road, in the only town likely to have one between here and our destination. Of course, it doesn't have gas. We won't make it to El Calafate, or… we wouldn't if we didn't have our spare gas canisters, which, at highway speeds, will give us about 90 miles each… just about the amount missing from our tanks now. So, with some serious bitching at the safety devices in the spout we eventually get both bikes topped off and go in for some warmth and lunch… of course, the place isn't warm, and the lunch is cold ham and cheese sandwiches, but they're food… Dachary stops in the bathroom to put on a few more t-shirts to insulate her from the shocks instead of keeping a wodged up Buff under her shirt.
We eventually get sick of not getting warm, head out, and finish gearing up when a guy swings around asking if his wife can take a picture of him next to us and the bikes, which we happily oblige.
We then set off into the rain that finally caught up with us in force at the gas station, and then ride right out of it maybe fifteen minutes later… Oh yes. Joyous sunlight, getting stronger by the minute.
Soon, we're approaching El Calafate and it's getting more and more scenic by the minute. There's a scenic overlook with a bird of prey hovering on the updraft barely even twitching its wings as it watches for prey.
Look at the big version for the bird
Scenic Overlook Panorama
(Click through to the large versoin to see the full panorama)
It gets better ever mile we go forward. The lake is fantastic and mountains start rising up in the background until we're turning down into El Calafate, where we stopped at the gas station (because who knows if there will be gas tomorrow), then pull over to unhook our gas cans for a refill when Naomi shows up on her way to find a new lock. Excellent.
We chat for a bit then head off for lunch where we find a place that's a) open b) has good burgers and c) excellent cappuccino. Very nice.
We head over to the campground, set up start chatting and are generally happy to have finally met Naomi and Alberto after so many emails back and forth. Naomi, Dachary, and I head out to the grocery store just down the block to procure some meats and veggies to grill for dinner.
Dachary's note: I'm also sick of having cold arms on the bike, so I decide to look for a long-sleeved shirt, of which I have zero. I'll take a t-shirt, but a sweatshirt would be even better for its insulating properties. I'm pretty sure El Calafate will have something, because it's a big touristy town and I've seen someone wearing an El Calafate jacket at the Chile/Argentina border. So while we're wandering around town, we poke into a few shops, and eventually find one that has some long-sleeved thin sweatshirts…
I find a gray Routa 40 sweatshirt and am ready to buy it, when Naomi and Kay spot a "waffle shirt" that seems to be made of the same material of the old-fashioned long johns. They both agree that the waffle shirt will be better insulated than the thin gray sweatshirt I want, and I lament that it doesn't say "Routa 40" and Naomi offers to draw the Routa 40 crest on the shirt. But I concede to wisdom and buy the waffle shirt instead, and immediately put it on - and comment repeatedly throughout the night that I'm so nice and toasty warm with my lovely waffle shirt. It was a great purchase, even at $63 US… I just wish I'd bought it sooner.
Back at the campsite, grilling commences. Plates are filled, and the chewing commences, and continues for quite some time. It's a shit cut of beef and almost every piece I have involves chewing for two minutes then spitting out the unchewable remainder. The choirizo and onions decent though.
Good to be amongst good people again.
Naomi and Alberto
Day 103 - El Calafate & Perito Moreno Glacier
Didn't particularly want to get up this morning because it was cold and I just wanted to stay inside the sleeping bag, but Naomi and Alberto were heading out to the glacier and then off to Chile, so we wanted to ride with them to the glacier and didn't want to make them late getting to Chile. So Kay went off to shower while I wandered off in search of an ATM. One ATM out of cash, but five blocks further into town I found some money. Yay money!
Back to the campground just in time for the restaurant to open, and the four of us go to have some omelets. One nice thing about being in a touristy town is you can find breakfast places that serve more than just bread. The omelets were a bit… odd… too salty, I think, but it was so nice to have eggs for breakfast again that we weren't about to complain.
Breakfast took longer than expected, and Naomi and Alberto had to pack up their tent and everything since they were headed off to Chile afterwards, so we got on the road to the Perito Moreno glacier shortly after 10AM.
Naomi and Alberto
Luckily it was sunny and beautiful, so we were optimistic about getting good views of the glacier. $25 per person to get into the national park, and a 35k ride down a twisty, but paved, park road to the parking lot. From there, you board a shuttle bus to the glacier visitor center and can walk around on a multi-level walkway with lots of stairs and balconies to view the glacier from different angles. Unfortunately, along the way, the sun was hidden behind some clouds and there was a smattering of minor rain.
When we walked out onto the walkways and could really see the glacier, it was immediately apparent that the glacier completely dwarfed any sense of scale we could imagine. It was massive. Beyond comprehension massive. At one point, Alberto observed that this glacier we were seeing was just the tip of the ice field spilling over, and was probably something like 1% of the total ice, and Naomi pulled out the map so we could look at the massive ice field. We all agreed that it was mind-boggling and really too large for us to wrap our heads around.
We stopped at several different balconies on the walkway to get different angles of the glacier. Much of the ice had a blue-ish tint because the ice compresses over time and the oxygen somehow ends up getting… compressed out? I'm not sure exactly, but it had an otherworldly tint. The top edge was raggedy and you could see thousands of crevasses. It looked deadly and alien… and yes, like something out of a movie set. It didn't look real.
Naomi at Perito Moreno Glacier
Naomi at Perito Moreno Glacier
Naomi and Alberto
Dachary at Perito Moreno Glacier
Dachary and Alberto shooting Perito Moreno Glacier
Dachary at Perito Moreno Glacier
Dachary at Perito Moreno Glacier
Dachary and Kay at Perito Moreno Glacier
We saw one spot where the ice was clear and had a deep blue tint, with a darker black around it… I have no idea why the ice did that but it was very distinctive, and seemed to draw the eye no matter where we were.
Perito Moreno Glacier
Moving around to different balconies, we eventually settled on one that was overlooking the right side of the glacier as we were viewing it, as that's where we'd heard all of the crashing sounds from (but hadn't seen much of the ice falling). We went over to that side and stood around for a while, taking gratuitous shots of us in front of the glacier (including some RevZilla love…)
Revzilla at Perito Moreno Glacier
… when some of the ice just started crashing off. It was insane. It was a massive chunk of ice, following a couple of smaller chunks. It turned out to be one entire part of the glacier face, from top to bottom - the scale is really difficult to understand but the splash itself was like an explosion. It was a really impressive break.
Kay's note: I was ready with the good camera and got an amazing sequence of the face falling off in three sections with the whole splash.
Dachary, Kay, Naomi, and Alberto
We waited around a bit after that, but nothing else broke. So back to the visitor center for a quick bathroom break, and contemplate having coffee. Unfortunately the restaurant was super crowded and Naomi and Alberto were heading off to Chile, so we opted to skip coffee and get back to the bikes. We had to wait for a couple of shuttle buses to come as they filled up too quickly and there wasn't space for us, but we got on the second one and made it back to the parking lot where our bikes were stashed, only to find that it was still raining in the parking lot. At least it had gotten sunny while we were viewing the glacier!
The surrounding scenery is quite nice, too, though…
Mountain by Perito Moreno Glacier
Mountain by Perito Moreno Glacier
We told Naomi and Alberto not to wait for us, as we always take forever to gear up when we're wearing this many layers for the cold, and we knew they were pressed for time to get to Chile. It was already shortly after 2pm, and they had to head back to El Calafate for gas before riding roughly 250km and dealing with a border crossing. So off they went, and Kay and I took our time getting back to town.
Naomi and Alberto
We stopped for gas and then headed back to the campground that Naomi and Alberto had recommended (where we'd left our tent), as we'd decided to stay a couple more nights since we have time to kill and this seems like a nicer place to kill time than Buenos Aires.
And much to our surprise, there were two fully-loaded F800GS adventure bikes sitting in the parking lot! Naomi and Alberto had gotten back to town, decided it was too late in the day to get a good start for Chile and decided to stay here another night. So we got to hang out with them more!
Went back to the place Kay and I found for lunch yesterday where we had a nice, long, relaxed lunch. We got lomito sandwiches, which were super tasty, but the fries were sadly much more greasy than they were yesterday. Naomi and I ordered hot chocolate, which was wonderful… it was like real, rich, melted chocolate in a glass - not like some powder or the partially-melted chocolate flakes in hot milk I had the other day. It was glorious. Good food and good company made for a very happy meal.
After lunch, Alberto headed back to set up camp again while Kay, Naomi and I went scouting grocery stores. Naomi and Alberto actually cook things and camp more often than we have, and they wanted something breakfasty (oatmeal is a good one they seem to like) but were having trouble finding. Two grocery stores and we found some oatmeal and stuff for dinner, and Kay and I finally got our Routa 40 stickers and we also got some patches. We've also deeded our egg holder thing from REI to Naomi and Alberto, because they might actually get some use out of it and we're almost done with the trip and have never taken it out of the yellow bag. Hopefully they'll get more use out of it!
Back at the campground for updating the blog and looking at pictures of the glacier (far too many) and it's getting a bit chilly. Hopefully tonight won't be too much colder than last night! But it is nice to camp and chill for a few days… now that we've already done Ushuaia, we've still got almost two weeks to kill and no real "goal" so we have time to revisit some of the things we've skipped along the way and take our time dawdling back to Buenos Aires.
Last edited by masukomi; 23 Mar 2011 at 22:45. Reason: adding images
Day 104 - El Calafate
Didn't set the alarm today and woke up at 8:30AM - it was glorious. Naomi and Alberto were packing up to head out, and Kay and I sat around and chatted with them for a bit before heading into town for breakfast. Happily, the lunch place we found on our first afternoon here also had breakfast, so we had an Americano - tons of food. Toast with butter and jam, corn flakes, fruit salad, juice and… the coveted eggs. Plus coffee for me and tea for Kay. It was a lot of food but we were so happy to have a real breakfast that we dug in and ate pretty much all of it.
Back to the campground, and Naomi and Alberto were still there! We were surprised as we thought they'd want to be up and out early, but we ended up chatting with them some more as they finished packing. A huge dog had been following them around all morning, and came over to stand in their way as they mounted up on the motorcycles and made to leave the campground. He tried blocking their path, but they revved their bikes and he got out of the way - although he ran along side of them all the way into town.
Kay and I puttered around the campground after they left. We mucked about with computers and reading devices on the picnic table next to our tent, and when I got chilly, we headed into our tent and enjoyed a peaceful afternoon just chilling out. The sun backlighting the trees cast gently swaying leaf-shadows on our tent walls, and we both really enjoyed hanging out in there more than we typically enjoy time off in a hotel. The tent is *our* space. We decided we need to camp more often, and hoped to get someplace warmer where we could camp more.
The plan for the day had been to ride over to check out Fitz Roy, a beautiful mountain area around 100km from El Calafate. Naomi and Alberto had told us about it and showed us some pictures, and there were also pictures around town. But we hadn't been in any hurry to get on the road, and were sitting at the picnic table around 1:30 when a guy came over and started looking over the bikes and chatting with us. He said he had a new F650 of his own, and thinks they're great bikes. We mentioned that we were pondering going to see Fitz Roy, but he said it was too late in the day for us to go unless we planned to stay there. We hadn't, and hadn't realized it was going to take us that long to get there and back, so we pretty much gave up on the idea. I thought maybe we'd go see it tomorrow, instead, since we're in no real hurry to go anywhere.
Gas station lunch of sandwiches and chips, to save a bit of cash and because we weren't terribly hungry after breakfast, and then a little wandering around town and poking our heads into shops. Back to the campground, and we saw an adventure bike waiting there! It was Maichek (pronounced "Matt-check"), an Aussie who is spending the next year in South America. He was looking for some friends who he thought were in town, so we only chatted briefly before he headed out hunting them. A bit later, though, and he was back! Apparently he was going to camp here, too.
Kay and I ventured back into town to get stuff to make dinner, since we were at a campground and could actually cook - and set about frying some meat and making some pasta. Kay actually read the stove manual and used the cleaning thing (a magnet) and the stove was working beautifully again, almost like new… until we were boiling water for the pasta. Then it started sputtering and threatening to die again, just like it did the last time we tried to use it - in Palenque. We managed to keep the water boiling long enough to cook our pasta, but I still don't trust our stove.
Kay's note: The stove comes with a multi-tool for all the various nuts and such. On that is a magnet. To clean the stove you simply wave the magnet under it. After the meat I just waved the magnet under it again, and pumped the tank more. I'm not sure if it was being clogged or if the pressure had just ran out, but this stove does seem to be less happy than the one we sent back for the recall.
During dinner, Maichek wandered back over to chill with us. He drank some wine and we shared stories. He had horror stories of Routa 40, too (as did Naomi and Alberto) - I swear that road is sheer evil. After talking to other experienced bikers about their troubles with Routa 40, I'd definitely abandoned my thoughts of asking for a rematch. I rode the section I rode, and I'm going to leave it at that. I overcame my little section of it and I'm not such a masochist (nor do I have anything to prove) to tackle more after hearing about all the trouble that other experienced riders have had.
Traded stories with Maichek until I was cold and shivering, and Kay said we need to get me into the tent. And as we're putting the kitchen stuff away, a couple wanders into the campground who apparently know Maichek - and we discover that the gent was a guy we'd met at the Argentina/Chile border a few days earlier when we were either coming or going to Ushuaia! (Can't remember which.) He'd done the US and Alaska on a… Honda… Shadow 700? We can't quite remember the details - I was still wearing my helmet because I'd expected a quick border visit when we first met him, and so I had my earplugs in and Kay was the one doing the chatting. But it was wild that he just happened by our campground, and we chatted a bit more about the trip, the bikes, waterproof gear that isn't… all the things bikers chat about on the road.
I was quite chilled by the time we got me into the tent, but it was a good night of chatting with new friends. And a surprisingly awesome day of doing nothing. This is much better than killing time in Buenos Aires, methinks.
Day 105 - El Calafate to Rio Gallegos (AGAIN).
Last night, a little after midnight we woke to the sound of rain pouring on our tent and Dachary really needing to pee. I remembered I'd shoved a teeny umbrella in my Camelbak, which made the endeavor slightly more bearable. Upon seeing the time I decided to try and hold mine for another seven hours or so; hoping the rain would be gone by then.
Wet Wet Wet
(Yeah, that's right, another morning of wet ass thanks to my Airhawk cover)
We had bought eggs the other morning, and fully intended to cook them for breakfast, but with intermittent sprinkles in the morning neither of us was very into the idea, so we went back to the restaurant at the hostel and were told us we could have the lame bread buffet but no eggs. Damn. With a forecast for rain, and cold we figured maybe we should just stay another night, only in a room this time. But, it was 150 pesos with a communal bathroom. Maybe some of the other hostels in town would have a cheap one with a private bath.
Back to our favorite restaurant in town which wasn't open yet, but has an employee waiting to be let in. **** it.. Pandareia across the street… hmm unhappy looking croissants. We go to check the hostel next door but it doesn't look very open. When we turn around though the employee was nowhere to be seen. It's nine minutes before nine AM and our choices are gas station breakfast (ham and cheese sandwiches) or tasty restaurant. I vote for tasty restaurant. I'm sick of gas station food.
Eventually, the door opens and we go in. Dachary pokes the net on her phone while we eat tasty omlets and discovers that while there are plenty of cheap dorm style rooms in El Calafete (averaging just under 30 pesos ( about $8 US )) anything with a private bath is pricey. According to the weather forecast tonight is going to be too chilly for us to camp again, so we decide to split town. The only point in staying here is to save money while killing days waiting for the plane. Also, it feels wrong to me to be sitting still so long. Why aren't we going forward? It's in my blood now. Forward… Forward… Forward! Not sure what's going to happen when we get home.
But, the weather's sprinkling off and on, and we don't really want to go, because we think we're going to get rained on, and it's already cold. So Dachary decides to fiddle with her tail light, which has gotten increasingly wibbly. It bounces up and down constantly as she rides. We think it's partially by design, but it's been getting worse.
Unfortunately, we can't figure out how to get to the damn screws. Maichek comes over and he and Dachary poke at it, read the repair manual, and generally wonder what the BMW designers were smoking when they came up with the idea for the tail light assembly. I puttered around loading and packing the remaining stuff until eventually they gave up. I think we'll have to take off the entire back end, remove the wheel, and sacrifice a chicken to get to the nuts in question.
Dachary and Maciek poking the bike
So, we pack up, say goodbye, and hit the road.
Maciek and Buttercup
The road is utterly lacking in rain. Puffy clouds in clear blue sky.
I'm gradually turning my electrics down more and more. We are very happy campers. And then, we climb a couple hundred feet onto a higher plain where a cold winter wind eats into us from the side. I start turning up the electrics more and more. Soon the snot in my right nostril has frozen. This is not *quite* as good.
Patagonian Riding Position
(I spend hours at a time riding in Patagonia with my head tilted into the wind like this)
We stop for gas and debate where we'll stop tonight. Neither of us wants to stay in Rio Gallegos again. It's not that we dislike the town. It's that we've already stayed there twice. We think we can cover the 300 kilometers to the next town north of it before dark, but we need to get lunch now, because we can't afford to have Dachary skipping food for that long.
When we get in though, there are no sandwiches. The sandwich shelves we got lunch from before are bare. Shit. But, then a man brings ketchup and mustard out to a couple sitting at a table. They've got silverware too. What's going on?!
I go to pee, hoping their food appears before I return, but no. I ask the guy at the counter if they have food and yes; yes they do. Beef, milanasa (a kind of flat breaded beef thing), and sides. "Two beefs please!"
"They're very large. Are you sure you want two?"
"Do you want to split one Dachary?"
"One beef then."
"What do you want with it?"
"umm… what is there?"
"Fries, mashed potatoes…"
"Do you want xxxx?"
"I don't understand."
"Oh. Yes please."
So, yeah. Food. Not bad, but not… huge. It's a bit much for one person, but not quite enough for two.
We press on. Lunch has taken an hour even though we didn't dawdle, and Dachary says we've got an hour before we hit the turn where we'll have to commit to going north or Rio Gallegos. Half way there though I'm fighting not to fall asleep. I'm catching myself in a few of those "oh shit" moments where you realize that while you weren't asleep you weren't entirely aware of what the road was doing for a second. This isn't safe, and, as much as I hate to do it, especially when it's only a little after three PM, I tell Dachary we need to go to Rio Gallegos because I'm just too tired.
So that's what we do. I think one of the great things about both of us as riding partners is that we put safety before everything else. Dachary makes sure to keep talking to me for that last half hour, because it's the only thing that keeps me awake in these situations.
The police checkpoint on the outskirts of town makes us pull over so that he can write down our license info. We think it was really just an excuse to admire the bikes for longer, because after asking where we rode from he tells us it's a dream of his to go on a ride like ours.
I hope he does.
There's a gas station as you come into town, and they have real food. It's not been long since lunch but Dachary's "starving" and I could eat more, and neither of us wants to eat at the expensive restaurant in town. I say THE expensive restaurant because while I've walked miles around here we can't find another restaurant. We're sure there is one. It just isn't anywhere near the hotel. But the gas station provides us with two huge Lomito Completo sandwiches. In South America, whenever a sandwich is labeled as "complete" it essentially means "with the works" but you never know what "the works" constitutes. Avocado? Egg? Cheese? Lettuce? It's a crap shoot usually, but this time the signage actually tells us we'll be getting lomito (beef), egg (fried), lettuce, and tomato. It's pretty effing tasty, and while we may need a snack later on we should be able to avoid the restaurant.
The Hotel Paris has a room for us again. Yay. But it smells like smoke. Boo. They've got another one for us. It smells like weird. We go for the smoke as it's a nicer room.
Day 106 - Rio Gallegos to Tres Cerros (again)
I realized this morning that the money from the stocks we sold should be in my account, and as a result i should a) no longer be negative and b) should be able to buy the plane tickets. So, I hop over to Orbitz and Travelocity to see if the price has gone up since the last time we checked. Yup. But, oddly, if we travel three days earlier than the cheapest day last time we get a few hundred bucks off. I go to book it but my card is rejected.
Frustrating, but not wholly unexpected. My account was over $1000 negative for a while so I'm not surprised they put a block on the card. I call them up (thank the gods for Skype) and find out that yup, that's what happened, but I'll have to wait until 8:15 AM Eastern time (we're an hour ahead of them here) to call the department that has the power to unlock it.
So, we go down to breakfast, come back, and call. It's one of the most painless phone calls I've ever had with a bank. "Give it at least five to ten minutes before trying." she says. Five minutes of packing later and I'm resubmitting the form on Travelocity. Ooops, session timed out. Redo the search, get the same price as before, try to book it, and get a warning message "the price has gone up!" like $500 up since half an hour before. "WTF?" I think. I redo the search. Now it's $800 higher. "You Ass holes!" They know I want it, so they keep jacking the price.
I search around and find that If I fly out one day later than that I'm only about $200 more than earlier in the morning but still ahead of Orbitz and the other Travelocity price. I hate this bullshit. On the up side, this flight leaves just after noon instead of at 3 in the morning. Unfortunately there's an 8 hour layover in Washington DC in the middle of the night. Anyone feel like hanging in the airport? I doubt we'll be getting much sleep.
So, running late, Dachary stressing about passing the checkout time, and not entirely sure where we're going to attempt to see penguins today, we set out. Oh, wait… there was a printer by the hotel computer. I drop my tank bag by Dachary and the bikes and go back inside to print. I figure it's better here than hunting down an internet shop with a printer later on. And *then* we set out.
It was freezing when we started. I mean that literally. It was 32 F / 0 C as we packed the bikes. On the road Dachary's eyes were watering and I was riding with my left eye closed because the frigid patagonian side-wind hit the helmet in precisely the right way to sneak in and blow on my left eye. Having one really cold eyeball is not a pleasant sensation.
Thankfully, we had the electric jackets and grips, but an hour into it and we had both commented about sore necks from the wind.
Just me and my shadow
We rode on until the YPF (Gas stations down here are either YPF or Petrobas) we'd found on the way south that had gas and real lunch. Dachary had a perfectly round piece of pounded, breaded, and deep fried chicken. It was somewhat disturbing in its approximation of a perfect circle. I had a quarter chicken, rotisserie style I think. Mostly, we just enjoyed being able to sit without our necks kinked over to the side for a while.
We encountered a couple semi-frozen Argentinian adventure rides as we left, but they didn't seem too interested in chatting, and we headed for Puerto San Julian. A number of sites and promo things we've seen claim this is the place to go for Penguins. Drive into town until you hit the water (or the replica of a spanish ship) hang a right, and you'll see a tiny pale shack with big yellow letters. You can't miss it. The problem is, that the boat only goes out when there are at least four passengers. But, they didn't seem particularly confident that the next boat would have four passengers. They didn't seem particularly confident that the next morning's boat would have four passengers either.
I inquired when it was that the penguins left. Somewhere between the end of march and the middle of April she replied. In December they return to have their babies. I asked this because there are two penguin breeding grounds north of here that we can drive to on our schedule without waiting for two other people who may or may not show up.
Better yet, it doesn't require staying in San Julian because it's a ****ing depressing little town. We can't describe precisely why, it just is. It wants to be a tourist town, and judging by the number of hotels it's PR department is doing a good job of convincing the world it is, but it's just a sad place and neither of us had any desire to stay there, especially not when staying might result in more depression resulting from a lack of boat.
So we headed north. There was a good chance we'd end up staying in Tres Cerros again and we discussed how sad it was that we would rather stay in an overpriced gas station hotel with the world's worst Breadfast than in any of the hotels or Cabanas in San Julian. At one point Dachary suggested that staying in San Julian was like some sort of punishment, and, with a Godlike voice, said "Bad Tourist! We're sending you to San Julian!"
I noted how ****ed up it was that there were all these cabanas there, one place was even building a couple more, and they all were overlooking dirt fields. "Hey honey, let's get away from it all and get a cabana in the middle of a dirt field!"
It had warmed up by this point, but as we left San Julian the wind got even stronger, and we spent much of it leaned over, taking right turns whilst leaning left. Soon Dachary suggested that she was not only sore from the wind, but tired and really not feeling like pushing beyond Tres Cerros tonight. I had zero problems with this suggestion and when we came back the lady remembered us and happily charged us just as much as before.
This time though, we were early enough to avail ourselves of the laundry service, which required learning the words for bra, underwear, shirt, and socks, since they do it by the garment here instead of by the bag.
Side note: We've heard other adventure riders suggest that they simply pull up to a laundromat when they see one and throw all their stuff in. We would love to do this, but to date we have seen zero laundromats. There was one place that looked like a laundromat in Granada, and may have been one, but it was also a cheap laundry service so we let them do it for us. Others we've talked to along the way have also been using various laundry services. Sometimes it's cheap. Sometimes it's $20 US. Most of the time we just do our laundry in the sink, but sooner or later you really do need to get it shoved into an actual laundry machine.
So yeah. We're chillin' in Tres Cerros. Hopefully we'll see Penguins at Punta Tombo tomorrow. We think we can get there with just over 20k of dirt which we hear tale is well maintained for all the tourists.
We were going to post this from Tres Cerros too, but the power went out, and the internet never worked again after it came back… grr.
( Dachary's note: what hasn't really been coming out in the posts for the past few days is that I think Kay and I are mentally checked out of the trip now. We're still a little over 2k kilometers from Buenos Aires, and have something like 10 days to kill before we can fly home, but neither of us is mentally "here" anymore. All the time leading up to Ushuaia, we were living *in* the trip. Our focus was on our day's travel, maybe something ahead, with the ultimate goal of reaching Ushuaia somewhere off on the horizon. Neither of us ever really thought or talked much beyond that.
Now that we've reached Ushuaia, even though we still have a fair amount of riding left, penguins to see and more time until we go home, we're both already thinking ahead. It's about home now. We're both very much looking forward to seeing the dogs. I'm thinking about various writing projects and work. And, amusingly, Kay is already planning the next trip. He's currently leaning toward the Trans-American Trail on a Honda Ruckus, which I'm willing to do but will reserve real planning until we've at least sat on them. He had big plans for the Stella, too, but hated the thing once he bought it, so I'm not so interested in planning that far ahead. But we've been debating what we'd bring on a Ruckus, how the trip and gear would be different, etc…
Yeah. Neither of us is in the here and now anymore, which seems like a shame for this part of Argentina and the end of the trip. I wish I could be savoring the remaining days. I feel almost disappointed that I'm mentally checked out, because there was something really satisfying in being so in-the-moment on our travels before. It seems kinda sad to be thinking about work and all of the mundane things waiting for us back in Boston, while we're still here on the end of this wonderful trip. )
Kay's note to Dachary's note: I'm not sure if I'd say "checked out" for me. But, the trip definitely feels like it's over. Mentally I'm just killing time. It's not that I feel sick of traveling. It's that we've reached our goal and now we're just waiting for the plane. As for the TAT on a Ruckus. I love the idea of doing a big trip on a small bike, and even if we never do it I'm totally enjoying the mental exercise of figuring out what gear we should / could take and what mods would have to be done to make it survive the western portion of the trail. It's good to have something like that to ponder while you ride.
Day 107 - Tres Cerros to Comodoro Rivadavia
Slept very well last night, but was still super tired on waking up and kept hitting snooze. Eventually I dragged myself into the shower, which made me cold again (the room was cold and the shower wasn't producing enough water to warm me up) so I had to crawl back into bed to warm up before venturing out for breakfast. Today's croissants were just as lame as the last time we stayed here, but the coffee was actually tasty today, and I bought a carton of "multifruital" juice (pear, orange, banana and pineapple) and breakfast was surprisingly decent.
As usual, we didn't hit the road until 10AM. No idea what took so long this time, as the internet we were planning to use to update the posts last night went out when the power went out, and never came back on. So we had no internets since like 7PM yesterday, and didn't get to do any of our normal net stuff. I assume we were just late getting out because I was tired and cold.
It was immediately apparent upon hitting the road that it was *windy.* Typically, it's been calmer in the morning and then gets windy in the afternoon - anywhere between 1-3PM the wind seems to pick up. It was as windy this morning as it has been most afternoons, and as the day wore on, it just kept getting more windy.
Unfortunately, my neck hadn't recovered from yesterday's wind, so by the time we got to Fitz Roy, around 130km north of Tres Cerros, I was in real pain. Having the wind blowing against your helmet all day at the same angle creates a surprising amount of neck pain. I wished my head would pop off just to make it stop.
This time, Fitz Roy had gas, but the store was closed which meant I couldn't get in to use the restroom. The gas station guy said I could go a couple of blocks away to the visitor's center, but I didn't want to deal with gearing up to ride a few blocks so I told Kay I'd wait till we got to the next town north, about 85km. And of course, 20km later, I had to pee, so I asked to pull over and ducked behind some bushes.
Did I mention that the wind had picked up? Yeah. As I was walking back to the bikes, the wind lifts my bike up and over vertical to fall down sideways. The wind literally pushed my bike over.
It was tired
It fell over past the pannier and the poor little side-stand was up in the air looking all sad… like "I was trying to do my job! See! I didn't fail!" But the wind was just too strong. It took Kay and I some hauling to get the bike lifted again uphill, and once we did, I made Kay stand next to it until I got mounted up and could support it myself and keep it from falling over again. It was WINDY.
More riding in the wind, and a minor detour into Caleta Olivia led us past a gas station with a cafe. At this point, it was nearing 1PM and I was getting hungry, not to mention very much craving a break from the wind, so we went in. Had a lomito completo, which is a wonderfully tasty sandwich… in this variant, it was beef, ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato and a fried egg. A ton of food, but after breadfast, it was welcome.
A celebration of Oil Men
Back on the road, and I told Kay I'd probably have to stop for the day in the next town. The wind was killing my neck, and was blowing us all over the road. It's the worse wind we've had so far in Patagonia… up until today, I was beginning to think all of the people who complain about the wind in Patagonia were exaggerating.
I don't think that anymore.
The next town was Comodoro Rivadavia, and it was only something like 90km down the road. That would put our total mileage for the day at around 180 miles, and it would have us stopping for the day at around 3PM… with still nearly five hours of daylight left. But the next place north of Comodoro Rivadavia on my map was over 200km north, and I knew that with the wind blowing as hard as it was, I just didn't have it in me to ride that far before stopping. Kay was very patient about my request, and it turned out to take a while to find a hotel and get settled anyway, so it was nearly 5PM before we got the stuff loaded into the room.
Kay's note: Dachary said "I feel ridiculous stopping at 3 o'clock but I just don't have it in me to do another 150k to the next town." I didn't blame her. The wind's just tiring.
On the bright side, the hotel is right down from a sewing shop, and I had Kay grab a needle and thread so I can fix his Airhawk straps. I was determined to make the early stop count for something. The hostel also has internet, so we could update the blog and do a few administrative things, which is good since we haven't really had net for the past several days.
So yeah. I feel a little lame for being defeated by wind, but this is no ordinary wind in Patagonia. This is two days in a row of really strong side winds that yank your head up and back no matter how you move your helmet (although pointing down and to the left seems to help a bit) and buffets you across the road at a whim. Hopefully the wind calms down a bit before tomorrow morning. If it doesn't, I assume that a good night's rest and a liberal dose of Advil will help my neck relax before tomorrow and hopefully make it a bit easier to ride in whatever wind we encounter.
Kay's note: the riding yesterday, and today up to Caleta Olivia was flat and… flat. The only things of note were the llama-deer that kept jumping into the road and not-emus that kept being exceptionally well camouflaged.
Day 108 - Comodoro Rivadavia to Trelew, Argentina
Er… sorry. Couldn't contain myself.
The day started with the sound of wind, and me taking experimental trip into it to find croissants.
When we got off the bikes yesterday I was sweating my ass off. It had started off cool, and when the winds picked up enough we'd both turned on our jackets just a wee bit. But at the end, walking around looking for a hotel left me sweating. This morning I decided to forego the thermal leggings and the rain liner in the top. I swapped the Cyclone Buff for the lightweight one and pondered swapping in the summer weight gloves, but Dachary stopped me with the simple reminder that we're always too warm when we start, and then just right, or even cool, when we're on the highway.
On the highway she was proven wise.
Around 12:15 we pulled into a YPF, filled up, and went inside to eat, but were told we'd have to wait for 12:30 to get sandwiches. So we do… and then we wait another ten minutes. Then a girl comes over and takes the order of the people sitting at the table next to us. We go up and order for ourselves.
My Hamburgesa and Dachary's Milonesa (sp?) sandwich take just short of forever to come. I'm getting somewhat annoyed because there's no good reason for it to be taking as long as it is. Dachary reminds me we're in Latin America and everything happens about 400% slower.
The foods pretty good, although by the time Dachary's approaching the end of her rather huge sandwich the Argentinian "odd flavor" has reached critical mass and she can't finish it.
So, we head out, and turn down the paved road to Punto Tombo, and then onto dirt for the last 20k, but it's pretty good; mostly just a thin layer of gravel on top of hard packed dirt with occasional hard packed sand under thin gravel.
We park, put the backpack straps on the tank bags, cable-lock the jackets and camelbaks to the bikes, pay the entrance fee, and then there are penguins… everywhere. ****ing all over the place. Penguins in the walkway. Penguins by the walkway. Penguins on the hills. Penguins by the water. Penguins as far as the eye can see. It was awesome.
There were a number of young ones who hadn't finished plucking out their baby feathers:
My friend John requested on our blog that I wave to the penguins for him, so:
As per John's request
One thing we weren't expecting there was llamadeer
llamadeer and penguins at Punto Tombo
I love this pic. I just never expected to see penguins in a setting like this.
The pattern of their feathers is so cool
Me and my other shadow
Eventually Dachary's boiling as she's wearing motorcycle boots, and motorcycle pants with rain liner, thermal leggings, her waffle shirt, and her electric jacket (unplugged obviously). I've got the same but without the thermal leggings and am able to make it the last 250 meters of the trail and back but the way back is pretty hot, and the sun is starting to get pretty low. I'd run out of water in my camelbak on the way in, and the bikes will run out of gas on the way out if we don't fill them. So I run in to get water, and then we start filling the bikes from our cans.
We've moved far enough north that we've lost almost an hour of daylight compared to Ushuaia, so we take the dirt a bit faster than before, and exceed the speed limit on the pavement by a bit more than before too.
As we're coming into the city limits of Trelew we see a Petrobas, and then, "What's that?" there's a Hospedaje right next to it… with a restaurant. It looks pretty deserted, but still has folding chairs out front…hmm.. I go in and SCORE. Hotel, Wi-Fi, restaurant, next to a gas station, with zero need to go hunting through a city! Resonable price (for Argentina) too; about 220 pesos ($55 US).
The place is pretty newly constructed, the Wi-Fi actually works in the room, and we are so effing psyched to not have to deal with hunting in a city.
It's called the Hosteria Ffarm-Taid and you can find it at S43 17.306 W65 15.961 Just look for the Petrobas as you are coming into town from the south, or after you've left town if coming from the north. The pork chop at the restaurant was really good too, but the fries and mashed potato kinda sucked.
Last edited by masukomi; 26 Mar 2011 at 18:16.
Day 109 - Trelew to El Condor
We poked into the restaurant on the off chance that there would be some sort of desayuno, and there was - they had media-lunas (croissants) and we got coffee and tea. Sadly, the coffee wasn't drinkable - probably more of the instant crap they love so much here in South America - so I gobbled my croissants quickly and we headed back to the room to get ready. Surprisingly, in spite of it being a place with internet and us spending some time chatting with a guy who was staying in one of the other rooms, we got out early (for us) at around 9:30AM. Grabbed gas at the gas station next door and hit the road.
What followed was one of the most boring days I've ever had. It was definitely my most boring day on a motorcycle; I was more bored than I ever thought possible on a motorcycle. We rode through flat, boring (did I mention boredom?) landscape; similar to the same flat landscape we've been riding through since we left El Calafate. A body can only take so much of the same thing before succumbing to boredom.
At one point, we ran into a police checkpoint at a state border where they wanted to look at Kay's paperwork and ask us a few questions (the standard where have you been, where are you going, etc.) But for the first time ever on our trip, a drug-sniffing dog checked our panniers and dry sacks while the other police officer examined Kay's paperwork. Apparently the cop asked about insurance, which Kay ignored, and then proceeded to ask about the next gas stop to try to distract the officer from the fact that we don't have any Argentinian insurance. He waved us on shortly after, and we rode off to the happy sight of the drug dog rough-housing around with his handler. I miss our doggies.
When we hit the gas stop 40km later, we stopped for lunch - not because either of us was particularly hungry, but because we didn't know how long it would be until we found another gas stop and I wanted a break from being on the bike. We bought gas station ham sandwiches, and the lady toasted them for us, and had some chips. It was kind of a pleasant change from all of the disappointing meals we've been having lately. Who knew I'd look forward to a gas station sandwich lunch, when before I was lamenting the fact that it was all we could get? At least you know what to expect, and they're consistent.
Back on the road, and more boredom. We rode, and rode, and rode some more. The landscape changed a bit; we started seeing more scrub and bushes until the flat land was almost completely covered with a layer of green, short scrub. But it was still flat and windy, only now it was a different color as far as the eye could see. At one point, Kay rode to the edge of the road and stuck his foot out to the side, brushing his boot against the weeds at the side of the road. "Just to see if I could." He did that again from time to time, because we were both bored out of our minds. It was something to do.
As much as we've really enjoyed this trip, and had some totally epic days of riding… I think now we're both just ready to get home. I worried when we set out if we'd feel disappointed or depressed to be coming home, but I'm excited about it, and I know Kay is, too. Occasionally during the ride we'd throw out something we're looking forward to when we get home - the dogs are the big one, but also just sitting on our couch, watching TV; I'm looking forward to cooking something tasty in our kitchen; and we're both looking forward to food we haven't seen since we left the States.
Which has engendered an ongoing discussion about foods we want to eat when we get home. We've been saying for half of Argentina now that we really want a good American breakfast when we get home. There's a great breakfast place around the corner from our house, and I told Kay a week or two ago that I don't care how broke we are - we're going there for breakfast when we get back. But since then, random foodstuffs have been popping into my mind with mouth-watering intensity - things I didn't realize how much I love and take for granted until I had to go without for four months.
I was reading a book on my iPhone at the end of the day, and the main character ate some pancakes. "Pancakes!" I said to Kay, remembering the glorious pancakes we had in Granada. Those were probably the best pancakes I've ever had in my life. Which started a discussion about where we could go for pancakes when we get back to Boston.
And then, a bit later… "Sushi!" Out of nowhere. We had just kissed and Kay had gone back to his book and I got a whiff of something - probably the ocean water nearby - that made me think of sushi. Oh, how I miss it.
And then there was Indian food…
And Chinese (dim sum)…
So that's our new thing. Randomly naming foods we miss that we're looking forward to eating when we get home to Boston. I've lost a ton of weight on this trip, and I have a sneaking feeling I'm going to gain it all right back when we get home. But all of these little day-to-day things that you take for granted, like having a choice about what you want to eat - those are the things that really hit home after a while on the road.
Sometime in the afternoon, we stop for gas again and decide that it's gotten warmer. In fact, it's gotten so warm that it's time to shed layers. Yay! We're both psyched. Kay takes off his rain liner and heated jacket, and I do the same. I'd already taken my waffle shirt off earlier, so that leaves both of us riding in just our jacket shells (with all the other gear, of course.) I'm wearing my thin cotton Buff instead of my thick wind-breaking Cyclone Buff, and we both switch to summer gloves.
And it is glorious. Glorious! We feel like we've each lost 10 pounds and have suddenly ceased to be sausages - there's so much more room in our gear now and everything is just a little easier. Gearing up to ride off without the extra layers is faster and infinitely more comfortable. It's the high point of our day, and a wonderful gift in the middle of a very boring day. For the next hour or two, one of us would randomly say "It's so comfortable!" or "It feels so good!" over the headsets because we were so happy to shed the layers.
Eventually, we arrived in the town where we'd intended to call it a night - the plan was to ride to Viedma, and then down Route 1 a little bit to the campground where Horizons Unlimited hosted a meetup in December. It sounded like a nice spot where we could spend a few nights and kill a bit more time before arriving in Buenos Aires, where we're going to have to sit around until it's time to fly home. At this point, we're only 600 miles from Buenos Aires, which is two easy days of riding in South America… and even if we weren't, I was so bored I couldn't ride another hour and had no hope of making it further down the road.
It turns out that Viedma is a surprisingly crappy little town. We saw a sign for Route 1, which took us down a road that had like 30 of these ginormous speed bump things. They were more like pyramids with the top chopped off - they're probably 3 feet from front to back, so your wheels go up on it, you ride on it for a second and then you come down the other side. They came in pairs before every road that intersected Route 1, in lieu of stop lights, and it was one of the most ridiculous roads we've seen. Eventually it merged with some other road and stopped doing that, but in the meantime, it had completely bypassed the town, so we didn't see a gas station where we could fill up, or a supermarket where we could buy some food to cook at the campground.
30km later, we arrived at El Condor - a sleepy little beach community with a surprising amount of hotels. It was slightly nicer than Viedma, but very lacking in amenities. We passed what might have been a supermarket, but our first priority at this point was finding the campground, so we road past and figured we'd come back later.
A few minutes later we see a sign for a campground, so we turn up into it… except it's right across the street from the beach, and the entrance is covered with a big mound of sand. Kay takes it easy, gets his rear tire a bit stuck but is eventually able to power through it and makes it past the sand. I swing a bit wider and get stuck in a different spot, and my rear end fishtails wildly as I free my rear tire from the mini-sand dune, but I remained surprisingly controlled and powered through the sand. As much as I might not want to admit it, I seem to be getting better at non-paved road surfaces.
Around a corner past a building and we enter the campground, except it doesn't look like much. In fact, we both have a hard time believing that it's the same campground where Horizons Unlimited hosted a meeting. Kay asks the guy who comes up to us if there's another campground, but he shakes his head no, so Kay asks about price and sets us up for the night. The plan had originally been to stay for two nights and spend the day here tomorrow, but after seeing this place, neither of us wants to commit to that right off.
I go visit the bathroom, which is disgusting, and Kay heads out to scout and see if there's another campground. He sees no sign of one, but there is a tiny "kiosko" (think convenience store) across the street, and also a couple of restaurants. So we set up the tent, read for a bit and then walk across the street to check out the beach, the kiosk and the restaurants. The beach is beautiful. A dog walks by, we speak to it, it wants to be petted, I pet it and then it jumps up on me for more lovings. I oblige, missing my dog from home. Then it runs off, and we go back to walking on the beach for a bit.
Kay in El Condor
We walk down past where the GPS had indicated the other campground to be, and see no sign of it. This has to be the campground where Horizons Unlimited met. As usual, the restaurant isn't open until 8:30, although when we ask the guy at the kiosk about it, he offers to make us some sandwiches. We buy some chips and decide to come back later, when the restaurant is open, as the other restaurant doesn't inspire us with confidence and Kay has decided we should eat at the "good" restaurant on the beach to make up for the crap campground.
Another trip to the bathroom, and it has gotten even more disgusting, which I tell Kay and he suggests in all seriousness that I use the men's room. I just can't, though. I can't stand the idea of walking in on a guy peeing at a urinal, or being in there when a guy walks in. I'm still too "civilized." So I use the disgusting bathroom, and it's slightly mitigated when one of the other stalls is unlocked so I can start using a non-disgusting stall. Suddenly I feel much better about the campground.
We venture out for dinner when the restaurant is open, and it looks like we'll be the only patrons. And there is no menu. The guy rattles off a list of options, none of which sound particularly good to me, and Kay eventually settles on Napolitano, which is milanesa with ham, melted cheese and tomato sauce on top. I order the same thing because I'm not thrilled with any of the options, and it sounds about as good as anything else, but I tell Kay after the waiter leaves (who is, incidentally, the same guy from the kiosk… apparently he owns both places, and is surprisingly attentive) that I'm sick of milanesa. He didn't realize that's what he ordered, but I tell him nothing else sounded better, and we wait for our food.
When it arrives, I'm pleasantly surprised. The fries are the tastiest fries we've had in ages (but now I'm dying for some rice… what happened to the rice? Why are we never offered rice anymore?) and the napolitano is only slightly odd-flavored. As I eat more, the odd flavor goes away and I'm left with something resembling tasty. I enjoy the meal a lot more than I'd expected to, and watch the lightning light up the clouds off to see. It looks like we're going to have a storm tonight.
Day 110 - El Condor
Day 110 - El Condor
There was rain in the forecast last night, and as we ate dinner in a nearby restaurant we watched cloud lightning as the edge of the storm rolled in and the wind just kept picking up.
For me it was exciting because it wasn't just wind blowing like it does on the plains of Patagonia. This was wind with a purpose. It was bringing a storm. When would it come? What would it be like? As a precaution, I pounded down the tent pegs some more so the wind wouldn't rip the fly away, and then huddled in the tent listening to the fly flap and flap and waiting for the rain.
I kept waking up listening, wondering, and not getting back to sleep. Then the rain came, and came, and Came. It billowed. It poured, and everything was drenched… except us!
(Dachary's note: I did get wet, actually, but it wasn't our tent's fault. Just before 1AM, I woke up for a mid-night pee run, and it wasn't raining yet. Yay! But a few hours later, it was POURING rain - apparently I'd managed to sleep through the beginning of it - and I had to go out to the bathroom again. Had no choice. I bogarted Kay's waterproof boots, which turned out to be perfect because there was deep mud and lots of standing water between me and the bathroom. Even using Kay's little umbrella that lives in his Camelbak, I got pretty wet - but the stuff in our tent didn't. Just me. Boo on late-night pee runs in the rain. It's the one thing I *really* don't like about camping.)
I have GOT to hand it to REI's tent designer. Our Quarter Dome T3 Absolutely kicked ass last night. No rain in the vents. No condensation in the morning and even though our tent was sitting in a puddle of soaking wet sandy mud none of our stuff was wet. I think a little moisture did seep through under our mats because of the pressure of our bodies but not enough to pool, and our sleeping bags stayed dry because of the mats.
When morning came, we did our AM bathroom run (the rain had stopped) and sat around in the tent, reading and being lazy. At one point, Dachary asked "Are those four little dog paws by our tent fly?" The wind was still flapping the fly, and every time it flapped up we could just catch a glimpse of little white dog feet. I opened the fly and it was our friendly neighborhood campground dog. We gave him some pets, and he poked his head into our tent to get some love from Dachary, too, but stayed outside under the fly like a well-mannered little dog. After getting some pets, he wandered off to do whatever campground dogs do when they're not hanging out with guests.
The ground dried out pretty quickly after the sun came out, and we spent the day doing pretty much nothing: reading, watching a little TV on the iPad, unexpectedly tasty lunch at the place next door, napping… it was pretty good. But then we decided it was time to make dinner. The stove has been finicky this whole trip (not that we've camped much but…) and we needed it to keep water boiling for over fifteen minutes.
We crossed our fingers, waved the cleaning magnet, hooked everything up, pressurized the bottle and… nothing. More Pressure!!! pfft. spittle. nada. ****. We grabbed the instruction manual. We disassembled the stove. We cleaned the needle. We cleaned the nozzle. Neither of them needed it, but we didn't know what else to do. We reassembled everything. We hooked everything up. We pressurized the bottle and… nothing.
Dachary said there was nothing left to do, except something the manual mentioned about replacing a fuel filter, but we didn't have a replacement. I looked at the manual. It said you could actually run for a while without the fuel filter but there would be more soot from the flames. I don't mind soot. I grabbed a paperclip… What? You don't have a paperclip in your kit?! I poked the teeny filter out. I put the pieces back together. I hooked everything up. I repressurized the bottle and… huge ****ing flame! Like three feet high!
see that little dot?
(that's the fuel filter)
A little adjusting, a little burning off the excess, and soon we've got hot water… wait. What's that weird stuff floating in the water? I'd be ok with tap water being boiled, but I'm going to have to agree with Dachary about floaters being bad. We break out the water purifier. Pump pump pump pump SPEWWWWWW all over my crotch.
there was an accident
Apparently the filter had reached its limit. The crap buildup was enough that it couldn't fit water through. Fortunately we had a spare; a spare, I should note, that I never thought we would actually use. I figured that since we were filtering clear looking tap water most of the time, and not pond-scum there would be very little to actually build up in the filter. Apparently I was wrong. I dug the new filter out of the bottom of the pannier, swapped it out, and continued pumping.
It died so that we might live...
Side note: This is one bad-ass water purifier (not filter). It can remove "… contaminants down to 0.1 micron, including giardia and cryptosporidia."
In the end it took us an hour and a half (literally) to boil water.
Please, dear gods, let it boil!
On the up-side my pants dried quite quickly.
On the down side, after an hour and fifty minutes (twenty more to get the tortellini finished) we discovered that the food was so bad that even the campground mutt wouldn't eat it. Really. We only ate it enough to curb the hunger and tried to foist some of the remainder off on the dog, who wanted nothing to do with it.
We did watch a wonderfully funny episode of Top Gear while we ate though, and that helped distract from the flavor… somewhat.
Before going to sleep we checked the weather for the next night. Weather.com claimed a low of 54 and a current (three hours earlier) temperature of 48… we were not filled with confidence. Google had it right though. Did you know you can just type "weather for place_name_here" and it'll give you a forecast? Google's claimed temp was 43, which sounded about right, and suggested that tomorrow night we'd freeze our booties off if we tried to camp. Guess we're not staying another night.
Day 111 - El Condor to Tres Arroyes
As it was rather chilly this morning, I wasn't tempted to linger and wake up slowly. When the alarm went off, I immediately made my morning trip to the bathroom, and then came back and crawled into the sleeping bag and started packing stuff away. Whenever we spend more than a night in the tent, all kinds of stuff invariably ends up in there and needs to be put in its appropriate place so it can go back in the panniers.
Laptop has to go back into its protective sleeve and dry sack, kitchen stuff has to get put back in the kitchen bag, the stuff that got removed from my tank bag has to go back, have to deal with the clothes bag, etc. All this stuff takes a surprising amount of time, and it was cold, so the logical thing is to do all of this from the comfort of a sleeping bag.
Kay took a cue from my packing and decided that today was not a day to linger, and joined me in packing up instead of taking our time and waking up slowly. We got everything out of the tent in fairly decent time, but then it ended up taking forever to get things put on the bikes and get away. In the end, we didn't get out of the campground until around 9:40AM, which was a little disappointing because we didn't take time to eat breakfast or poke the 'net - the things that usually keep us at hotels until checkout time at 10AM. It seems to me that if we skip breakfast and net, we should get out more than 20 minutes earlier…
Also, Kay totally didn't warn me that I had crazy hair this morning. I'd gotten so cold in our tent last night that I slept with the Cyclone Buff pulled over my head in a balaclava, and my winter hat on top of that - and when I went to the bathroom this morning my hair was utterly crazy. I was embarrassed about the crazy hair when a woman from the campground came over and tried chatting with me about the bikes. She was using Spanish that we don't know, so it wasn't a very successful conversation, but she smiled at us and seemed pleased by us being on motos. She didn't seem to mind my crazy hair.
Unfortunately, with all of the COLD this morning, we had to add back in all of our cold-weather layers that we were so happy to shed the other day. Rain liners back in our clothes, heated jackets back on and winter gloves back out. We were sad to have to be putting this stuff back on, but definitely wanted it because it was chilly riding out.
First task of the day was to get back into Viedma, where we'd pick up Routa 3 again, and find gas and an ATM. Time for more money. Gas was easy, but we asked a guy at the gas station who came over and chatted with us (in English!) about an ATM, and he gave us slightly wonky directions. We ended up missing our turn and going over a river, and then not being able to get to a bridge back across the river… I finally asked (insisted) that Kay stop at the gas station we saw and ask directions to an ATM over here. These directions were accurate, an ATM was located and money acquired, and we made it back to Routa 3 with a minimum of fuss.
Except now it was 11AM already, and we hadn't even left town. Luckily we're not in a particular rush to get to Buenos Aires, and had no destination in mind when we left, but it was still a later-than-usual start considering we skipped most of our usual morning routine.
Back on the road. More boring riding, although I felt it was a little less boring after our day off. The landscape changed to a bit of scrubby grassland with small rolling hills, which was more interesting, although our helmets instantly became covered in bug splats. And then the landscape changed again to quasi-farmland. We loved the green smell, but couldn't figure out how they were farming because the ground we could see looked like sand.
Tried stopping at a YPF for gas and lunch shortly after 12PM, as we were both starving from not having breakfast and last night's lame dog-rejected pasta dinner, but it didn't look like it had a restaurant or even cold sandwiches, and we both wanted a warm lunch. So we continued down the road to the next town, where I knew Joe and Vern had stayed when they went north and assumed we'd find gas and maybe a restaurant.
We did find a gas station that served food, happily. Kay got a hamburger, and I got the lomito completo that I've grown to like so much… except mine came not on a sandwich, but as a platter. And I liked it even better than the sandwich. The fries were also surprisingly tasty. In all, lunch was a complete success, even though we both had things we've been eating a lot lately and are starting to get tired of. It felt like a feast after no breakfast and last night's lame dinner.
Kay's note: there's really not a lot of choice on the menus we've been encountering: hamburger, lomito, milanesa(sp?), and maybe, if you've been very good, and brushed your teeth, chicken, with fries because you couldn't possibly want anything other than fries with your food.
Back on the road after lunch, and more boring riding. We both kept getting random songs stuck in our heads, and updated each other periodically about what song we were stuck with, occasionally singing along together.
Eventually the speed limit went down to 80KPH, and we kept going around 100-110KPH because that's what we've been doing for weeks and we didn't feel like we'd get anywhere going 80KPH (not quite 50MPH). And the Argentinians on the road were passing us like we were standing still. Apparently going 110KPH in an 80 isn't fast enough for people down here. I definitely felt like I was driving in Latin America today. The passers were cutting it far too close with the oncoming traffic, which was particularly nerve-wracking when WE were the oncoming traffic and cars were barreling down our lane the wrong way towards us at 110+.
Not much else to report. During lunch, we'd decided we should shoot for Tres Arroyes as our stop for the evening, which is about 300 miles from where we started and 300 miles from Buenos Aires. I would have liked to make it a bit further so we wouldn't be heading into BA at the end of a lengthy-ish day, but we didn't know how far it would be to the next town that had a hotel and didn't want to get stuck bush-camping in case it would be too cold. Plus we both stink from not showering the past couple of days whilst camping, and were looking forward to a warm shower. So we check a couple of hotels in Tres Arroyes, find one (Casino Hotel) that has a reasonably decent price (for Argentina) and a hotel, and stop for the day.
Turns out there is an actual casino behind the hotel, which we wandered into looking for soda I could buy. We both agreed that the machines in the casino seemed lame - it's just like sitting at a computer punching buttons, and we didn't want to waste any pesos gambling there. Couldn't get anyone's attention to buy soda, so we went out to the main street and saw a YPF just down the way. Headed in that direction and it turned out to be the biggest YPF we've seen yet, with something like 8 or 10 lanes for gas and diesel and a full-on cafe with a large seating area, as well as the usual munchies. We decided to skip the casino restaurant and grab some sandwiches while we were here, and also ended up grabbing some croissants, which amused me.
As much as I really don't enjoy the Argentinian practice of "breadfast," the croissants you can get down here are growing on me. It's been days since either of us has had a croissant, and I was surprised both that I was craving one, and that Kay wanted them, too. Enjoyed some croissants with our dinner, and I'm pondering going back in the morning for a cappuccino and more of those croissants because the coffee smelled SO good. Breakfast is included in our hotel, but I might skip it for that cappuccino…
Random note from today: as of today, I have put 20,000 miles on my Beemer! I only logged 1,000 miles on my first bike (a Ninja 250, which I crashed and repaired before buying the Beemer). So does putting 20,000 miles on my bike make me not a newb anymore?
Day 112 - Tres Arroyes to Buenos Aires!
Today was the day - we were going to make a final push to get to Buenos Aires and Dakar Motos before the day was out, there to find out the fate of our bikes and wait for our plane to fly home on Saturday. We woke up at the same time as always, and made a concerted effort to get out of the hotel early-ish - we were ready to go by 9:00AM, but when we went to load up the bikes, we discovered it was warmer. Much warmer. So much warmer that it was time to shed layers.
Back into the hotel to get rid of the rain liners, and back out to the bikes to pack the stuff away. We also shed the electrics and even switched gloves. Toasty! Alas, after all of the shedding and packing away of extra layers, it was 9:40AM by the time we left Tres Arroyes and hit the road for BA. It was supposed to be a little over 300 miles, but the end bit would be navigating a massive city without a detailed city map, so we knew it would take more time. It always takes more time.
Kay's note: at one point before leaving the room I turned to the mirror and exclaimed, "Jesus Christ! It's HUGE!" because my Honduran haircut has grown to epic proportions. For a while I looked like David Hasselhoff during his days on Knight Rider, but now it's just getting scary high. I don't know what to do about it. I want it to grow out more, but I'm going to have to go to interviews when I get home… Ugh. Interviews.
Jesus Christ it's HUGE
Rode 200km to Azul where we stopped for gas, and decided we should eat some ready-made sandwiches to go because it would be faster. Of course, we still managed to take an hour for lunch. Kay ended up chatting with a guy, and was trying to find Dakar Motos on our GPS so at least we'd have a dot to orient ourselves even if the map had no detail, but was unsuccessful. Still, all of this takes time and our "short" lunch wasn't short.
On the bright side, though, we found something that Kay has been craving for probably a week now… Snickers! For some reason, it's these small cravings that really make a difference, and Kay was thrilled to be eating these half-bar Snickers. One for the road, and back to making tracks for BA.
The next stretch was filled with trucks. We've ran into a fair number of semis on Routa 3, but it seems like the closer you get to BA, the more they multiply. Literally every 60-90 seconds we were ending up behind another semi, and having to wait for the oncoming traffic to be clear enough to pass it. It slowed us down and meant we didn't have any really long stretches where we could just ride. Also, oncoming traffic from the opposite direction was even crazier than usual, as they were passing trucks from their side - which meant far too many near-misses as they hogged our lane entirely too close for comfort.
Another stop, and this time we put the gas from our spare gas tanks into our bikes. We had enough to get into BA and give us slightly less than half a tank to navigate the city, etc. This way we wouldn't have to deal with our spare gas, and we could just trash the tanks at the end. A quick bathroom break, and Kay loaded a different GPS map onto the GPS at this stop to try to see the Dakar Motos dot. This one worked, but the map we're using only has a handful of roads in BA, so the routing on the GPS was worthless. We were going with Google Maps directions. After this, we wouldn't be stopping until Dakar Motos.
We ride, and ride, and ride. Routa 3 into BA is actually quite unflattering. It goes through the barrios outside of town - the poor, run-down areas where there is grass and weeds overgrown everywhere, and a ton of intersections without functional stop lights where traffic is just coming from the sides and you can never quite be sure if they're going to stop. Further into town, and traffic is heavy with lots of stop lights - and we hit where we think the intersection should be, but we haven't seen any road signs to indicate it - just a big intersection that's called something else.
We ride a bit further without turning, but then decide we've probably missed the turn - it was probably that big roundabout we passed before. So we make a complicated U-turn, and start heading back the other way. While we're stopped at one of the endless stoplights, another moto stops beside Kay and starts chatting. Kay asks if we're heading toward the main road we want, and the guy says no - it's in the other direction. He tries to give us directions, but the light turns green and we have to drive off. But now we know we have to turn around again.
We look for a way to turn around, and see the guy on the teeny moto has pulled off to the side. Great! We pull off, too, and he tries to give us more detailed directions. His Spanish is too much for us, so he draws us a map - four kilometers back in the direction we were headed, and we'll run into the major road we're seeking. And something about having to turn right to take the left we want.
We thank him profusely and start looking for a place to U-turn again. Then I notice something that appears to be a thin metal rod hanging down from Kay's bike, near the rear brake and chain. I tell him to pull over ASAP to figure out what's wrong with his bike, and we pull into some parking spots on a very raggedy incline, but it turns out it's just the Loobman tube that has pulled loose. Kay ties it in a knot and we decide to U-turn at a left turn just across the way, so after some minor drama involving me having to come down the curb right next to a bus (I insisted there wasn't enough room, and Kay told me to go anyway) we made the U-turn and got headed in the right direction again.
We find a road that might be the correct road, but there's no road sign. Just the names of destinations on the road. Right is some neighborhood, and left is some other neighborhood. Both are meaningless to us. Luckily, there's a gas station right there, so Kay asks if this is the road we need - it is - and we U-turn in the gas station to find an easy way to get on the road. We make it into the major road, finally, and are hopefully headed in the right direction. Yay!
We ride. And ride. And ride some more. Google Maps' directions told us to take an exit in 1km after getting on this road, but we go at least 3 or 4 miles and haven't seen the exit it wanted us to take. I ask Kay what we should do, and he says that the dot for Dakar Motos is still ahead and to the left, so we should just keep going this way. So we do, until we pass the dot and Kay decides we should get off and start trying to find it.
What follows is random navigation trying to find one-way streets that are pointed in the direction of the dot. By chance, we decide to take a left on a one-way that just happens to be the correct road we were supposed to take - not where Google Maps told us to take it. So we follow it, and I spot the next road we were supposed to take just as we're passing it. Coming from the right, the street sign is different than the one on the left.
So we circle back around, take the right road, start guessing where to turn because none of the roads are signed, and are just riding along when an old guy waves at us and points at a set of gray garage doors we've just passed. I tell Kay and we circle around again, get stopped at the garage doors this time, and Javier comes out to greet us. Yay! We've made it to Dakar Motos! There's no sign or anything, and we never would have spotted it if the guy hadn't pointed to it for us (I think he's a neighbor) so I'm glad he happened to be nearby.
Kay's note: there is a hand-painted number on the door, so if you've got the address you'll be able to find it, but yeah, there's NO external indication that it's there.
We get off and park the bikes, and Javier has room for us to stay at Dakar Motos. Yay! But he barely has room for the bikes - he has to take the panniers off another bike that is here just to fit ours into the space. One look around makes it clear pretty quickly that there probably isn't room to store our bikes here.
We ask, and Javier confirms - we can't store the bikes here. And he doesn't have anyone else to recommend. He says there's one guy in town who might be able to store them, but he travels a lot and Javier isn't sure if he's in town right now. He says we should go to Uruguay to store the bikes, as he can recommend some people there, but we just don't want to have to deal with the logistical hassles of getting our bikes to Uruguay and then getting us back here for our flight.
Javier has more bad news, though - it's not possible to ship bikes out of Buenos Aires without us here. So if we store the bikes here, we're going to have to fly back down to BA whenever we're ready to ship them home just do to the shipping paperwork. We can't leave an authorization with anyone or arrange an agent to ship them out on our behalf. So now we're going to have to pay not only something along the lines of $3,500 to ship the bikes home - we're going to have to pay another $3,500 for round trip plane tickets for BOTH of us to come back here to ship the bikes. Suddenly getting the bikes home has gone to $7,000.
Javier seems to think we're crazy for wanting to store the bikes. He suggests (politely) that we should find a way to make it happen that we get the bikes shipped out while we're here. But we can't borrow that much money from anyone, and we simply don't have the cash. The stocks tanking on us really cost us (we lost a little over $5,000 in the stocks dropping from when we left the US at the beginning of our trip - which would have been enough to ship the bikes home and pay the first month of rent when we get back, while Kay finds a job and I get back up to full speed with my clients.) So the money simply doesn't exist to ship the bikes home. We can't make it materialize from thin air, we don't have parents to borrow from - just not possible.
Kay suggests aloud that maybe we should just sell the bikes. Javier confirms that even if someone does buy the bike, he or she won't be able to leave the country with it - we have to be here to check the bike out of the country. It's unlikely we'd be able to sell the bikes in the three days remaining to us here, so we're back to having to fly down here to escort someone out of the country with our bikes, and then fly home from wherever. Not a good option, either.
Javier leaves us with a lot to ponder. We need to find someplace to store the bikes, and figure out finances for when we get home. If we now have to raise twice the money to get the bikes home - money for us to fly down and money for the bikes to get home - it's going to take us longer, which means we have to store the bikes longer. Boo and boo and boo again.
But there's a cat!
Kay and Negrito
On the bright side, we meet David - a Canadian who has been riding around the world since 2009 and has been all over the place. We spend a very happy evening chatting with David about travel, bikes and all the cool places he's been. It takes our mind off the logistical problems, which we now have four days to sort… so we leave that till tomorrow to figure out.
( Kay's note: I totally love David's approach to where he's going to go. He has had essentially zero plan. I think he went to Iceland because he found a flier about it on his way somewhere, had no idea it was such a big off-road riders destination. He didn't intend to go to Africa but then he was riding down the east coast of it. He was going to head over to south america, or somewhere, but that didn't work out so he went up the west coast. Totally just going with the flow.
We stayed up until about 1:00 AM chatting and trading stories, although he definitely had more. He's totally easy to talk to, but it's been an interesting insight into the differences between the mindset of those multi-year riders and people like us who are much happier doing three to four months at a go. )
Day 113 - Buenos Aires
Today was an unexpected punch in the emotional gut.
Javier had no space left in the shop to store any more bikes and wasn't comfortable with storing ours in the enclosed back yard until space opened up. I think he, reasonably, didn't want to be responsible if someone climbed the wall and stole bits off of them. We'd be happy to sign something saying we're ok with that possibility, but people sign shit like that all the time and then get pissed when it actually happens, so I can't blame him.
We had two options left: deal with the other guy in Buenos Aires whom Javier wasn't so sure about the quality / safety of the storage, or head to Uruguay to meet up with one of the places Javier could recommend there. There problem there is that we'd probably spend a day getting there, spend the night, and then have to figure out and pay for the transportation to get back to Dakar Motos, or figure out another cheap place for us to stay until the flight.
We booted up Skype and called the local guy. He's an expat named Ed and the number on the web site is his cell phone. Yes, he said, he had space, but he's flying to Spain tomorrow so if we wanted to arrange it we'd have to do it today, so we agreed to meet at 4PM.
It would take us about an hour to get there, and as three o'clock approached we were increasingly unhappy about it. We didn't want to leave the bikes. We didn't want to leave them in some anonymous parking garage, and we didn't want to leave them with someone we knew nothing about.
The ride there was not happy, but it was at least a lot less stressy thanks to David converting the OSM maps for Buenos Aires to Mac format for us* before we left. Routable city maps! What a luxury!
We get to the parking garage maybe fifteen minutes early and Ed's not there yet. The attendant is very confused as to what to do with us because we say we need to talk to Ed at 4 but Ed isn't here. In order to make the situation less awkward I decide to spend the $6, or whatever it'll cost, to attempt to call Ed on our cell phone. As with our attempt to call BMW when my moto was overheating in Costa Rica we failed miserably. We know the country code and all that. We just can't call anyone on this. We've paid nearly $100 US per mo for the ability to make calls internationally at an outrageous per-minute fee, and have been completely unable to use it. I don't know if AT&T is to blame or our own ignorance, but I don't know that it matters because the end result is the same.
Anyway, I'm standing on the sidewalk attempting to make a call, and failing, when I see a woman walking towards me texting someone. I call to her, and in my poor Spanish explain that my phone isn't working, but could she please call this local number for me?
She's a little suspicious, but it's pretty clear that I'm a confused foreigner and she takes pity on me, calls, and hands me the phone. Ed's on his way on a bus. He'll be here in about ten minutes. I thank the woman, and tell the security guard. And then we begin the real waiting. And it hurts. It's massively depressing. Yesterday I was unhappy about leaving them in an unknown place, but thinking it would be not much bigger of a deal than leaving them in any other parking lot for the night.
No. Not at all. We're like those parents sending their kids off to live with their ex for a year; heartbroken, not wanting to let them go, not wanting to leave them, upset that we've managed to get ourselves into this situation.
Ed comes with a big smile and a warm handshake. He shows us the space and the bikes he's currently storing in one of the other spaces he owns in this private garage. Two of the bikes are his and his wife's. He tells us about some of the overland riding he's done in years past. How he's worked in and with the Peace Corps for years. He seems a genuinely nice guy.
He brings us back down to his wife outside and says "These are good people." and we start figuring out how exactly we'll handle paying him monthly (thank goodness we don't have to pay it all up front) and things like that. He needs to arrange with the person who's currently parking in that spot to use another spot somewhere and can't quite get it arranged so that we can leave them right then, but tomorrow morning we can come back and drop them off at 11 in the morning. We've told him earlier that Javier is squashed for space and that's why we can't leave them at Dakar and he's trying to figure out where he can stick our bikes overnight until we can put them in the real space, but we assure him that coming back tomorrow is fine.
We start riding back and Dachary is upset about not being able to leave them, and having to come back again, but I contend that it's not Ed's fault. There was some miscommunication earlier and we suggested that we wanted to leave them later in the week, and he didn't want to start moving other tenants until we were sure we really wanted the space.
But, we make it back to Dakar Motos, and feel we've had a minor reprieve. We have the bikes for one more day, but we're still not happy. We do feel much better about the space. It's not optimal like storing them at Dakar would be, but it's not bad at all, and after meeting him, and learning that he's storing his own bikes there does make us feel more confident about their safety, but still… our kids… Leaving them at Dakar would be more like leaving them with a grandparent. This is… I don't know… solitary confinement at a boarding school?
The Stickers at Dakar Motos
We spend the rest of the evening chatting with David more telling him we absolutely owe him a for converting that map for him, and I'm quite happy when he asks if he can buy my fire extinguisher since one of the frequent scams you hear about from corrupt cops in South America is trying to get a bribe for not having a fire extinguisher or a hazard triangle, neither of which is required.
I, of course, absolutely refuse to take payment for it. I probably would have chucked it in the trash anyway. He says we're even for the . It's a generosity stalemate. I try and foist some of the other crap we're going to abandon here for future riders, or trash if there's nowhere to stash it here but he's not having it. He's trying to get rid of shit not acquire it. Damn!
There's been a bunch of discussion on our ADVRider thread about the decision to store the bikes. Lots of suggestions of alternate ways to address the situation. I thought I'd take a minute to give an idea of why we're doing this.
Shipping each bike back to the US by plane is going to cost roughly $1,600. Doing it by boat would be cheaper up front, but the port fees at the destination port (Boston) are literally unpredictable and almost always end up bringing the price up to the same point as using a plane, plus you have the uncertainty of how long it will take to get there (You can NEVER trust any time estimates related to cargo ships) and you have to deal with all the Port Authority bureaucracy and payments (same situation everywhere in the world) to extricate them from the docks when they do finally show up.
On top of that cost we've discovered that you can't legally assign someone to be your agent and ship them out for you. So, we'll have to fly back simply to be physically present when we shove them on a plane for home. We can get tickets for about $1,500 each if we book in advance.
Grand total $6,200.
Now, why not sell them? Because you can't actually do that; not, without ****ing over the buyer. A local could buy it but it'd take them forever and big money to get it into the local system. I've also heard something about Argentina not allowing people to permanently import used vehicles, but I don't know if that's true or not. I think not. Also, doing it locally requires a) Spanish b) time c) a phone number for people to call, and c) a place for someone to come look at the bike. We don't have the first three and the having people come to check out shit in Javier's shop would be obnoxious and simply wrong considering the amount of effort they've gone to to not advertise the presence of motos, especially pricey ones, on this residential street.
Selling them to a US citizen would be trivial, but when they attempted to drive them over the border they'd be ****ed. Argentina is computerizing their systems, so simply forging an import document isn't enough. It would bring up a different owner in their system. The only somewhat reasonable way to do it is to sell it, fly down and meet the new owner, go to the border with them, check it out of Argentina and have them check it into the next country. This is obviously silly unless you're selling it to a close friend, and still requires flying back, and generally just a pain in the ass.
Someone has suggested breaking them down into pieces and shipping them back as parts instead of bikes. This would most likely drop the shipping cost but you'd have to take it to customs in one piece, check it out of the country. Then bring it back in illegally, have somewhere you can break it down into little pieces, and something to put all those pieces in, then get those pieces to the boat / plane. Massive pain in the ass and requires time.
We can't sell them as parts locally, because we still need to check the bike out of the country and the bike needs to be present to do that, and like selling the bike, you need Spanish, Time, and space to actually complete the sale.
Really, there's only one option that avoids the costs and that's having them "accidentally" get "stolen" and reporting it. If they're "accidentally" "stolen" in the bottom of a remote and desolate canyon you can be reasonably sure they won't show up and have to be dealt with in the future.
But, that leaves you without a bike back home. We like our bikes. Even if you ignore the emotional attachment what would it cost to replace them? Well, we spent about $8,500 to buy both bikes. We probably spent another $1,500 to $2,000 per bike to kit them out. And, if we had it to do again we wouldn't buy another 8 year old bike, so the cost for the replacing the bikes with similar used models would be more like $10,500. Grand total? Approximately $14,500.
So, our options are $6,000 to get the bikes we know really well back home (plus $150 per mo for storage until we get the funds) or $14,000 to acquire replacements. Our plane goes out on Saturday, and everything else requires more time and more Spanish to arrange than we have.
Someone suggested cashing in the plane tickets and riding back north. Even if we could arrange someone to watch our beasts for another 2 months or so to get there there's no way we could make it back home on $3,000. Also, we'd get evicted from our Aptartment and our shit would probably be on the street, or sold, or whatever to cover the remaining months on the lease.
You see, we *really* have no money. When we get home we won't be able to afford April's rent, food will be purchased based on price, not desire. I will be desperately trying to get re-employed, and Dachary will be trolling e-lance for any writing assignment she can find that isn't paying hourly rates that would only fly in the 3rd world.
We *should* have had money, but the stocks tanked and we lost $20 a share during the trip (should have sold at the start when we knew the price was already good). But, we knew this was a possibility. Honestly, I'm happy we were able to make it to Ushuaia and still afford plane tickets home. Taking an adventure like this is always a risk. Going broke was one risk we consciously accepted at the start of this.
Also, some people have suggested loading up credit cards, but we don't have those. Or rather, we do, but we don't have any available funds. Dachary's got maybe $500 available between several credit cards, and mine is closed and I'm just paying it off. So charging roughly $3,200 simply isn't possible, and I think I've read that the shipping people here require cash, anyway.
Dachary's note: when we got back from checking out the storage with Ed, we told David how surprised we were that potentially dropping off the bikes was so sad. I think it caught both Kay and I by surprise, as we'd known this is how it would be for a while, and we were both excited to be going home now. But leaving the bikes was much more difficult than we'd expected. David joked that it was because the trip was over, and now we were going home - we're not travelers anymore.
I know he meant it in good fun, but until your trip is over - actually over - it doesn't sink in how much it can hurt to leave your bikes. I maintain that it wouldn't be as bad if we were bringing the bikes home, because then we'd be reunited with them on the other end in a few days and at least we'd be able to ride them around New England. But now, we're going from riding daily for 4 months to not even seeing our bikes again for probably 5 or 6 months… and it hurts. I don't think David realized how much when he was joking around about our trip ending.
* Garmin is, in general, great, but they've done one very stupid thing. The Windows and Mac software use different map formats and essentially all the available maps are in Windows format, which would be fine, but the only software that will convert them to the Mac format only runs on Windows. So, Mac users have to beg the help of Windows people whenever they want / need a new map. It makes no sense, because on top of that, Windows people have no need of a tool to convert to Mac format since they have Windows.
Costs for The Trip
We did some quick and dirty math, and these numbers aren't down-to-the-dollar accurate, but they're within a few hundred dollars in most cases. So for those of you wondering what a trip like this costs, here's how it broke down for us:
Total Spent During the Trip: $17,000 ($20,200)
Transporting us*: $3,600
Transporting the bikes: $1,800
(Future transport of bikes back home will be an additional $3,200)
Bike service: $2,000
Other repairs/replacements: $1,200
This is just what we spent on the trip itself - not what we spent before the trip getting everything ready. We spent between $1,500 and $2,000 on kitting out each bike, including stuff like fairing guards, engine guards, Denali lights, panniers, etc. (For a full breakdown of bike mods, see our Company Vehicles page.) We also bought over $1,000 in bike spares that we carried with us before we left the US. So we spent probably an additional $5,000 getting the bikes ready before the trip.
The total cost to transport the bikes doesn't include what it's going to cost to get the bikes home at the end of the trip. If we had the money to do it now, it would be an additional $3,200 (roughly), bringing that total to $5,000.
So if you include the mods we made to the bikes before the trip, and what it would cost to get the bikes shipped home, the total cost would be around $25,200.
Total Cost: $25,200
We also bought a lot of camping gear and new motorcycle gear for this trip, which isn't included in this cost breakdown. Camping gear is probably around $1,000, including tents, sleeping bags and cooking supplies, and new motorcycle gear for the trip is probably $1,000 to $1,500. But this stuff might easily have been purchased for US trips and/or just riding, so we don't really include this in the price breakdown. But if you wanted to include those items, it would bring the total to: $27,700.
*The cost for transporting us includes two plane tickets from Panama City to Bogota, and two plane tickets from Buenos Aires to Boston, MA at the end of the trip.
**While this wasn't the plan when we left, we ended up staying in hotels most of the trip. Camping was very difficult to find throughout most of Central America, although it was more available in South America. You could absolutely save money by not staying in hotels.
However, the total cost for hotels in Mexico/Central America was probably around $1,000 (just guessing at a $20 average, which might be too high - I'm erring on the expensive side for the sake of estimating). South America through Peru was probably another $500. It wasn't until we got to Chile and Argentina that the hotels started getting really expensive (and subsequently we started camping and bush-camping more) and we spent probably $1,000 on hotels in 25-ish days of Chile and Argentina, so if you camp here you can save a ton of money.
So estimating, the total cost we spent on hotels was probably around $2,500. You could practically cut that number in half by camping exclusively in Chile and Argentina, but you'll need good gear for the cold nights. You get diminishing returns by camping in northern South America and Central America, although it is a big area to cut costs.
Day 114 - Buenos Aires
Today was the day. We were meeting Ed at the parking garage at 11AM to drop off our bikes.
It was a tough day.
We know we're doing the right thing. We're happy we're going to be keeping our bikes, and we know it's just a matter of time till we get the money to come and claim them. It's a slightly daunting number to raise in 7 months (how long we have left until our Temporary Vehicle Import Permits expire) - basically we have to be putting away $1,000 per month, which is a lot but we believe it's do-able. It would be better if Kay had a job to go back to, and if most of my clients didn't pay on a Net 30 which means about 6 weeks before I have good money coming in again…
… but we're both intelligent, enterprising people who are no strangers to making money when we work hard and get creative, so there's no doubt in our minds we'll be back within the timeframe to claim our bikes.
But still. We hate to leave them. And we're probably not going to be able to get them back until October, at the earliest, which means we'll miss riding the entire summer (pretty much the only riding season Boston has). So that kinda sucks.
I set the alarm for 8:30, and because David kept us up late chatting again (party animal! With a broad range of amusing and vaguely disturbing conversation…) we actually slept until the alarm went off. Puttered around for a bit and then hit the road around 9:40AM, armed with our bike covers.
Alas, David was also heading out today, so we said our goodbyes before we rode off.
David's mighty steed.
(By the way - did we mention that David was also a motorcycling newb when he set off on his trip in 2009? He'd ridden his BMW 1200GS just enough for the first service when he left, and before that, he'd only ever ridden a scooter, and hardly spent much time on that. That man has been all over Africa and half of South America, and done some pretty technical riding, and is still on the road. Who says newbs can't take big trips? He puts mine to shame. And on a 1200GS - what a pig to be picking up when you're riding solo!)
On the road, we're reminded that the bikes are so light and maneuverable without all of our crap on them! It really is a joy to ride the bikes unencumbered, and made the parting pang even more acute - to be reminded of how much we love the bikes on a day-to-day basis - not just for this trip.
Got back to the parking garage with a minimum of trouble, and nearly 30 minutes before we were supposed to meet Ed. The security guard knew to expect us this time, and told us to head on down to the spot, where Kay and I proceeded to stash the bikes the way Ed had told us the day before. (He wanted us to park them sideways in the very back of the spot so he could fit other bikes in front of them.) With a little maneuvering, we got them put in snugly and then covered them up.
Leaving the kids behind
Leaving them hurt. Even though we know we'll be back for them, it's unnerving to simply park them in a parking garage and know it will be months before we're back for them, and no-one will be looking after them in the meantime. Sure, it's a private garage with a 24-hour garage and CCTV, but it's not the same as if we left them somewhere where a biker is always around, like Dakar Motos.
We go over the instructions again with Ed and his wife, and give them copies of our TVIP and pay for the first month's storage. Then we ask how to get back to Dakar Motos. They tell us to take one of two buses (the 92 or the 93) to the train station, and then we're on our own for which train or which stop we need (luckily we already know that). Then they walk us over to the bus stop, since they're headed that way themselves, and we catch one of the buses in the right direction. Success!
A guy who got on the bus at the same time as us takes pity on us, shows us where to put our money (the slot is behind the driver's seat - not next to the driver like in Boston) and where to pick up our ticket. And then he agrees to tell us when we reach Retiro train station. We ask him in our poor Spanish, and he just smiles and says "yes" to us. I don't know if he speaks a lot of English or just a few words, but I get the impression that he was amused at us with our poor Spanish, hauling around our moto gear, tank bag and Camelbak.
He tells us when we get to the train station, and we hop off the bus and then wonder where to go. Luckily, the day before, David had given us instructions on which train to get back to Dakar Motos (the train here is in a smaller train station off to the side of the main terminal, which would be really confusing if no-one had told us that beforehand) and I remember it as we're looking at the buildings, so we walk over to the correct terminal and find the train. We try to buy tickets, but the woman at the window just waves us toward the corral, and the man at the corral waves us past when we tell him we're "sin boletas" and tell him our train station. No idea why.
We find seats on the train, awkwardly holding our stuff and trying to keep it off the guy across from us (they're two seats that face each other in the middle of the car, instead of the traditional forward- or rear-facing seats in the rest of the car). While we're riding out to our station, people walk up and down the train selling stuff. Water, soda, candy bars, pastries and who knows what else. A guy with a guitar gets on and starts singing in our car, and then collects donations at the end. The train is a hotbed of commerce in Buenos Aires. At one point, a guy puts a candy bar on my arm (I'm too busy holding my stuff to wave him off) and then walks by again and collects it a few minutes later, when I don't pay him. So very weird.
Find the correct stop with no trouble, get off the train, and grab some sandwiches from the panderia since we haven't had breakfast or lunch and it's nearing 1PM. Back at Dakar Motos, we sit at the table in the little garden out back and enjoy our sandwiches. It's very bittersweet.
The most challenging of the logistics are out of the way, so now there's only luggage to deal with. If we'd been even a day later, we wouldn't have been able to store the bikes here in BA with Ed - he was leaving today for Spain where he'll spend a few months before returning to BA. We're fortunate to have gotten this taken care of so easily, and yet it's still sad to be bike-less. On the train home, I comment to Kay that "we're passengers now." And it's true, and it's so very… depressing.
We don't feel like doing much of anything, so after lunch, we sit around and poke the Internet, read on our respective devices and just chill. At one point, I comment to Kay that I want to play a game with him on the iPad (we bought several before we left and haven't played a single game the entire trip) and I get an introduction to Carcassonne. In all, it's a relaxing bit of downtime where we don't do much of anything, which is exactly what the doctor ordered after the emotional ups and downs.
Kay's note: The Carcassone board game is excellent too, and has lots of expansion sets. The X-Box Arcade version is good too. Yeah, it's one of my favorite board games and I own all the versions.
Motorcycle Chain Support
Eventually we tackle our panniers. I don't want to try to bring my panniers on the airplane as luggage, as the only way to latch them requires me to lock them - and I suspect the TSA will break my locks back in the US. So I'm hoping that I can store my panniers here at Dakar Motos, and send them back on the plane with the bike when we come back to ship the bikes home. To that end, we rearrange the panniers - Kay puts stuff from his panniers that we don't need to take home right now into mine, and I pull out the stuff I want to take home and shove them in his.
We're leaving stuff like the Cycle Pump, bike spares, tools, the service manual, the cooking gear… because we won't need that stuff without our bikes. But we're taking home our motorcycle gear - Kay says "just in case" so we have to shove our pants and stuff into his panniers, and the plan is to try to go into Buenos Aires tomorrow to find a piece of luggage to use for the rest of our gear. The helmets are the tricky parts as we know they won't let us just carry them onto the plane as a carry on item, and I want to make sure they're adequately protected from the rough handling that baggage receives. The whole point of helmets is to be able to absorb a shock, and they'll be useless if they get too banged up in transit.
After sorting through the panniers until I get sick of it, we take showers that feel wonderful because it's been a few days since we've bathed, and then go back to the pizza place for dinner again. It's the third night in a row that we've eaten there, but it's late and I don't feel like going to the grocery, buying food and starting to cook this late. It's weird and much quieter to be there without David. The food is still good, but we're both really tired - all of the travel and the emotional stuff is catching up with us, so we crash for the night when we get back to Dakar Motos.
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