February 15, 2004 GMT
Riding East

Riding dirt roads is all about confidence, it took me 15 hard months and numerous crashes to work that one out!! The last dirt road of the trip was probably the easiest for me, although I probably would have not have thought so a year ago.

Ruta 23 is the most direct road from Bariloche to Viedma its gravel, but like most Argentine gravel roads, in pretty good condition. Lucky for us really, our knobbly tyres had knobbles no more and we were praying that we wouldn’t get a puncture.

After 50kms or so of curves, the road straightened out and we were able to blast along at 80kph. Occasionally there would be a patch of deep gravel and my front wheel would weave violently from side to side nearly throwing me off. The first time it happened I was terrified, but just kept going. Each time after was a little less frightening and with the help of a tail wind we rode the 600 km’s easily in 2 days and no punctures!

It was great to be back in Viedma again and meet all the friends we had made there 9 months ago. We arrived at Oscar Knechts place, in the early afternoon and in no time we were drinking maté and catching up with all the news.


At Oscars, chatting over a maté

We stayed with Enrique and Marie-Luis on their campo (small farm) just outside the town. Here we were really made to feel at home and we spent a good week recharging our batteries. We took the opportunity to wash our dusty kit as well as the bikes and Arno was kept busy making apple strudel and other delicious cakes.

A real treat was a traditional Patagonian Cordero, where a whole lamb is staked out and barbecued, then what seems like the whole neighbourhood is invited to demolish it and a mountain of salad.


This a what you call a barbeque

All too soon however, it was time to head north, this time along the coast towards Mar del Plata, where we wanted to visit Marcelo, a guy we’d met almost a year ago in Azul. It was a shame that the actual coast was always a good 30kms from the road, our first sight of the sea was in Monte Hermoso a surprisingly large seaside town, where we spent the night in a crowded campsite.

The city of Mar del Plata, Argentina’s most famous holiday resort was even more crowded, on one of the many beaches just a stones throw from the city, you could hardly see the sand for bodies.
We stayed at Marcelo’s place, again the hospitality shown to virtual strangers in Argentina is a lesson to us Europeans!


Marcelos workshop

We spent a day doing bike stuff, making the most of Marcelos fully kitted out workshop, and also visited another place in town where he works. This place was really the bees knees of workshops, probably the best we have yet seen since leaving Germany.
Once the bikes were sorted, we could then spend the day riding around the city and its many beaches. There is also a huge harbour to see, with a sealion colony, fishing boats and a graveyard of rusting ships.


Its not all lying on a beach in Mar del Plata

After a few days by the sea it was time to ride inland for another reunion, this time in Azul. Our last ride there, we remembered well - it rained the whole way! This time it only rained for the first 150kms, at Tandil, we left the dark clouds behind, and by the time we reached La Posta we were almost dry.

Jorge had made a few changes since we were last there, but it was still the welcoming place everyone raves about! Martin and Jo from Australia were already at La Posta and the next day Claudia and David from Switzerland on 2 KTMs arrived. Of course this meant Asado!!

After a couple of days, we had to go to BsAs to sort out the shipping of our bikes and buy a flight back to Europe, but promised Jorge we would be back!!
Ruta 3 was dry but boring, we decided to try the old road into the city instead of the autopista, big mistake!! It was really busy, with trucks and buses and of course traffic lights every 50 metres or so.

The constant stop-go, stop-go was frustrating, the bikes began to overheat and so did we. Stopped at the side of the road for a break hoping we were not in a dodgy area, got some strange looks, but no-one bothered us. Once in the city we made our way to where we had arranged to pick up our new tyres. This time the arrangements had gone really smoothly, no waiting around for 10 days!! Two sets of shiny new tyres were waiting for us along with t-shirts and the obligatory stickers.


Another set of tyres from Metzeler

After stacking them on the back of the bikes, it was time to get onto the autopista and try and find the way to Villa Martelli.
We found the right neighbourhood and almost the right road, but how to get across that railway line.
Parked at a junction, map in hand, a Transalp rider came to our rescue and led us to where we needed to go. And so we met another link in the HorizonsUnlimited chain.

Posted by Sian Mackenzie at 08:58 PM GMT
February 28, 2004 GMT
New friends and old

Sandra and Javier are the HU community in Buenos Aires and go out of their way to make sure any travellers that arrive there are well taken care of.

The first thing we had to do was change the worn out tyres on our bikes for the shiny new ones we had picked up on the way into town. Javier knew a place nearby where we could get them changed quite cheaply, so we loaded up the BMW and he took us over there.


Transporting the tyres to the Gomeria

The guys at the gomeria were fast workers and had the 4 tyres changed within the hour. 'Quite cheap' turned out to be very cheap, we paid less than €4 for the lot!


Not bad for 15,000kms and not one puncture!

We had arranged with the BMW dealer in the city, that they would keep some wooden crates for us. Sandra had already picked up one and soon after we arrived, two more bikes were delivered, so 2 more crates were there for us. We just had to pick them up. A flete - truck, was arranged to transport the crates, but when the rundown old truck arrived, I didn't think there would be enough room for the boxes. There was of course and we went in the truck to take the crates to a warehouse that belonged to a friend of a friend.
The crates are not strong enough to be used as they are and we calculated that we would have to use the wood of another crate to strengthen ours.


Getting the crates into the flete

The last time we were in BsAs, we had done the rounds of the shipping agents, so we knew what sort of prices we were looking at to ship to Australia. A couple of other travellers had some recommendations, which we followed up, but in the end we stuck to our original choice of company. Hellmans quoted a good price and gave a good impression, they seemed to know what they were doing. We arranged to have the bikes shipped in the second week of March, then went to look for a flight.

We wanted to go back to Azul, but Arnos bike didn't, it was probably as bored as us with Ruta tres. The battery wasnt charging properly so we took it to Javiers shop Dakar Motos and he and Arno spent the morning testing, replacing and testing all the possible thing that it could be.


Sandra and Javier outside Dakar Motos

The problem was not solved, but after so much fiddling around the bike decided it wanted to go to Azul afterall and worked fine!

Back at La Posta, we cleaned the bikes and waded through a mountain of photos, picking out the best ones. Many travellers came and went while we were there, locals and international. Daniel from Switzerland on a Teneré; a couple of locals from Bahia Blanca; 3 Swiss riders, Sepp and Gari on TDMs and Urs on a TTR; Carl from Germany on his F650, Juan Carlos from Mexico on a KLR and our friend from Mar del Plata, Marcelo on his Goldwing.


Juan Carlos from Mexico on his KLR

A Japanese cyclist also turned up, he looked familiar and it turned out we had met him up in Mexico over a year ago. Its a damn small world!
It was wonderful to meet all these travellers and of course it was a good excuse for Jorge to get the Asado fired up!

On sparkling clean bikes, we left La Posta and for the last time, rode up Ruta tres to BsAs. The usually boring 3 hours was made somewhat more interesting, albeit more dangerous by drivers rushing to get back to the capital as it is the end of the holidays. Buses and cars, overloaded with kids and grandmas were being driven by the mentally challenged. One bus came so close behind me, that I couldn't see the driver, just the big Mercedes star on the front of the radiator. Unfortunately, Arno had taken his 'Bolivian security' a machete, off the bike, so we had to settle with the usual hand gestures that seem to be internationally understood.

Javier and Sandra were taking a well deserved holiday when we got back to BsAs, so we had to fend for ourselves. While looking for a cheap hotel in their neigbourhood, we stopped for a chat at another bike shop. The owner knew of a house that rented out rooms by the week and took us over there. It was a sort of boarding house and we were soon unpacking the bikes and settling in.

Posted by Sian Mackenzie at 09:08 PM GMT

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