November 25, 2006 GMT
A change of plans... #1

What a difference a week can make…

Jase and I were having fun in Buenos Aires but I really was struggling with the Spanish classes, that and the routine. Getting the tube to school at 7.30 AM, sitting in the class for 4 hours then home for a siesta, more study then dinner was, in a weird kinda way, reminding me of work back in London (though I shouldn’t moan, it was bloody hot and the beers are cheap!)

So I thought stuff it, lets hit the road!

I finished up school on Tuesday, sorted out some bike insurance (5 quid a month!) then on Wednesday headed out to Dakar Motos to pick up my bike and... well, hit the road! I reckon I’ll learn loads of Spanish on the road and may do another week in Mendoza or somewhere else.

Luckily Dakar are really close to the the motorway heading north so I didn’t have to navigate through BA. To be honest I was quite nervous about getting on the bike, don’t know why, just a combination of riding on the right, not knowing the traffic and well... the unknown! By the time I was in second gear all these fears where gone and the feeling of this being the start of the trip took over, woo hoo, Iguazu Falls here I come!

It was stinking hot and once I was off the motorway onto single carriage way I just cruised along at 70mph, passing the odd truck and taking in the scenery. The road I was on, RN14, is notorious for cops looking for bribes but having read so much about it I was kind of looking forward to being stopped and checking out my technique for getting away with not paying (playing dumb appears to be the general rule, not hard with my Spanish!)

I saw the first group of cops on the left side of the road. Just at the last minute they saw me and I heard a whistle then saw an arm indicate that I should pull over . I pretended I hadn’t seen them and carried on, checking behind every once in a while to check they weren’t chasing. Phew, first cops successfully avoided! Wasn’t so lucky the next time. I’d just passed a truck on a really open left hand turn (okay, so I did go over the double yellows but it was hardly unsafe), and there they were... about half a mile down the road. I had to stop for these guys. They first tried to tell me I’d passed on the dos lineas, I pretended not to understand and he drew a picture. I then drew another picture showing me passing on the dotted line. He then tried to tell me that I was doing 140kph, I protested that I was only doing 100 (which I was, surprisingly) and figured there was no way they could have a picture of me as the only “speed detection” equipment they had was a pair of binoculars! By this point I knew they just wanted some money but I was still suprised when he asked me outright for cash. I pulled out a packet of cigarettes and indicated I’d spent my last pesos on them and that I used credit cards. Eventually he got frustrated, shook my hand and wished me buen viajo! Pete 2 – cops 0.

I camped up after 300 k’s at a site on the side of Rio Urugay (see pic). Was nice to get the camping gear out and check that I had everything I needed. A Stella (I kid you not) and a massive steak later and I was ready for some sleep. Day one successfully complete, yay!

Thursday was more of the same long straight roads, stinking hot weather and lots of trucks to pass. Was nice to get the odd flash of headlights and waves from oncoming truckers, makes you feel more at home on the road. I was doing long stints on the bike as there really wasn’t a lot to stop for other than gas. I’ve spent a load of time at petrol stations in the past and doing this again was telling me the long distance travel vibe is really starting to sink back in.

I met another overlander, Tom from the States, on a long straight road and we stopped for a chat. He had started out from North America with a friend but the friend had had an accident and was quite badly smashed up and still in hospital in Brazil from what I could gather. I hope you receover soon mate. Tom himself had had an accident just a couple of days prior, a fox ran out in front of him on a dirt road. Lucily he was okay but his KLR was a bit smashed up and he no longer has a speedo. Valuable lessons about taking it easy and watching the traffic for me, but you never know what’s around the corner do ya.

I stopped at a tiny town, Yapeyu, at 3 that afternoon as I really didn’t want to slog it out too much. Was met with some fab hospitality at the only gas station in town. When I indicated to the owner I was hungry she got out some salad, rice and bread for me and I chatted away with her (Roxanne) and her husband, Victor, for a couple of hours. They didn’t even mind that my Spanish was so shite, they just spoke a little slower. Lovely hospitality to a complete stranger (me!), its been a while...

The camping there didn’t look too organised so stayed in a bungalow for the night but following the afternoon food (and beer, of course) I had a little siesta (well, 3 hours!) I was so knackered I didn’t even notice the bloody noisy overhead ceiling.

Was strange to wake up on Friday and see grey skies after the clear blue of the previous days. Oh well I thought, at least it’ll be a little cooler. 40 miles later I was searching for shelter (see pic) as the couds that I’d hoped would remain on my left swept over so fast the ruts in the soft tarmac formed by trucks were instantly flooded. With my dark visor on I couldn’t see a thing so stopped and changed it, put my jacket’s “waterproof” lining in and found my over trousers (which I hadn’t seen for a few days and was starting to wonder if I’d forgot). I couldn’t find my thick gloves though so for the next 400k’s my hands where constantly wet, though so was pretty much every other part of my body too! The rain was incesant and the sky was only grey. I did get 50k’s or so of dry road before hitting what I can only describe as a tropical downpour for the last 50k’s into Iguazu. Was a right pain in the ass in one way, but a load of fun in another and is to be expected. Anyway, all is forgotten after a shower and a beer ;-)

So now I’m in Iguazu, home of the largest waterfalls in the world. I’m going to check them out tomorrow (Sunday) and hang about for a couple of days before heading back to Buenos Aires for next Saturday, meet up with Jason and head south.

Man it’s great to be back on the road...

1) Looking out of the classroom window in Buenos Aires
2) Camping on the first night
3) One of the many long straight roads
4) Sheltering in a bus stop
5) A break between storms






Posted by Peter Baird at November 25, 2006 03:23 PM GMT

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