Wednesday 2nd / 3rd November 2005
Today the first day with bike, but we had no plans to go anywhere. we decided last night to wait for Nik and see if he would like to travel together for a couple of days. It's his first time abroad - real adventure eh - and our first 'significant' travel.
So to be together for a couple of days wouldn't be a bad thing. Nik's happy, and so too will we be. He plans to go south after the falls to get to the travelers meeting at Viedmar, then to Patagonia and Ushuaia for Christmas and New Year. We plan on going NW towards Paraguay and then Bolivia and across to Peru and south then north back to BA. To say our plans are fluid would not be understating it though. The Viedma meet is at wrong time for us though, and in wrong place, so I can't see us changing that. We'll probably meet everyone coming north when we're going south.
The cops to the NE of BA are a bit corrupt and famed for trying to extort cash from travellers by claiming you need a fire extinguiser, or a blanket to cover a body, all of which are not required for m/c.
Hence quite a good reason not to go too far on the Argentinian side, though we'll have to stop before Uraguay for the night perhaps, or not, looks close enough to get toin a day. Other option would be a boat across the Rio Plato (River Plate - the one of the Naval battle) but that would take us into the another capital city and I think we've had enough of cities for just the now.
The crossing is by bridge with customs either side, unbievably 50kms long. And the first town ? Fray Bentos - yupp the famed pies and Corned Beef factory set up by the British.
And so to Maté, the drink of choice for many here, but much more popular in Uraguay. It is a herbal mix of sorts, like tea mixed with herbs. Hard to describe, but it comes as dried powder looking liked a mixture of dried grass clippings / green tea & herbs de Province. It is put into a small pot, a Culha, often metal or wood and decorated, to the point of brimming and then hot water is added (from a flask so it can be constantly topped up) and a Bombilla metal straw with a perforated bulb end stuck into it. You can drink plain as is, but most folk add suger which makes it MUCH more palatable. It's still a hell of an aquired taste. Hard to describe, quite sharp and sour, but not in a nice citrus sort of way. It's claimed to be all things to all, a stomach easier, a refresher, and mild buzz, but mainly it seems to be a social thing. The cup is filled and you take a few mouthfulls before passing on for more water and the next person.
There are different varieties of the brew but we've yet to find one that suits us, but on a social level it's a fine activity, not sure we have an equivalent.
And the Moto Hotel, and our hosts Sandra and Javier, how to describe further? They are definately the salt of the earth, diamonds, any term that expresses the same sentiments. I'm amazed poor Javier has any opportunity for work as there are forever people calling by and drinking Mate and chatting. The fact we are here can only be a further distraction to business as they spend so much time with us. When the come into the shop on a morning they creep in in case we are asleep. Hell, you couldn't ask for better. we have allways been awake I'm pleased to say, as I'd be very embarrased if we stopped them working. Mostly, in fact I guess almost entirely, Javier works on Honda's, Africa Twins and Dominators and Transalps, all of a 'certain' age. There are not many new or even newish bikes here that I've seen.
Nik's bike creates a considerable amount of attension - I can imagine people coming round just to see it.
It is apparent - even after the 50% clothes reduction - that we have too much stuff, and probably many of the wrong things - a failing of all first time travelers I guess, live and learn ! or not ! We'llfind out.
Two friends from the club in UK, Simon & Lisa, that are very experienced travelers (42 countries from across Russia to through Africa) have reported in on a horrendous journey they are currently taking. In Brasil, from Manaus south through Amazonia. A notably atrocious road - if you can even call it that, as basically it's a trail through the jungle. Not one for our trip that is for certain. They encountered Jaguars, have puss filled bites, Simon fell 10 feet off his bike off a bridge onto his head, and is recovering, but not well, and his bikes is basically in terrible condition, wiring welded, battery knackered and frame broken in two places, they are truely having an adventure, but a very testing one. Fortunately they are hardened and appear to be taking it in their stride, let's hope so. They have 800 miles to get to San Paulo were they can get repairs from BMW, that's a long way in their condition.
Friday 4th November
Buenos Aires - to Fray Bentos, Uraguay
Mileage - 165
It was wet to start with, but only light drizzle, easy to get out of BA. Sad to leave S&J. Pampas is very flat, roads very straight, driving nott too mad and dull apart from wildlife. Lots of plover type birds, green budgie type birds, kites, hawk like a Karra Karra, and storks, spoonbills and the odd Rhea (South American Osterich)
Took now time to get to Border town. We dodged the corrupt police checkpoint by riding close to an incoming truck - Javiers tip.
Stopped at cafe and a local came for a chat, he worked there and was a local biker, gave us their website and warned about police, quite a problem up here obviously. The coffe was good, the burgers not as good as you'd hope. But cost $19 Arg so less than £4.
By border, on far side of very long bridge very high over Rio Uraguay. Three desks for Arg, one for Urg.
Got through it very nicely with my Spanish, and did even better on Urg desks. Temporary import (Arg) taken away - new one when we come in. And the Urg one is for a year so no worries. The guy on the Uraguayan side explained he was of English ancestry from the days of Fray Bentos, and his colleague gave me a recommendation for a restuarant if we were going to Montevideo, a little spanish goes a long way Poor old nick struggled through and we had a good laugh that I had done so well. In fact when we finaly got out, to the actual border, he had to go back as the bloke dealing with him had missed a stamp. The Arg guys were in official looking uniforms, the urg guys looked like bus conductors or green grocers. The Urg guy at border even had some banter with me in Spanish by saying it wasn't a good day, too cold. In all of this Bev wasn't in building once and they did her passport without even checking she existed. All in all 45 mins spent very enjoyably ! Excellent ! Great border. Had to nip back to get money, funnily enough the cashier was just a bloke with his own wallet...hmmmm...locals used him too though. Changed 450 Agentinian Peso's at border to Uraguayian and got 3350, so say 7.5 Uraguay to 1 arg, so assume 38 to £
So we mamaged to miss any corruption on the road.
Contiued over the border and into Fray Bentos, rolled into town and found the Colonial (in our guide book) straight away and for Room was 390 for the three of us, so just over £10. Bargain, and we just managed to squess the bikes ibto a corridor with a door on, no point camping at that price. Nice enough room with 4 beds bathroom hot water and ceiling fan. Building is colonian in style with central open courtyard.
Fray Bentos – Exactly what it says on the can
Just been for a blow out Asada for a grand total of 520 Uruguayan Peso´s for three, say 13 quid with tip (and two litres of beer) Stuffed ! By the way, it was in the Fray Bentos Jockey Club, really. We are like martians here, everyone just openly stares - and we´re without bikes and in ´noraml´clothes. The strange thing is a lot of the starring folk look distinctly to me as if they´re Welsh....maybe that explains it !
South America is not what you expect. Many indigenous looking people, but many are obvious descentants of western countries, lots of Brits were here in the past, but seemingly not now.
Mate is an absolute obsession here, people in cars filling the cup from flasks at lights, people on streets with flasks and cups...bloody éll, that´s it...we have no mate....right ....things to buy, mate cup, bombilla and some grass cuttings, we´ll blend in. Sussed. Off to Brazil tomorrow...think we´ll need a trim then.
ciao the now (must be those two beers) Adios, FyBPosted by Simon McCarthy at November 21, 2005 10:47 PM GMT
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