Farming and 4 Wheeling
August September 2008
We surrendered Arnie and Helena’s house back to them on their return from the north of Argentina and headed back to John and Annette’s finca to prepare for our ride to Uruguay. However when we arrived we found our hosts were very busy planting over 1,000 plum trees on newly prepared land which two years before was planted with 1,000 olive trees. These were destroyed in the following year by an exceptionally cold winter which included 29 cm of snow. This is the part of farming I struggle to deal with, and after seeing John and Annette’s tired bodies, we (really it was Carol!!) volunteered our fresh bodies to assist in the subsequent planting instead of the planned trip to Uruguay. (What was she thinking???)
Planting plum trees at John and Annette’s finca
Despite my apprehension it was fun and found the work much easier than expected. We took the planted number of trees to over 700 in a few days and the remainder was taken care of by John and Annette. Despite the long hours and hard work we still took time out to party and we joined a handful of expats to celebrate Arnie’s birthday at the nearby Golf Club. Annette was adamant that we should wear our finest including a tie!! We borrowed and blended with what we were carrying and the result can be seen in the photo.
With friends for Arnie’s Birthday. Don’t we scrub up well!!
Our trip to Buenos Aries was to join our good friends Mike and Jane (from Australia) who had extended their journey to the UK by dropping into Argentina to see the sights with us over the following month.
Travelers at Dakarmotos in Buenos Aires
While in B A we decided to do some servicing on the bike and fix some annoying oil leaks. Javier and Sandra of Dakarmotos are very well known in Argentina as the people to be in contact with when, as a motorcycle traveler, you need help. We stayed at their basic hostel (attached to the work shop) for a few days to work on the bike. This was to be a major exercise. We dismantled the engine to replace the push rod seals and looked at stopping a leak around the right cylinder barrel stud, the thread of which had been replaced (third time in bikes history) in Santiago, Chile when we first arrived in South America. When the heads were removed a valve inspection revealed severe recession in the inlets to the point where they really needed to be replaced. This problem was of some concern as we had only completed 24,000 kms on what we believed to be reconditioned heads. Our host Javier however was unperturbed and reassured us the job would be taken care of in the following two weeks we were in B A. While this was being done we also sent the rear shock absorber away for servicing.
Dog walkers in Caballito
Beautiful architecture in Buenos Aires
Eva Peron’s Mausoleum in Recoleta Cemetery
We had completed about as much as we could on the bike so we left Dakarmotos and headed to our apartment in Caballito. We were introduced to Juan Carlos (owner) by John and Annette and his help and information was most welcome. Mike and Jane arrived on the 26th August and Juan drove us to the airport and gave us an insight to the style of driving (crazy) in B A that many friends had warned us about. The airport was alive with media and supporters awaiting the return of the Argentinean Football team who had recently won the Gold Medal at the Olympic Games. Returning to the apartment we set about stocking up our temporary house with food and drinks, plus organizing a suitable itinerary for the coming days. Information from Juan advising there was a Tango Festival over the next week in Buenos Aries had us rearranging the Iguazu Falls excursion for Mike and Jane to the second week of their stay.
Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo march every Thursday in remembrance of their children who disappeared during the “dirty war” of the 1970’s
The Mothers with pictures of their loved ones
The following days we walked the streets of Buenos Aries taking in the architecture, tango, demonstrations (!) and becoming very efficient in the use of the three modes of public transport on offer.
Antiques market in San Telmo
Tango dancing in San Telmo
Jane, Ken and Mike eating empanadas, San Telmo
On Sunday Juan drove us to the markets of Feria de Mataderos which appeared to be more for the locals than international tourists so along with the tasty food and traditional dancing we enjoyed a great morning of people watching. Directions from Juan helped us board the 126 Bus for St Telmo for more markets and live entertainment. Great Tango and quality buskars thronged the closed streets for a number of blocks. It was dark when we caught the underground rail system back to Caballito after several hours of singing, dancing and sight seeing.
The colours of La Boca
Street vendors, La Boca
A rather colourful man in La Boca
Mike and Jane flew to Iguazu falls on Wednesday of the 2nd week for a few days and we headed back to Dakarmotos to put the bike back together after Javier advised the heads and shock absorber had been repaired and serviced. The engine rebuild went quite well but getting the right cylinder base to seal was a big problem. This was caused by the new thread for the barrel stud being larger than the rubber O-ring used to seal the stud but after five attempts we believed the problem had been solved. While at Dakarmotos we met a number of bikers traveling South America with their bikes in various states of disrepair. A great meeting place and a lot of fun despite the problems experienced with our bikes.
More Tango dancing
We never got tired of watching this
Caminito Street, La Boca
Jane, Ken and Mike
Returning to Caballito that night we met up with another Australian couple who had also booked a room there and after an earlier email from Juan they were kind enough to bring us a tube of vegemite and a jar of peanut butter to supplement our supplies. The next day Juan took us all to the airport in the Kombi to collect Mike and Jane. A slow coffee before they were dropped at the Bus Terminal for their overnight trip to San Rafael. The 1,000 km journey took us two days and we departed B A as they were arriving in S R.
Pizza and Vino with Juan Carlos at the Caballito apartment
Putting the bike back together at Dakarmotos
By the time we reached San Rafael the right cylinder was leaking worse than ever with oil splattered down the side of the bike over our boots and clothes. I really needed to get this sorted once and for all so before we headed off in our Chevy Corsa hire car the bike was dismantled, cleaned and reassembled again. It took another four attempts to fix the problem but as we loaded the car for departure, I was confident the problem was finally solved.
On the road to Paso Los Libertadores
It’s cold at the pass
Jane and Mike at the top of the curves, Paso Los Libertadores
The next 13 days with Mike and Jane were a whirlwind of driving, sightseeing and meeting up with old friends. Carol caught a cold coming over Paso Los Libertadores between Uspallata and Santiago, Chile and shared it with us during the journey. In Santiago we stayed with our good friend Mario for one night and had a fantastic evening out to dinner with him and his bike club. The Aperrados Moto Club is a bit like our extended family in Chile as we have enjoyed rides and social outings with the members every time we have been in Santiago. Once again we had a fantastic time eating exotic foods at an Arabic Restaurant. Mike and I even had the pleasure of dancing with the resident belly dancer. Our moves were somewhat out of rhythm but it was worth a laugh.
Some of our friends from the Aperrados Moto Club in Santiago
Swing those hips Michael!!
With Mario and some of his dogs in Santiago
Volcano Llama, Chile
We headed south on Ruta 5 through Los Angeles and onto Villarrica via a number of detours. We tried a dirt road through Icalma but the pass was closed with snow and mud so we doubled back for a couple of hundred kms to get to Villarrica. After two nights being tourists we crossed the border again back to Argentina, passing through Entre Lagos and Agua Calientes on the way to Bariloche. The pass although only around 1,300 meters had quite a bit of snow but the road was clear and it made for a beautiful drive between the white edges and trees.
Lots of snow at Icalma
A little further along this road near Icalma we had to turn around as there was too much mud and snow
Farmhouse near Villarrica
Asado in Entre Lagos
Crossing Paso Cardenal Samore on our way to Bariloche
Bariloche was very busy with tourists and skiers and our trip up the mountain to Cerra Catedral ski fields was greeted with clear, blue skies and bleached white snow. Our Cabana on the Lago Nahuel Huapi gave excellent views of the snow capped peaks on the other side. Seven lakes drive north to San Martin was closed to conventional vehicles due to snow and mud but the alternate route proved just as exciting in a conventional vehicle.
A quiet visit in San Martin and then north to Chas Mahal for one night. Arriving in Malargue we planned to stay for two nights venturing out to the ski fields north-west of town for a day drive. Sadly we were unable to use the chair lifts as they were for the exclusive use of skiers. We do not ski!!
On top of the world at Cerra Catedral near Bariloche
Mike and friends at Cerra Catedral
Sampling Cerveza in Bariloche
The road to San Martin de Los Andes was a little rough in the rent-a-car
Spring in San Martin de Los Andes
The final day and San Rafael was only a few hours away so a detour through the Canon de Atuel would be a fitting end to our 4,000 km journey. This is a great bit of road and we have our suspicions that the Dakar Rally may pass through here. It would be a pity if they did not.
Las Lenas ski fields near Malargue
Back in San Rafael on the farm Mike and Jane had a busy time sorting gear, returning the rental car and also enjoying a final dinner party at the local Golf Club with John and Annette. Great food and wine and great friends but departure was the next day. A bus ride to Mendoza, then a flight to Santiago, Auckland and Brisbane. I’ll bet they did not feel like going back to work the next day!!!
Canon de Atuel on the way to San Rafael
Meanwhile back on the farm after a short ride to town (40 kms) our resident oil leak on the bike had returned to annoy us. Again I dismantled the right barrel, changed the O ring and added sealant to the surface to cure the problem. I really hope it seals this time as I am becoming quite antisocial trying to fix this gremlin.
On the day Mike and Jane caught the bus to Mendoza and onto the flight back to Aus our friends from Canada who we met at Dakarmotos arrived at the farm for some work and play. They have more bike problems with the troublesome steed parked in Mendoza, they caught the bus to San Rafael. We often wonder how people adapt to the life on a farm but to date nearly all the guests or workers arriving here seem to enjoy their time on the land. Brian and Marie were no exception.
Over the next few days we sorted out our gear again and planned our route north. This time we plan to break through the shackles of Argentina and Chile and venture to other South American countries. No commitments yet but we hope to make it to Paraguay Brazil and Uruguay but there is a lot to see in Argentina before we get there.
There is very little motorcycling other than the San Rafael to Buenos Aries return journey in this update and our apologies for this but we promise to make up for this over the next few months. After two weeks in the tin top we found it a tad restricting in respect to the meeting of people. The bike tends to attract locals, travelers, adults and children alike. We missed the smells on the wind as we ride including the numerous flowering trees and eucalypts ….. Even the dead skunks!! (Carol said she could do without the skunks!!)
It was cold however, and the likelihood of snow was high during this time so it was doubtful we would have done this journey on our bike. We found summer in Patagonia cold enough. I think there were times Mike wished he was on his R100GSPD or even his mountain bike instead of the car but compromises had to be made to enjoy at least part of this great country at this time of year. We had a great time with Mike and Jane and would love to see them tackle a similar journey on their own bike.
Posted by Ken Duval at 03:51 PM