September 30, 2008 GMT
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???)

001 Planting plum trees San Rafael P8170084.jpg
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.

002 Arnies birthday dinner San Rafael P8190103.jpg
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.

003 Travelers at Dakarmotos Buenos Aires  P8220107.jpg
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.

004 Dog walkers Buenos Aires P8290003.jpg
Dog walkers in Caballito

005a Buenos Aires P8300086.jpg
Beautiful architecture in Buenos Aires

006 Eva Peron mausoleum in Recoleta Cemetery B A IMG_4355.jpg
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.

007 Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo B A IMG_4292.jpg
Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo march every Thursday in remembrance of their children who disappeared during the “dirty war” of the 1970’s

008 Showing photos of the  children who disappeared IMG_4302.jpg
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.

009 San Telmo markets B A IMG_4404.jpg
Antiques market in San Telmo

010 Tango dancing in San Telmo B A IMG_4445.jpg
Tango dancing in San Telmo

011 Jane Ken and Mike eating empanadas in San Telmo IMG_4474.jpg
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.

012 The colours of La Boca B A IMG_4517.jpg
The colours of La Boca

013 La Boca  IMG_4537.jpg
Street vendors, La Boca

014 Tango dancing in La Boca IMG_4636.jpg
Tango dancing

015 Colourful people in La Boca IMG_4713.jpg
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.

016 More Tango La Boca IMG_4733.jpg
More Tango dancing

017 Even more Tango La Boca P9010088.jpg
We never got tired of watching this

018 Caminito Street La Boca IMG_4764.jpg
Caminito Street, La Boca

019 Caminito Street La Boca P9010013.jpg
Caminito Street

020 Jane Mike and Ken La Boca IMG_4822.jpg
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.

021 With Juan Carlos at the B A apartment  P9020008.jpg
Pizza and Vino with Juan Carlos at the Caballito apartment

022 Putting the bike back together at Dakarmotos P9040046.jpg
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.

023 Road to the pass P9120043.jpg
On the road to Paso Los Libertadores

024 Mike Ken and Jane at Paso Los Libertadores IMG_4909.jpg
It’s cold at the pass

025 Jane and Mike at the curves Paso Los Libertadores  IMG_4937.jpg
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.

026 Some of our friends from The Aperrados Moto Club Santiago Chile P9130101.jpg
Some of our friends from the Aperrados Moto Club in Santiago

027 Mike with Belly dance Santiago rP9130092.jpg
Swing those hips Michael!!

028 With Mario and his dogs in  Santiago P9130113.jpg
With Mario and some of his dogs in Santiago

029 Volcano  Llama Chile P9140170.jpg
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.

030 Icalma  Chile IMG_4977.jpg
Lots of snow at Icalma

031  Near Icalma_A little further along we had to turn around as the road was impassable.jpg
A little further along this road near Icalma we had to turn around as there was too much mud and snow

032 A farmhouse near Villarrica Chile  IMG_5005.jpg
Farmhouse near Villarrica

033 Asado in Entre Lagos Chile P9160308.jpg
Asado in Entre Lagos

034  Crossing Paso Cardenal Samore on our way to Bariloche  P9160338.jpg
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!!

035 On top of the world at Cerro Catedral  near Bariloche IMG_5132.jpg
On top of the world at Cerra Catedral near Bariloche

036 Mike and friends at Cerro Catedral  IMG_5169.jpg
Mike and friends at Cerra Catedral

037 Cerveza sampling in Bariloche  IMG_5209.jpg
Sampling Cerveza in Bariloche

038 The road to San Martin de Los Andes   IMG_5223.jpg
The road to San Martin de Los Andes was a little rough in the rent-a-car

039 Spring in San Martin de Los Andes P9190498.jpg
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.

040 Las Lenas  Ski fields near Malargue IMG_5333.jpg
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!!!

041 Canon de Atuel near San Rafael IMG_5416.jpg
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.

042 Chicken mechanic   P9300027.jpg
Chicken mechanic

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.

043 Another asado IMG_1376.jpg
Another asado

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.

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