We planned to meet Luis at our hostel to ride down together with his other biker friends, but he got delayed and told us to go on ahead. We rode down to Mar Del Plata, and there were hundreds of Harleys on the road and I was getting more and more excited about the rally. Our friend Ralph had mailed us and asked us if we were going, and we were both really looking forward to seeing him there too.
The ride to Mar del Plata was tarnished somewhat by the two hours of rain we had to ride through, and by the time we got to the city by the sea, we were desperate to change and dry off. We rode to our hostel, the other bikers had purchased rally tickets that included accommodation in a plush hotel and all the meals for the weekend, but we had no ticket, the price being way above our budget. I had mailed the organiser and arranged to meet him in the hotel where the other rally participants were staying.
Mar Del Plata, 1 million visitors a year, and no idea why!
Once we had refreshed ourselves in our hostel, we rode down to the hotel and were greeted with a huge “moto hug” by Sergio, the main organiser.
We explained that we really couldn’t afford the ticket price for the event, but would really like to come on some of the rides and just to hang out with some of the other riders.
Arriving at the Rally HQ
He gave us an outline of the weekend’s planned events and told us we would be more than welcome to join in on the rides and activities if we wanted.
We met up with Ralph, and then Luis showed up and introduced us to all of his friends. We were made to feel really welcome by the riders and they all showed great interest in our trip. We arranged to go back to the hotel the next day to go on a ride with everybody, and made our way back to our hostel.
There was a lot on offer in Mar Del Plata, drag shows, cabaret, live music and nightclubs all had queues of people waiting to enter, and the streets were busy all night long.
We retired to our hostel in a vain attempt to get an early night in preparation for the events of the first official day of the rally, but our hostel was in the middle of the main pedestrian street, and drunken revellers kept us awake for most of the night. After breakfast, we rode down to the rally hotel and met up with our fellow bikers.
New Mates, Los Piratas MC
We set off for the ride through the city centre just as the rain started. We rode through the city with a police escort , and thousands of people came to watch as the hundreds of Harleys rolled through the centre. We stopped for a coffee break outside a mall, and the rain became heavier. I decided to call it a day, and Jacquie and I spent the day wondering around the “Bodies” exhibition in the city centre.
That night, we went out with Ralph and Paula who had invited us to dinner with them in a sushi restaurant they had been recommended, and after eating our fill and polishing off another couple of bottles of wine, we raced each other back through the city to the hotel. Sergio, the organiser, was there, and he wanted us to meet his partner, another Sergio, who had complimentary tickets for the rest of the rally waiting for us. He said that he was very happy to have us join the rally, after travelling so far and for so long, and that we were an inspiration to him and a bunch of the riders. Apparently, we were the talk of the town, the English couple who rode from Florida to Ushuaia, and who were now in Buenos Aires.
We arrived early the next morning for the ride out, and were interviewed by two TV stations, putting my Spanish to the test as I ummed and erred my way through the interview. Fortunately, the sun was finally out, everyone had sparkly clean bikes (except us) and the riders were all in really good spirits. We were introduced to more new friends, and the questions about the trip were flowing. Was it not dangerous in Colombia? How corrupt were the police in Central America? How did you cross the Darien Gap? How do you cope with the dirt roads? And so on.
Then the signal was given to mount up and start our engines. Over 200 Harleys roared to life and left the hotel in convoy to ride to the Balcarce museum, and the Fangio family Finca.
Fangio was a famous Argentine motor racer, who had raced for many years in many types of car, from rally to track, and had beaten Stirling Moss on many occasions in his heyday. His record for 5 Formula 1 drivers championship wins stood for 46 ears, until Michael Schumacher surpassed it with Ferrari. The museum held a collection of cars owned and driven by Fangio, and the range of vehicles was truly awesome, from 1940’s American saloons to beautiful 1950’s Mercedes’, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari track cars, right up to modern formula 1 cars.
Sergio had a surprise in store for all of us, and after the museum, we rode to the Fangio Family ranch, and straight on to his private racetrack. We let loose on the track, most of us giving our bikes all we had, hurtling round the track. Jacquie and I were racing round the track, 2 up on our heavy tourer, passing the majority of the other riders on lighter, smaller bikes, as we scraped our floorboards on the track.
Here's something you don't see every day, a bunch of Harley on a racetrack!
Garth loved his run-around, and we loved watching the faces of the guys on Sportsters as we flew by on our “RoadBus”.
Even when our rear brakes failed, we were still out braking the smaller bikes, and were going in and coming out of the corners quicker than most of the others on the track. Fair enough, we were probably the only ones on the track who were really “racing” but my God how we enjoyed ourselves!
We would have kept on going round and round the track until we ran out of gas, but were called off the track after 6 or 7 laps, and after we pulled off the track, I inspected the bike to see what had caused the rear brakes to fail. The answer was easy to find. The pipe carrying the brake fluid to the rear pads had ruptured, and there was no more brake fluid in the line. I would have to rely on my front brakes until we got back to Buenos Aires.
We left the track and rode a short distance to the main house of the Finca, where a lavish meal awaited. I sat down with Luis and his Bike Club, the “Piratas”. Again, we made more friends over lunch, and after the meal, we were accosted by Sergio who insisted that we had to take part in the Harley Games.
Garth wins the first round of the slow race!!
We competed in slow races, where I was beaten, in the final round, by a guy called Edgar, a rider from Cordoba on a sportster. I joined Edgar after the races, and he introduced me to his friends from Cordoba. They were all really cool guys, and Jacquie and I were made to feel really welcome. Edgar said that we were both welcome to come stay with him if we made it up to Cordoba.
More drinking and fun and games ensued. Jacquie and I competed in some games for couples, and we narrowly missed taking home first place in the “bite the wiener” competition.
We hung out at the Fangio Finca for the rest of the afternoon, making more friends with the bikers from all over South America; Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru, and left as the sun was setting.
The Farewell dinner
We rode back en masse, and that evening at the farewell dinner we watched the video of the rally that the organisers had made over the weekend. I hopped from table to table, not having one of my own, chatted to my new friends, swapped email addresses, and said my farewells. Luis insisted that we ride back with him and the Piratas, and that on our arrival in Buenos Aires, we should stay with him and not return to the hostel.
We awoke the next morning to grey overcast skies, and after breakfast, we hugged our mates Ralph and Paula, who were heading back to Chile, and rode off to wards B.A.
We rode under the overcast skies for half an hour or so, and then the rain came down in earnest. We pulled over to step into our wet gear, before heading out up the motorway to B.A. We stopped en route for lunch at a roadside diner, and arrived back in the city where the riders split off in different directions to return to their homes, while we followed Luis back to his apartment.
We spent the next few days exploring more of the city, we hung out with Adrian, visited my distant cousins, and ate more meat than is generally advisable for human consumption.
The view over the city from my cousin's apartment in Recoletta
Luis was a perfect host, with many friends who took it in turns to come to his house and share an Asado with his British guests.
Luis hard at work at the Asado
The bike went back to the Harley dealer who repaired my rear brake pipe, and then got the bike valeted for free by a friend of Luis who owned a bike valet company.
Over the next few days, we went to tango shows, visited the grave of Eva Peron at the Recoleta cemetery, resting place of some of Argentina's most influential, wealthy and important departed, and strolled through as yet unexplored parts of the city, from the delightfully crumbling San Telmo, to the boutique paradise and bar heaven of Palermo, to the wealthy and exclusive Recoleta. We spent a day running from the mosquitos in the botanical gardens, ate ice cream from a few of the many Italian style Ice cream parlors dotted around the city, and just generally got to the know the city a bit better.
The Recoleta Cometary, and the grave of Eva Peron
We met up with our new biker friends for a ride out of the city to an all you can eat beef buffet, more meat, and we hung out with Diego, also a new friend from the rally in Mar Del Plata. Diego had a business selling action figures over the Internet, and he was using a small flat in Palermo as a showroom. He invited us over to check out his wares. We went up in the lift to the 7th floor and were greeted by a life-sized cut out of a storm trooper guarding the door to the flat.
We were shown around his huge collection of Star Wars figures, masks and spacecraft, and Comic and Cartoon action figures of all shapes and sizes, all in their original box, stacked from floor to ceiling in two of the rooms of the flat. He told me that this was nothing compared to his collection at his home, and I believed him.
We went out that night to sample some of the famous Palermo nightlife, with Diego and his mates leading us through the city.
Having local friends in a big city completely change the view you have of the place.
Tourists in cities are such outsiders, it takes a local to be able to pin point the hot spots of the moment. Guide books are usually three or so years put of date from the time they are researched to the time they are printed, and in a fast moving city, the in-place normally gets replaced by the “New In –Place” every 6 months or so. Plus going out in a city either alone or with a group of fellow “Gringos’ closes as many doors as it opens. We loved having Diego and Luis around to take us out, show us around and generally make our experience so much better than if we were relying on guide books, and even the recommendations of other travellers.
We extended our stay in Buenos Aires and ended up staying with Luis for 10 days after we returned from Mar Del Plata, or “Night-Mar Del Plata” as Jacquie liked to call it.
We made one last trip with Diego and his family to see Tigre, a port surrounded by streams and rivers, that plays host to a variety of markets at the weekend, and is also the starting point for boat trips along the river, and antique mahogany boats ferried tourists up and down on sightseeing excursions.
It was a slog for us to pack up and leave Buenos Aires. We had some good friends here, we really liked the city, the food was good, the weather had mostly behaved itself, and there was still plenty for us to see and do. But we decided it was time to move on.
Jacquie was going to fulfil a lifetime dream of riding horses with the Gaucho’s of Argentina, and while she was off doing that, I would stay with another new found friend form the Harley rally, Edgar, in Cordoba.
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