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Oct 25th - Nov 18th 2009

Argentina

 

25/10-6/11/2009

San Telmo, Buenos Aires (Hotel Los Robles & Hostel Carlos Gardel)

25/10/2009 - Leaving Cape Town at 10:30 this morning we landed in Buenos Aires at 15:00 after a 9 and a half hour flight.

We passed through passport control and immigration without the expected questions about why we only had a one way ticket. Collect the baggage and outside into a bright sunny day and first things first, spark up a fag.

We found an English speaking taxi driver, jumped in, and asked to be taken to a cheap, nice hotel somewhere near the port.

After driving around San Telmo knocking on doors trying to find a room, we eventually landed at Hotel Los Robles. We think we might have been bumped on the taxi fare as the “Lonely Planet” quoted a taxi ride from the airport to downtown at around $US 30, we paid $US 60!!! Spot the tourist.  The Hotel wasn't too bad with Fan and TV with English language channels but no cooking facilities so we were eating and drinking out.

Had our first taste of Argentinean beef, the best yet.

26/10/2009 - Went into town to find our shipping agent and surprisingly found it very easily. The ship arrives on 31/10 so they had no info on their system yet but ran us through the procedure and said they would call us when they were ready.

Bimbled around the city for the rest of the afternoon then back to San Telmo to hunt down other accommodation. We found a Hostel just around the corner from the Hotel, although more expensive it included breakfast had free internet and cooking facilities, we move in tomorrow.

27/10/2009 - As the new accom was just a couple of blocks away we moved our kit in two stages, why do we have so much???? Passing the coffee shop next to the Hostel we noticed a loaded Kawasaki KLR with California plates parked up, it’s rider having a coffee. We acknowledged each other, and after dumping off the first load of our gear in the Hostel went back for a chat. Serdar Sunny Unal  has been travelling South America for a while on and off and was making his way back home, with tales of the many breakdowns and troubles he has had with the KLR, he was not expecting it to make it all the way. We picked his brains and got some useful info before he set off.

The rest of the gear was moved across the road and we settled into our new room, up two flights of stairs to the second floor, why do we have so much gear????

Not sure where we will park the bike when we get it back, there is a lot of activity on the street all hours. We have noticed one of the locals who looks like a self proclaimed parking attendant looking after the street, waiving in any passing car if there is a space to park, but mostly he just leans on the cars, chain smoking and sneaking a shifty drink now and then, not sure I want to trust him with the bike.

28/10/2009 - Not much happening today, sit out on the balcony in the sun and catch up on the website then a wander around the locality. Went over to the kitchen to cook up some dinner and it was throbbing, a very small kitchen for the size of the place so we just had snacks.

29/10/2009 - Went into the city again today to buy insurance for the bike. I had got an address for a reputable company from the HUBB and found it no problem. Insurance sorted for the next 4 months, Argentina only.

More wandering around. Because we hadn't eaten yesterday we treated ourselves to lunch, some tasty butterbeans were brought out to spread on the bread as a starter. Lorraine had an omelette which she was told was going to be big but ordered it anyway, then couldn't eat it all.

30/10/2009 - Paid SSL for their part of the shipping, we now have to wait for customs after the ship arrives and also have to find out how much the warehousing is going to cost.

31/10/2009 - Bike due to arrive today.

The weather has taken a turn for the worse, heavy rain with thunder and lightening which lasts all day and most  of the night.

01/11/2009 - Heavy rain back again today until around 17:00.

San Telmo closes off a couple of streets on Sundays for the local market so we spend the afternoon there watching the street bands and goings on. Had dinner in the “Gibraltar” pub, an “Olde English” pub, not with Olde English prices tho!

We were hoping to come across some impromptu Tango which is supposed to happen a lot around the bars but had no success.

02/11/2009 - Weather still rubbish today with heavy rain. No news from SSL about us being able to go to Customs to clear the paperwork.

03/11/2009 - Hopefully we will hear from SSL today. While we wait we play the tourist around Buenos Aires. First off we paid a visit to Café Tortoni, the oldest café in Argentina, where we had to wait outside with the concierge until a table became free. We thought it was going to cost us an arm and a leg but they haven't jumped on the tourist bandwagon and the prices were reasonable. After a coffee we headed to Avenida 9 Julio, a 16 lane road that is hectic at rush hour. We were going to climb the 67m Obelisk as the Rough Guide says you can, but when we got there it was closed off. Rough guide wrong again! The rest of the day was spent walking around town visiting museums and the old buildings.

In Plaza de Mayo, Casa Rosada, The Pink House, named as an anomaly to the White House in Washington, is the seat of government in BA and where Evita Peron (and Madonna, in the film “Evita”) made their speeches from the balcony.

We spotted a war veterans encampment in the Plaza grounds, but not knowing the sort of reception we might receive we stayed clear. A bit of investigation revealed that they had been there since 2001 protesting about the lack of recognition they were getting from the government. A Daily Telegraph report here.

Next up, Puerto Madero, the 19th century port redeveloped and modernised with casinos, expensive apartment blocks, cafes and shops.

Still no news from SSL so we did a bit of research on the net and found that the ship had docked and our container had been unloaded today.

We had got talking to a couple of Brits amongst the other backpackers staying at Carlos Gardel, you know you are getting old when they ask you at 22:00 what your plans are for the evening. They were getting ready to go out on the town, we were getting ready for bed!!!!

04/11/2009 - Finishing off yesterdays sightseeing today with a trip to “La Boca”, to visit the brightly painted houses with clay figures hanging out of the windows that represent famous artists of the area. However, when we got there it was not what we expected, a tumbled down artificial house fronts that were in need of a bit of touching up.

Still nothing from SSL, so we contacted them again and were told we could pick the bike up tomorrow or Friday.

Went out to a recommended restaurant for more realllllly nice steak, I don't think this country is going to be good for my cholesterol levels!!

05/11/2009 - Unpacked the panniers so that after visiting customs, we could load up the stuff that was shipped in the crate with the bike. While we were waiting for the taxi we got talking to Sebastian and his wife Alesandro, bikers from Columbia. They gave us some contacts in Columbia and invited us to stay with them when we arrive there.

The taxi to customs arrived 10:00 and quoted us AR$18, after driving around looking for the customs office without success he asked at the local cop shop, customs was just across the road, AR$30 for the ride thank you very much!

10:30, in the customs office we were given a number, 13, and told to wait in the waiting room, so we did. At 12:45 we were told that they were about to close for lunch until 14:30, we could leave the panniers in their office while we amused ourselves and told the reason they were running late was because of some bulk imports in the queue before us.

We decided to try and find the warehouse and get some idea of what it was going to cost to get the bike out, so asking at the port gate where the address was that we had, we were told it was a long way and would need to get a taxi. Taxi flagged down and a 5 minute ride, we arrived at the warehouse and had to wait 20 minutes for them to come back from lunch. Some very helpful staff who thankfully spoke English told us that without the paperwork that was at customs they couldn't give us any costings as they didn't have the shipping details. After we had given them our name, the agents name and they found out that the bike in their warehouse was ours, they said they could pull the details up but it would take a while and call them back at 18:00. They would also have a chat with the customs office in the yard to see if they could bend the rules and let us unpack and rebuild the bike in the yard, usually the whole crate has to leave the secure area and be delivered to an outside address, could be costly!!!

14:30 and back at customs to rejoin the queue, and carry on waiting. At 16:00 we are starting to panic, number “12” has been and gone ages ago and out of nowhere number “4” turns up and goes in ahead of us. The office closes at 16:30 and we are expecting to be told to come back tomorrow, bummer. Just before closing time, the guy we had seen in the morning reappears and asks why we are still waiting, a shrug of the shoulders from us and he apologises and says he will clear everything for us now. 7 hours later and we have all the required paperwork and stamps, he also rang the warehouse for us and found out how much we were going to be charged AR$1933, ouch!

Not picking the bike up today!

Trying to get a taxi back to the Hostel we are told that because it is rush hour it will take ages and will cost a fortune, better to get a collectivo (bus). And it was, only AR$1.20 each, quicker and plenty of them. Now we know where we have to go tomorrow we will be using the collectivo, a big saving.

06/11/2009 - Two buses and we arrived at the warehouse at 11:00, easy….. Paperwork handed in to the office for them to process and we were given the ok from customs to rebuild the bike and ride out of the warehouse. With plenty of help from the warehouse guys we had the bike unpacked, rebuilt and loaded in 1 hour 30 minutes, which was of course by now lunchtime. We could come back to customs in 1 hour unless we were in a rush to go, but not wanting to push our luck we said we would wait until after their lunch. 30 minutes later, the customs guy reappears and says he will finish off our paperwork so we could get going. Paying up, yesterdays quote of AR$1933 was now AR$1355 … nice!

Back at the Hostel, without incident through the manic traffic and rain we fitted the last couple of bits to the bike. Asking if it was safe to park on the street overnight we were told it definitely wasn't, but that there is a garage around the corner that is secure. The rest of the gear has been lugged up the stairs, now we have to unpack and repack ready for the road again.

07/11/2009

Start Mileage - 19938

Miles - 257

Buenos Aires (Hostel Carlos Gardel) - Tortugas (ACA Petrol Station)

With the bike out of the garage we now start the knackering process of shifting everything down the stairs to load up. An hour later with talking to everyone that passed, we managed to get the bike loaded, need a coffee!

The satnav wouldn't pick up on any satellites due to the buildings so we are expecting another mission just to get out of BA. Thankfully we acquired satellites quite soon and navigated our way out quite easily to the friendly honks and toots from the cars and trucks, stopping us at every light to find out where we were from and where we were going, very friendly. Once out of the city confines we are on Ruta 9 heading for Rosario, our planned stop.

Rosario is another big city, with no camping, and we arrived just as a big football match had finished. The streets were full of (possibly drunk) people and heavily armed police. Pulling up at a junction that had two friendly looking motorcycle cops, only one had a shotgun hanging from his shoulder as well as some big side arms, we asked for directions as best we could. Neither spoke English but understood what we were after and radioed for another cop who could speak English. Definitely no campsites in or near Rosario only Hotels so we were better off heading out towards Cordoba. We pulled into a gas station in Tortugas to fill up and grab a coffee, the attendant asked where we were headed and said that we could camp around the back for free, we said thanks.

 

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08 - 11/11/2009

Start Mileage - 20195

Miles - 220

Tortugas (ACA Petrol Station) - Carlos Paz (ACA Campsite)

08/11/2009 - Pack up and grab a coffee before hitting the Ruta 9 to Cordoba, our next planned stop. A nice run through the villages and occasionally having to jump onto the boring Auto Ruta 9. It’s a bit blowy today and the riding is hard work, all good practice for the notorious Ruta 40 that we are going to have to negotiate next year!!!

Seeing a couple of coaches parked at a roadside diner we guessed it might be a good place to stop for lunch. While we were waiting for the restaurant to clear, we were accosted by two old dears off one of the buses. After much sign language and basic English and Spanish we got through our story so far. Amazed at what we were doing they got the rest of the bus passengers in on the conversation, lots of shaking of hands and pictures taken.

Lunch consumed and back into the wind. We found the recommended (Rough Guide) camp site in Cordoba, beautiful setting on a river and fully serviced it was not! Move on to another site on the Garmin about 30Km’s out of Cordoba.

As we plan to be in Viedma for the HU travellers meeting on 11-13/12/2009 we are just short hopping our way down, staying a couple of days at different campsites on the way to kill time.

 

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09/11/2009 - Day around the campsite and a long walk into town for a bank.

10/11/2009 - Campsite all day.

11/11/2009 - Sussed out the buses. We left going into town until later because of the long lunch hours and managed to find an outdoor shop that had Camping Gaz, so we cleared them out of their supply, 1 canister. Camping Gaz is not easily found in South America apparently. Post Office next to send back the carnet to the RAC and tax forms to South Africa Customs.

Dinner in town and a long walk back to the campsite, we haven't sussed the buses that well!!

 

12/11/2009

Start Mileage - 20415

Miles - 23

Carlos Paz (ACA Campsite) - Alta Gracia (Hosteria Country El Bigua)

Big mileage today!!! A slow pack suffering in the heat then ride round to the gas station next door for fuel and coffee. I plugged into the Garmin what I thought was a campsite in Alta Gracia although when we arrived it was only a restaurant, no sign of camping. Sat in the shade looking at the maps to find a site nearby, a car pulled up and started taking pictures of the bike, we asked him for directions to a campsite and he pointed us 2 Km’s down the road to an Estancia (old ranch). We arrived at an empty campsite, very quiet and some shade. The lady that owns the ranch supplied us with a flask of hot water for drinks, just ask for more when we need it. We chased the shade until it was cooler around 19:00 then went into the town for food. The Moreno restaurant is recommended in the book but when we got there it was closed, must be out of season, so we headed back to the restaurant we had stopped at before getting to the campsite only to find they don't open until 21:00, that explains the Moreno being shut. Off around the corner for a beer in a local bar while we wait for dinner. More steak!

 

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13/11/2009

Alta Gracia (Hosteria Country El Bigua)

Day trip to the museum of Che Guevara’s house in Alta Gracia.

The museum houses Che,s personal effects and photographs charting his life from carefree kid to swarthy teenager to Marxist revolutionary.

Che was born in Rosario, his parents moved the family here when he was 4 in the hope that the mountain air would help his asthma . He started to study as a doctor, then travelled 4,000 Km’s on a motorised pushbike and saw all the injustices in Argentina. He finished his doctor ship in a leper hospital. He then travelled on an old Norton with a friend round all of South America seeing more injustices. He married twice and had several children, basically abandoning them when he met Fidel Castro and went off to fight the cause. When the fight was won, he was given Cuban citizenship. Fidel gave him several high ranking posts in his command such as Minister of Finance - hence Cuban bank notes with his picture on. He handed in his resignation and went to fight the cause in Congo. He was caught back in Bolivia and assassinated.

Quite enjoyed that museum!

It started raining back at the camp site. We headed in to town for dinner again around 20:30, not thinking the rain would come to much. Half way through dinner, there was an almighty thunderstorm and it poured down! We made it back in a dry spell, but it got much worse through the night.  

 

14/11/2009

Start Mileage - 20468

Miles - 34

Alta Gracia (Hosteria Country El Bigua) - Villa General Belgrano (Albergue El Rincon)

Everything in the front of the tent was a bit damp this morning after the thunderstorm. It soon dried out in the sun though. A slow pack, another Thermos from the owner, and we are ready to leave by midday. A nice ride over the mountains and past Lago Los Molinos.

Villa General Belgrano is a lovely town with a strong German and Swiss influence, founded by survivors of the Graaf Spee sunk off the coast of Uruguay in WWII. It has the biggest Oktoberfest celebrations outside of Germany, and a lot of alpine style buildings, mostly restaurants and gift shops selling steins. We booked into a Hostel which also has camping space. We parked up and put the tent up next to 3 lads from Cordoba down here for the weekend. They were all over the bike as we pulled up, fumbling through our lack of Spanish we managed another conversation, we are getting better!

A trip into town for supplies for dinner, on the way in we crossed a bridge over a stream and spotted something in the water, it was a dog either cooling off in the water or having a sneaky pee!! Back to the tent and more struggled conversations with the three amigo’s, Guilermo, Guilermo and David. The lads invited us to share their Asado (barbecue) with them tonight, more great beef, chorizzo sausage all washed down with callamucho. A very pleasant evening.

 

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15 - 18/11/2009

Villa General Belgrano (Albergue El Rincon)

15/11/2009 - While we were sat with our morning cuppa one of the other campers on site came over for a chat. Guy, from Belgium who has been in South America, travelling between jobs for 5 years with his wife Didi, invited us over to their camper for a chat and a glass of wine this evening.

In the afternoon we wandered around the village, which was shut. Luckily we didn't want to buy a stein!

Arriving back at the site the tent was surrounded by the horses that we had been warned wandered around freely. One in particular got a bit too friendly, trying to get into the tent then trying to eat it, when this failed he just parked himself in front of the door so we couldn't get in. Eventually he wandered off, but not for long, coming back when he smelled the packet of nuts we had just opened. Trying to get them out of my pocket he followed me into the toilets and stood guard at the doorway, he soon gave up and I made my escape!

We cooked up yesterdays dinner then had a nice evening with Guy, Didi and Rusty, their Bolivian born, Flemish speaking dog.

16/11/2009 - Catching up on the website, enjoying the dry day. We wandered into town in the late afternoon, and decided to dine out tonight. By the time the restaurants opened and we had eaten, it was dark and we did not bring a torch! A hairy walk back making sure of our footing.

17/11/2009 - Decided not to move today. We are not sure if it is just because we don’t want to reach Viedma too soon before the meeting, or if we are not back into the swing of travelling. Guy and I spent all afternoon on the computer, swapping maps, films and music.

We have had a problem with zips on the tent lately. The zip on the front entrance has packed in completely, so Lorraine stitched it to keep it together in the wind. We will have to use one of the side entrances for a while till we can get it repaired. It started to drizzle late in the afternoon. The locals said it had not rained here for a long time, and they were hoping for a good rain. It came later in the evening! The storm we had in Alta Gracia had followed us, and it kept up most of the night. Fortunately, the tent is pitched on a slope, so we did not get soaked.

18/11/2009 - Still not moving, maybe tomorrow! Lorraine has been swapping books wherever she can. She picked up one in South Africa that someone had written where they had picked it up and where it had travelled. She added where we had travelled with the book, asked to be kept informed of it’s future travels and swapped it today. We hope to hear from it soon! Another storm through the night.

 

 

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