26 Mar – 4 Apr 2016: Onto Buenos Aires & organizing the bike freight

We didn’t get far – we needed petrol so stopped in the garage at the top of the road; and as we waited in the queue, one of the tourist touts came across and pointed at the bike saying ‘aciete’ – I climbed off, and could see oil dripping from the engine……!!

Stew pulled out of the queue, and parked up by the side. It was definitely dripping – Stew had a good look, and decided he knew exactly what is was – the oil filter seals. Superman Stew, is amazing – he knew he had spare seals, and soon had the tool box out, and the box of spares. It took a bit of rummaging but he came up with the goods – and then set about replacing the seals. He just had to find a plastic soda bottle, in the bin – he could use to catch the oil. We were drawing a bit if attention, from passersby, and having photos taken again. But it was a pretty speedy turn round, and Stew had us all fixed up and back on the road half an hour later.

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We filled up with petrol and were finally on our way out of town. The sky was not as bright as the forecast; in fact it definitely looked like rain – even though the forecast had only been cloudy! But we set off hopefully, after ~80 km we reached Eldorado, where we had stayed one night on the drive up to Iguasu. We stopped for another fuel fill, and got a coffee, so we could look over the map. There were blue skies at one side, and all black the other. It was a bit early to stop, so we decided to keep going.

The weather was trying to brighten, but then was totally thwarted with the heavier onslaught of black clouds; we just had to stop and put on our waterproofs. We were both getting cool-ish, so the extra layer really helped. It rained on and off for the next couple of hours. We got as far as Obera, and by now we were pretty wet – we’d had enough for today, and were looking for a hotel. We drove right through town both directions, and really couldn’t spot anything. We even tried the GPS, and an address we’d found for some cabanas, at the garage; both getting us nowhere. Then on the way out of town again, Stew saw a sign for a hotel, so I tapped the address in the GPS, it was 3 km away, and we had to turn round and head back through town again. Stew was going pretty slow, and we were both looking for anywhere else – I was checking all the side streets and across the street as we passed too. We were close to the centre area, and I spotted a small hotel sign down a side street – Stew soon turned round, and pulled over. It was fine, a room was 500 peso, and there was secure parking. It was already 4pm, and we were both ready for a hot coffee to warm up. We were quite cold from the drive, and ended up under the bedding to get cosy.

The rain became even more persistent – definitely not on the forecast, and in the end we couldn’t be bothered to venture out. We had a few emergency supplies, that would make us a snack meal for the evening, and we had fruit and cereal for breakfast. Hopefully it would be fine in the morning – again the forecast was for no rain, but you never know. The shower facilities were great, with really hot water that was so good, and after we got comfy on the bed, putting together the food supplies we had. We started with wine and some peanuts and corn chips we had left. Then Stew had a boiled egg sandwich, while I made some wheat crackers with cheese and luncheon meat. We managed to get a bit of English TV – a pretty ‘odd – bizarre’ film, and then we watched a CSI episode, before turning in for the night, with music over the headphones.

We both woke a bit through the night, and all I could hear were drips and rain patters. Unbelievably it was still raining when we woke in daylight ~ 7.30am. Stew put some hot water on so we could make tea, and we could see though the room window just how grey and wet it was – Not very pleasant to have to think about to go out on the bike again all day. And it was Easter Sunday, so there would be hardly anything open – except the church I imagine. We lounged another hour with a coffee, and it was still miserable, grey and wet – so we decided it would best to just stay here another night. We could wander the town in our raincoats, and take the brolly and hopefully we could get a few supplies too, even at the garage is nothing else was open. First though we went to reception to see about staying another night, that was fine and we soon paid up another 500 peso. Around 10am we put on the wet gear and headed out. It was quite miserable, grey and soppy wet – not down pouring but just seeping drizzle, that still gets everything wet. But it was good to get out for a couple of hours, and not just have the four walls for scenery the whole day. The town was really quiet, few pedestrians or traffic, and the majority of the shops closed. It did look like the church was open for a 10.30am service. So we wandered round the pretty much deserted streets, heading in the direction of the ‘Parque de las naciones’. We did find a couple of small shops open, that would likely close by lunch – so we decided we’d go in and get a few supplies, ‘just in case’, as we had pretty much consumed all that we were carrying, with the 2 meals we’d already made. We continued on our way, and found the walk to the ‘parque’ further than we expected out of town. It was getting wetter; the street sides awash with run-off, but we were already soggy so we just kept going. We found the ‘parque’ at the top of a hill, with a large entrance gate. It was slightly open, though the whole place looked deserted – so we wandered in all the same. It was a huge place, and really quite a nice setup to recognize all the nationalities of immigrants that have come together to make this community in Obera. Apparently in September, they have a big festival and everyone dresses in national costumes, with regional dishes on offer too; but it made for an interesting place to wander for a while, and I did snap a few photos of our wet walkabout in Obera.

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We headed back to the room for a sandwich lunch. It was still raining though it did get a bit better, and Stew was getting cabin fever, so we headed out again for an hour. At least it wasn’t raining, even though the sky was still pretty grey. We ended trying four different bank ATM’s before we could get any cash. They are totally unfathomable and make no sense; but thankfully we did manage to get some peso out in the end. We headed out to see what we could get for dinner, ~7.30pm – it was still quiet out, but a few eating places were open. There was not much inspiring on offer, most places advertising the same menu! – and most were empty even though it was 7.45pm by the time we’d walked a bit. We did see some great ‘furry’ trees though, and a very endangered species, going by the amount of barbed wire that was protecting the plant! And a very cool yellow car. In the end we decided on the ‘Tijuana’ on a street corner near the main square. It had an upstairs, and even though only a couple more tables were occupied, we could sit and watch look down over the street. In the end we decided to share the brochettes (1 carne and 1 pollo) with Spanish potatoes, and papas fritas and a beer. It was rather disappointing. The best thing was the small basket of fresh little bread rolls – Stew made ‘Croyde’ size chip butties, but had enough after 4. We ate our fill, but can’t say it was a really enjoyable meal – it was just food, but at least the view and company was good. We paid up and wandered back to the hotel – and as we walked passed the open door of the church, we could see where the crowds were this evening; the place was packed – and it was nearly 9pm.

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I didn’t sleep too bad, except for the Chinese water torture – drip, drip, drip, drip that kept waking me from time to time. Then by daybreak finally illuminating the room, it was a treat to see a patch of blue sky out of the window. We had a nice leisurely breakfast in bed, before getting up to pack the bike again, and were on the road ~10am. There was no big rush; we were trying to take about a week to get to Buenos Aires and only 1200 km to go. There were two options for stopping today; Carlos Pelligrini on the huge Lago Ibera and wetlands (Route 41), or Santo Tome (Route 14) following the Uruguay River. Both had reasonable places to stay, Ibera being more touristy, and Santo Tome a small town with a border crossing across the river to Uruguay, but I’d found one bigg-ish hotel-casino in there, with a nice pool. Once we knew the road conditions better, we’d make a decision when we got to the junction.

The drive was so much better today, even though a bit cool and fresh, the patchy blue sky and no rain, made it so much brighter. I was checking all the side roads, and there must have been so much rain in the past few days. Most were a complete quagmire – a washout with huge red puddles, and entrenched slippery red mud. There was no way we were going to tackle any unsurfaced roads today.

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We’d driven around 100 miles, and stopped at next service station. It was pretty big and busy, but had a decent café and wifi, so we went in for a cuppa. With the wifi, I could do a bit more checking of the roads. To Ibera, it was definitely unsurfaced, and we read another traveler took 3 hrs to drive the 120 km – and with today’s conditions, that really decided it for us, we’d keep on the R-14 and head to Santo Tome. We drove into town ~1pm, it was already very sleepy and quiet, getting on for siesta time. We ended up having to drive round the block and huge town square, with a cathedral of course. The old town architecture and buildings were really nice; huge ornate fascias, shuttered windows, and huge wooden doorways. Most look passed their sell by date, with little maintenance evident, though still very much in use, while others were completely derelict. And then we spotted the Condado – Casino hotel on the next block corner. It was so out of character – as we saw the attached gaudy casino first.

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We’d passed a couple of smaller places driving through town, but none that looked appealing. So we pulled up to the hotel entrance and I went in to enquire. It was 1145 peso, so the most we’d so far paid, but we knew there was a nice big pool, included a buffet breakfast, had wifi and parking. So we agreed we’d stay a couple of nights. The place was much as you’d expect for a ~$100 AUD a night; a spacious room, with large bathroom, big TV and small minibar. We soon got settled in making a brew and getting online. It was Sairha’s birthday morning in Perth (~4am) – so I sent a Happy Birthday email with the ‘birthday card’ photo of me and her dad at Iguasu, that Olaf had taken for us. And saying we could try skype when then got up ~8am (9pm here for us). I also sent off the email to DakarMoto-BA– Motofreight-UK, just to give an eta of our arrival date in Buenos Aires, and check on arrangements to get the air freight organized.

Stew wanted a walk, but it was well into siesta time, so I said a swim – and we went to check out the facilities. There was a games room, a gym (though by the look of the equipment it hadn’t been used for ages), a sauna and spa, but outside in the garden was best. There was a nice big pool, and loungers and not another guest in sight! The afternoon was warm and sunny, and even though the pool wasn’t heated, I was definitely going for a swim. Stew agreed it would be best to spend a couple of hours round the pool, while it was still warm, and then go walk about later. We went back to get our cossies, towels and books, and had a great afternoon by the pool.

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Later back in the room, it was still too early to go walkabout – so we set about looking online for forward travels, places to stay, camping and hotel options. We came up with a few options – and though it would be nice to camp again, from reading it seemed like a lot of the riverside campgrounds were a bit of a washout at the moment. We’d need to look for cabanas or hostels as back up to. It was after 6pm before we set out for a wander. We were looking for supermarkets or mini-markets and somewhere to eat, but it was so quiet – and even at this time not much open at all. We wandered all the streets, from what looked like the main street and square, and round the blocks, till we came to definitely residential blocks – but no sign of a supermarket, and few eating places, besides ice cream parlours (though they did sell beer too!). There were plenty of pharmacies, shoe and clothes shops & hardware – but we only found two small kiosks in an hour of wandering. We made one last walk up the main street, and now found the bakery open (It was after 7pm) – they had a beer fridge, and Stew said he’d be happy with a couple of empanadas for food. So that it what we did. There were a few tables out on the street side, so we sat out with a beer, and fresh warmed cheese and ham empanadas. It was such a pleasant setting now, and the streets were so much livelier than they had been an hour before; plenty of passing pedestrians young and old, and many local medico students and hospital staff (you could tell by their attire). We wandered back to the hotel by 8pm, and I pinged an email to the girls to let them know I’d switched on skype – it was 7am Perth time, and hopefully they’d be awake before Stew fell asleep. And Yay, Lacey came online, very sleepily, it was 9.15pm our time. She had us on her phone, got up and walked to Sairha’s room, so we could start by all singing her ‘Happy Birthday’ – it was so nice. They then switched over to the computer, and we told Sairha to check her email, so she could see the photo card – which she liked, and then open a few pressies from Lacey; pokemon earrings and socks :). The internet connection was a bit dodgy, and kept freezing, but we managed a lovely half hour talking, and hearing what they had been doing, before they had to go get ready. Lacey was on afternoon shifts all week, but they were cycling to the city together this morning, for a birthday brekkie at the bagel café – nice. So love and kisses over the ether, and we said we’d see them very soon. It was so lovely that we’d actually managed to make the link for Sairha’s birthday.

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When we got up the next day I went off for a morning swim. Stew said he’d go later. As usual, I had the place to myself; it was so nice. I was back up to the room by 8.30am, and we dressed to go down for a leisurely breakfast. There were a few other hotels guests, but not many. The buffet was pretty decent; the best we’ve had in Argentina, so we both enjoyed it – though you’d soon get bored of it after a couple of days. Stew said it was no comparison to the Asian breakfast buffets we’ve in KL and elsewhere! There was a nice selection of fresh fruits, and a fruit salad, yoghurts, cornflakes (cereal round here is so poor), breads, croissants, pastries, ham, cheese, jams – a toaster, tea, coffee and good orange juice too.

After we wandered into town again, finding a bigger supermarket, and getting a bag full, as our supplies were pretty low, so thought we’d deposit the shopping back in the room, before heading to the river. We walked along a different street, and I spotted the post office (correos) great – it was pretty quiet (these places seem so under used these days), though in the end I did managed to buy some stamps. I asked for ‘sellos’ in Spanish, which was not understood – but after a bit of hand gesturing, we found they are called ‘timbres’ here (Very French). Anyhow, I spent $4 and was very glad to get a few more stamps. The day was really quite sunny and hot, so besides dropping off the shopping we also put on sunscreen, and then headed out for a lovely walk along the Uruguay River. In fact we could see the country Uruguay on the other side. The unsurfaced roads were amazing though, and so glad we had chosen not to tackle them yesterday – even drying out a day, they still looked so slippery. As we wandered along there were some open range horses, and cows (with horns), but thankfully they just kept munching grass as we passed. There was one place you could get to the riverbank; one side was an Argentine Naval station, and next door the local fishing club. There were so few boats around, and just a couple of old rowing boats in the water – doesn’t look like they make much use of the river.

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We were ready for a brew by the time we got back to our room, and we looked over the various route and stopping options down to Buenos Aires. We decided on a 400km stint to Federacion, Corrientes tomorrow – to take us to the ‘Termic pools’ for a couple of days. Then we had a couple more days of ~250 km to get us to the city. After reading a while, we changed into our cossies and headed down to the pool for a couple of hours. It was so nice – just us two again, feeling like we had an exclusive posh hotel really. We both had a decent swim, and Stew went into the gym too, then we read another hour, soaking up a few rays before we fancied another brew. When the light was fading in the room, it was getting late enough to venture out for food. It was twilight and after 7pm as we headed onto the street. We weren’t sure what we would end up with this evening. The churasco place on the corner still had tables out on the patio – even though this was pretty quiet too. There was a waiter, changing light bulbs, so I asked if they were open – ‘si’. It was a nice place to sit, and watch the evening activities around the square, so we chose a table next to the roadside. The menu was all the usual suspects; there were burgers, pizza and carne or pollo dinners. We ordered a beer to share while deciding. In the end we shared a pizza and some hot chips, and it wasn’t too long before it was served. The Argentinean pizza’s are not really any good – too smothered in gooey cheese, and little herbs or spice. At least there was vinegar on the table tonight, so the hot chips were extra tasty. It seems the town square is the main exercise yard after dark – By 8pm there were loads of people is sports gear, and doing a jogging circuit in separate small groups. And there was a larger group of young girls, all with hockey sticks – looked like they were doing pre-match warm up exercises. Well we ate our fill of the ‘food’, still with 3 big slices of pizza left, but neither of us wanted to save it for later. And just about then a group of 3 young lads on bicycles were scooting by – for some reason the last, smallest one, slowed to a halt, as asked for ‘papas fritas’ – there were a few left on the plate too. Stew lifted up a slice of the pizza (with the paint stripper we’d been provided with as a serving implement!) – the young lads eyes lit up, and was happy to receive the slice. He shouted over to his mates, who turned round and came to the table – and so they each got a slice too, and I bundled up the chips in a paper napkin and handed them to the first kid. They were saying ‘muchas gracias’, as they peddled off down the street (it was pitch black and none had any lights). Well, that was nice to know that our left overs were not wasted. We paid the bill, and walked back to our hotel, finishing off the evening reading a while.

I went off for a lovely early morning swim again. It was so nice, and surprise, surprise, I had the place to myself again. Then if was off for more of the decent buffet breakfast, and we bagged a few bits for later. We were packed and on the road by 10am. The day was bright, clear and a great temperature for driving – and the roads were good too. The scenery wasn’t the best, but it was pleasant flat countryside. I was savouring the ride though, as we were getting down to the last 3 days on the road in South America, and less than 1000 km to reach Buenos Aires. Once we get there, it will be quite some time before we have days on the road again. We’d picked out Federacion, Tres Rios, as the next stopping place – as there was a water park and thermal pools there, so we thought we’d make a day of it. The place seemed quite touristy with lots of accommodation, and we’d earmarked a couple of places with kitchen facilities, in walking distance to the ‘Termas de Federacion’ park; now we just had to get there, ~400 km. We had to stop a couple of times for petrol, and after 2 hrs driving we also had a coffee in the service station.

We did pretty well, arriving in the sleepy town around 3.30pm (in full siesta mode). I navigated us to the thermal pools, as I knew the accommodation wasn’t far from there. In fact there were heaps of hotels, but we stuck out for the ‘Hanna apart hotel’, on D’Angelo road. There was some covered parking roadside, but it looked pretty OK. I rang the bell, and found the place run by a young couple with a daughter, Hanna, maybe 5 years old. With a bit of English spoken, I asked for 2 nights, and was shown an apartment. They were decent, with separate equipped kitchen, bathroom and bedroom, though it was 650 peso a night (I’d got a bit of a reduction from 690!). But in the end, we agreed that was OK. It had everything we needed; we could walk to the shops and thermal park (tomorrow), so we soon parked up and entered. We were taken up to the first floor at the far end of the corridor, and this apartment actually looked over the rear patio (complete with bicycles to hire), and the lake Salto Grande.

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It was gone 7pm when we headed out walkabout, and there was a supermarket right next door, so we managed to get all the supplies we needed to make a curry. We got minced meat, spinach and a red pepper. Back in the room, I chopped all the veggies up, while Stew started the cooking…and an hour later we sat down to the most delicious meal; so much better than the last few nights offerings. We both did some reading and internet, before turning in for the night, with music over the headphones again. The next morning the sun was streaming through the curtains promising a nice day. I got up and made us a cuppa in bed, and we nattered about how we should plan to get into Buenos Aires (BA), and where we should stay. From yesterday’s email it looked like we could arrange to see Dakar Moto early in the week, and we really just needed to find some accommodation that would be pretty central and give us a reasonable road out to the airport, and we also checked the weather. It looked like rain was coming in again on Saturday, with showers for a few days. So it really didn’t seem like a good idea to camp for a couple of days before getting into BA. Had the weather forecast been cracking the flags, we could easily have spent a few more days camping, but we really didn’t want to have to contemplate doing a soggy, wet pack up as we wouldn’t be able to dry out the gear for a couple of weeks. So overall it seemed a sensible plan to drive into BA on Sunday. So Stew made a brew and I set about trying to find a decent place to stay – for not too an expensive price! The hardest thing was finding places that actually had parking available. Stew had found one place, recommended on the horizons website, and I found a couple more closer to the centre. Then one stuck out, it was an apart hotel, so kitchenette; well not really, just a microwave, kettle and fridge – but better than nothing. The was basement parking, and the place had an indoor pool and gym, together with breakfast included in was $65 AUD a night – with an additional parking fee. But we’d only need parking for a few days, and as we were likely to be spending over a week in BA, the pool, gym and kitchen facilities would be a bonus. In the end we thought we should book for 3 nights from Sunday, and sort out a longer stay after we got there. Well, that took a while to sort and book, but good to get it done. Next was breakfast time.

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Stew made fried eggs, while I was undecided. In the end I stuck with yoghurt, fruit, and a nice new oaty granola we’d managed to get. It was a lovely breakfast, which we ate at the kitchen counter – quite a treat. After clearing away, we got the backpack ready with scoobie snacks, a bottle of water, towels, and books. We both put our cossies on, and headed out to the ‘Termic park’, calling in at the bakery on the way round; fresh bread rolls and a couple of sweet buns for Stew.

There was a bit of a queue to get in, most ‘local’s knowing the system were only dressed in bathrobes and flip-flops, and mostly over 70, or in family groups with young kids. The entry fee (150 Peso), gave you access to the whole park area for all day, and with a wristband, you could even go out and come back in. The thermal pools were open till 10pm! Anyhow, first thing we thought we’d just get a locker, and have a walk about only in our cossies. It was a huge place, so even though there were quite a few people about, it did seem quite deserted. The whole place was quite sedentary and relaxing – with two quite separate areas; one was ‘active’ – the water park, and the other ‘passive’ the thermal pools. We headed to the active part first. There were a few bigish waterslides, a wave pool, a fun area with huge tipping bucket (like Adventure World), and a sedate meandering waterway to be traversed by inflatable ring. We went to the biggest waterslide first – no queues, and had a good few runs down the 360 degree loops to bottom. There was also a huge almost vertical slide – but we both opted against it! We then did the inflatable ring loop – there were no hills, so it was quite slow, being scooted along solely by the water jets. We came out and the wave pool was in operation, so we hopped into another inflatable ring to get bobbed along in the waves. There were several very elderly dears enjoying the waves too.

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Well, that was the excitement for the day – so we wandered round to the ‘passive’ section. It was amazing, so many pools – not many people, and all at different temperatures from 37 to 42 degrees!! The higher temperature ones were sheltered, and had signs that young kids were not allowed, with the hottest ones for over 13 years only; and with a maximum time limit of 10 minutes. Stew was struggling – but I was really enjoying it. It seemed bizarre that there were signs saying ‘No Swimming’ –

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and it was amazing to see that most people were just lounging around and relaxing. It made you that way too. After a couple of hours we were both ready for some snap, so we retrieved our bag from the locker and went to find a shady picnic table. I then read the pamphlets and maps of the park area. They had a full chemical analysis of the thermal waters too!! We made cheese sandwiches for lunch, and then went off to find a kiosk coffee shop. The coffee was really good, and we sat a half hour reading our books

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Stew was now having trouble with the ‘Years of salt and rice book’, so we headed to a comfy bench, where he could leg out for a siesta, while I kept reading. And here there were so many cheeky birds around too.

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Well the place was so totally uncrowded and relaxed, we headed off back to the ‘water park’, taking the backpack with us. We left it on hanging pegs, as we did a few more of the ‘BIG’ waterslide and another circuit of the water loop, taking the camera this time, and even getting a good selfie photo in. By 4pm we’d been out in the sun nearly all day, and we’d pretty done everything on offer – we were ready to head back, so one last tour of the thermal pools, finding a smaller pool at 42 degrees. Then off to the changing rooms to get out of our wet gear, and the short walk back to the digs.

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We headed off into the town main street, around 6.30pm – heading to the bank. There were two, but no matter how many variations we tried at the ATM’s on both cards we could not get any cash out!! Stew was getting a bit peeved – but that’s just how things work here! He had thought we could eat out, but checking we only had 200 peso, and we needed petrol to move on. I was trying to be creative, and suggested we could try use the plastic card at the big supermarket, and we could potentially try a big hotel – they usually have money services. So we were definitely eating in – omelets were on the menu tonight. We walked to the biggest supermarket, and they did take visa and mastercard, so we did a bit of shop – fresh fruit, tomatoes, bread, pastrami, beer and wine; so at least we were set for the night. We wandered back towards the digs, and there was a small kiosk with tables and chairs outside; we decided we could splash out on one beer and sit out to watch the (quiet) night life. I checked over the town map, we’d been given at the termas park – we could head down to the waterside, and Stew spotted a casino there. Mmm, another thought – big hotel, casino – maybe we could get cash there. We wandered round and found quite a lovely, lake-river side walkway. The hotel was obviously the BIG lit up building to our right. There were only a few cars parked up, and as we walked to the main entrance it looked quite deserted. We went into the huge, grand reception – and found a really pleasant young male receptionist, who spoke some English. He was so helpful, they could definitely change US dollars – but we didn’t have any with us, so if the banks were useless tomorrow, we’d call back. Stew’s mood lightened, and we wandered back to the digs. So we had a kind of a plan; we’d like to stay here one more night if we could, and then just have one more night stopping off before we got into BA – We had to check back at the Hanna Apart later. Back in the room we finished the beer, then set about making our omelet dinner – that turned out pretty decent. We opened the bottle of nice Malbec too, which was also good. Then downstairs we heard the young girl, Hanna, of the owners chatting away. I said I should go check if we could stay another night, and explain our cash troubles. Stew said, also ask if it was OK for him to wash the bike – As if my Spanish is that good!! Anyhow, I did pretty well – the family were enjoying making a bbq dinner together with a couple of other guys. We could stay another night, and sort out the cash tomorrow. With a bit of English and my poor Spanish, we had quite a decent conversation – as they were also asking about our bike journey. Well, great that was all sorted, so I went back to tell Stew the news, and we could relax for the rest of the evening. He was trying to watch Netflix, but internet is not so good – while I was trying to get up to date with the diary again.

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Next day our mission was to try get some cash, and photocopy the papers we needed for the bike freight. We weren’t convinced we’d get any money from the ATM, so Stew got out all our USD to check what we had; it came to $1311, so I put $1 to save, we kept $1200, and took $110 to change, then got ready to walk onto the town street. The day was already warm, but more overcast than yesterday, so really quite pleasant to walk in. The town was a little bit busier this morning, and we found the biggest queues waiting for the ATM machines! We tried first to get money changed in the bank, and I asked one of the tellers – BUT no, they didn’t change cash. However, he kindly showed us to another ‘finance’ place across the road that did; muchas gracias. We really wanted to try the ATM machine again, as with the queues of people we thought, maybe they were empty last night. We joined the shortest queue – for half an hour. The couple in front of us managed to have a non-stop conversation for the entire time, we were just people watching; pedestrians, cyclists, motorists and. We slowly edged our way to the front. Stew was convinced we’d get cash today – BUT no, it still didn’t work. So next we headed across the road to find the ‘finance’ place – There were no signs on the blue building we’d been directed to, but there was a young guy seated at an office desk, so I walked up the stairs to ask; and YES they did change USD, amazing. We soon changed the $110 UAD for 1600 Peso – enough to get us along to BA. From there we went to the next kiosk advertizing photocopies, and got the Stew’s passport and the temporary import permit copied. So by 11.30am – mission accomplished. We walked back to the digs for a brew and made pastrami rolls for lunch, and then Stew wanted to get the bike cleaned up, and checked over again.

Later we thought we’d just walk along the river esplanade to the small harbour at the far side of town. It was quite hot in the afternoon sun, but there was a lovely breeze off the Salto Grande Lake. We even came across a huge campground, but there were only 3 tents up! We wandered the waters edge and saw it had quite an intense green bloom – not attractive for swimming at all. The harbour was a sight to see, quite a size, but so few boats in it; not even empty pens, just maybe half a dozen small boats and one small yacht. We’d been walking over an hour and were getting thirsty, so we walked back along the town street looking for a café – It was totally closed. We’d chatted over what to have for dinner this evening, and decided on a pasta carbonara, so we thought we might as well go to the supermarket. It was closed too, and didn’t open till 5.15pm, another hour away. Thankfully one small kiosko was open, so we managed to get an ice cream and cold drink, which we had sat out on the grass verge. We were just people watching, the few there were – the funniest thing was all the young kids being collected from school by mum on their moto. One after another had the little kid sat on the back all with a balloon – There must have been some kind of party at school. And one last moto had at least a dozen balloons being held onto by the kid – he was lucky! Ice cream done we walked back to the digs, and made some coffee and tea to relax an hour reading and writing.

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We then headed back to the supermarket around 6pm – we’d changed our minds, and thought we’d buy some steak. Stew would make an onion gravy, and we’d have mashed spuds and some veg. We even found a half cabbage, so that was great, and also spent 10 peso on some vinegar, as I’d enjoy it better that way. We stopped off at the kiosk again, to share a cold beer on the outside seating. As we were sitting I spotted a small ‘Ruta 40’ sign in the window, I thought it may be a CD, but on closer inspection it was a wallet. We’d not seen one like, it and Stew fancied it as a souvenir – so I went back in the kiosko to buy it. We were back at the digs ~7pm, and Stew soon set about preparing dinner. It was about 8pm when we sat down to eat. The mashed potatoes were pretty good (from a packet), and Stew had made a great onion gravy. The boiled cabbage with vinegar was so good too – so only the steak let the meal down. It looked good and lean, but it was just too chewy. Hindsight, we should have got it thinner or given it a good bashing for tenderizing. No matter though, it was a really decent meal, and as Stew had done all the preps and cooking, I got the cleanup and washing up; which didn’t take too long really. Stew finally managed to get back on Netflix, and I joined him on the bed lounging and continued reading my latest book for another hour.

We didn’t have a good night at all, I got very hot, and then the ‘tormenta electrica’ started. Rumbling thunder and lightening flashes I could see with my eyes closed – I dozed on as well as I could till day break, though that was late with the very grey skies, and it was still raining heavily. It looked like we were definitely going to get wet on the bike today, so we weren’t rushing to get up. We planned ~250 km so we didn’t have to get off too early. We got up to make breakfast around 8.30am. The rain was petering a bit, so we started on the pack up. It was definitely soggy, by the time we loaded the bike up it was getting heavier again. We still had the food saddlebag in the room, so we thought we’d give it an extra 15 mins, and make a coffee before we set off. Well, it wasn’t really stopping, but didn’t look to bad, so we thought we’d just go for it. We had all our wet weather gear on, and were pretty snug. Stew wanted to get a tank full of petrol to set off, and the garage was just round the corner, so not a minute later we were at the petrol pump. And then the storm burst really did begin – Thunder, lightening and torrential persistent rain; it just wouldn’t stop. Thankfully there was a decent shelter at the pumps, so we just parked up and waited, watching the street turn into a river. So we had quite a sideshow watching the cars making their way.

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Twenty minutes later it was just heavy rain, but significantly less than it had been, so we thought we might as well set off. We had to navigate a few street floods before we made it out of town, and up onto R-14 again. It was a pretty miserable dank day, but thankfully the roads were pretty quiet – and as it was so wet, there was no sign of any police at the checkpoints! We managed to cover nearly 100 miles, though only just warm enough, and definitely wet – so Stew pulled in at the next service station. The guy at the bowser was quite friendly and the young woman serving us coffee (though we weren’t doing too well on the Spanish). Several other soggy motos also pulled in to fill up, and one passenger even had a bin-liner as a waterproof. They were all keenly walking round our bike, and pointing to various stickers and the motor, and one asked if they could take photos – no problemo.

By the time we set off again, the rain had finally stopped, even though the sky was still black, but thankfully it was a getting better kind of a day, rather than a getting worse. We had another 80 km to reach Gualeguaychu – and we wouldn’t go further, as it was already getting on for 2pm. We knew there was reasonably cheap accommodation there with parking – so we headed straight there, Hotel Brutti. The town was much bigger than we expected, and as usual in full sleep mode when we drove through. I did spot a couple of ATM’s – so hopefully we’d be able to get some more cash. It was an older town again, with more of the old character buildings than we’d seen in Federacion, but many of them were in decay and in need of maintenance, and as we made the way to the hotel, it was right next to an abandoned old markets. The young female receptionist was really friendly and helpful, even though we were struggling a bit with the Spanish. But we soon got a basic, small double room – with the tiniest bathroom (530 peso). Parking was just up the road in a closed compound, and there was also breakfast (8-10am), and as we’d expected really the TV and internet were useless. We got all the gear in the room, and Stew went off to park up the bike. The room was pretty small, and we struggled trying to get everything hung around to dry.

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We made come coffee and had some cheese and crackers, then went walkabout. As usual there was not much open. We first went to the banks, and thankfully found an ATM that would give us some peso, so we got 4000 peso, to cash up a bit. We walked round the main square, with a pretty huge cathedral and even a carousel. It was strewn with debris from the big trees, so they must have had the storms today too. We wandered down to the river – and again it was a washout with the flooding. There were several riverside restaurants and cafes, but they all looked shut up – maybe it was the season? We couldn’t find anything really, so we ended up at the riverside petrol station, where we were able to get a beer and sit and watch the world go by. Amazing old cars, some people actually walking dogs on a leash, and several joggers too.

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We got back to the hotel restaurant at 8pm, the church bells were striking – its ages since we’ve heard any. The place was open; with us two customers and about 4 staff. Argentinean football was playing on the TV, as it had been at the garage. The wait staff were really friendly and helpful though, and it looked like the best of the restaurants we’d seen open round town (we definitely didn’t fancy pizza). We managed to get some red wine, and Stew fancied the chicken and chips, while I asked for the pasta Bolognese. We were brought round some fresh bread rolls too and had a drink, both using the internet, while we waited for dinner. The food was decent and freshly prepared, but it was so lacking in sauce. The best things were the fresh pasta, and good potato chips – Stew made chip butties again. I’d had a look online, and it seemed there were quite a few Indian restaurants in Buenos Aires, and there was at least one within walking distance of the hotel we’d booked…..so we were both hoping we’d be able to have curry out tomorrow night. It was gone 10pm before we headed to bed and was the worst nights sleep for a long time. The place wasn’t rowdy, there was just persistent noise all through the night. Finally after daybreak, things began to quiet down, and we dozed for a half hour before Stew got up to make some tea. We were so glad we were staying only the one night. Tea done, we dressed and headed down to see what the ‘included’ breakfast entailed. Well, not the worst (no dog biscuits), but not the best either. Football was still playing on the TV, and there was evidence of a few more guests. A couple of guys were just leaving the restaurant, and another (larger character with a cane), was just by the reception. At least the coffee was nice and hot. There was also a very sweet orange drink, and we got a small basket with a couple of croissants, some toasted bread and a pot of jam. It was certainly enough to get us on the road, and we sat a half hour so Stew could get his news fix online (It just wouldn’t work from in the bedroom). The roads were incredibly quiet now too (Sunday morning), and though the sky was overcast grey, it wasn’t raining. I checked the weather forecast, and it was supposed to stay dry; it did.

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We had a good drive – and saw some amazing river flooding, driving maybe 70-80 km; so much flood water – and people still trying to live there, mostly near the edge of the road! And we crossed the mighty Parana River again, a big road bridge, and derelict rail bridge. We could see the city of Zarate on the far shore. From there it was only another 100 km to Buenos Aires. We had a nice coffee stop (we didn’t need fuel – as we were trying to run down the tank), and a bit further on we did a roadside stop just to put the last of the petrol from our container. Stew didn’t want the bike to go on reserve as we headed into the city. The traffic was building hugely, and the roads soon expanded to 6 and 8 lanes, with several spaghetti junctions.

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We crossed the huge rail terminal, and then onto the main Avenue 9 de Mayo, with some pretty major monuments – a huge obelisk, and a building with a huge female face – it must be Eva Peron (The only famous Argentinean I know). We found the hotel off the main avenue just fine with GPS – it was around 2pm. I went in to check the reservation and we were both surprised to see behind the garage door was a car-lift to parking in the basement. That was a novelty, and we soon got all gear up to our room on the 7th floor.

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It was a very decent size room and facilities; nice bathroom, and kitchenette (microwave, kettle and fridge). We made a drink before heading out walkabout across Avenue 9 de Mayo, along Chille – and on the cross junction with Defensa, we found great street market, and wandered up and down for hours. The Monserrat area we were in is quite an eclectic mix, lovely old colonial buildings, and eating places…..but some derelict and quite a lot of graffiti.

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Back to hotel, we were in need of a brew and got our feet up. Stew was happy online, while I went off to the pool, for a stretch. After showering off, we headed out again – still looking for curry house (Dehli Massala). We found it just turning right, when we turned left earlier onto the Defensa street market. The market was still going at 7.30pm – but in the process of packing up. There was quite a lovely atmosphere about the place, with some street music, drums, tango. The curry house opened at 7pm (most other places it was 8pm!) and they did a ‘menu’; complete meal for $15 – starter, curry, rice and nan. And we got a bottle of white wine to celebrate – it was an awesome night. We’d actually made it to Buenos Aires, just about 40000 km in total, and our most southern point on the continent – now we just had to get the bike freight sorted. The food was really nice, and we stuffed ourselves, BUT the vindaloo was nothing like a vindaloo. I’m sure we’d be back again before we leave the city. We walked back ~9.30pm, and got comfy on bed. I read another half hour, but Stew just put some music on. We drifted to sleep in quiet surroundings.

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We had a good quiet nights sleep, and after a tea in bed, we went down for our first breakfast in hotel. It was not too bad – the internet and coffee were good. There was some fruit and yoghurt, basic cereal, bread, croissants and pastries – mostly sweet stuff, but there was some sour cream cheese and milk. We had a leisurely breakfast, and online too. Stew was scanning the news, while I was writing a Happy Birthday message for Caroline. Then a Dakar moto email popped up and we could go see them to start the freight process this morning. We took a taxi, and half an hour later met Sandra and Javier (and two other guys on bikes, from Washington State, flying bikes back to Seattle).

It took maybe an hour to go over paperwork, but the Dakar Moto team have the whole process quite streamlined, with very clear instructions. They were a lovely couple of meet, with a clear interest in overland travel from the motorbikes in the driveway, to the old landrover parked in front of their house. They checked all our paperwork, then arranged that we’d take the bike to the airport on Wednesday morning – Franco was the contact there, and he’d do all the organization there and get the bike packing sorted. Then we’d need to go into the city on Thursday to make the full cash payment, and get the waybill. Give a day, ‘just in case’, meant we should be able to fly anytime after the weekend. It all sounded great, and Sandra and Javier, said just contact them if there were any issues. With thanks, and good wishes, Sandra showed us how to go back to the city by train.

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So everything was in process, we just had to action everything.

 

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