4 – 12 April 2016: Adios to Buenos Aires & South America

The Florida station was just round the corner and a 5 peso ticket took us back to the main central station Retiro. From there we got out and went walk about…

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We found a market mall, with clothes, copy DVD’s and some bags. Then went further walkabout, as there was a mall on the other side of the rail station. It was SOOO upmarket (for the posh hotels) – but it did have a MacDonalds and a cinema. We found a movie playing in English starting at 4.10pm. It was only 2.30pm, so we walked back to market, bought the biggest holdall we could find (250 peso). Then the rain started – I got soggy feet and Stew got soggy trousers, as we walked back to the cinema. There was an ATM so we managed to get some more funds out. And then went to the movie (Remember – with Christopher Plummer and Jorgen Prochnow) – quite slow about Jews and Aushwitz, but had a great twist in the end.

It was still raining when we got out at 6.30pm – we managed to make our way on the subway (line C – Retiro, to Indepencia), and called at kiosko on our way back to the room. Tonight we made jacket potatoes with cheese and tomato for dinner (really quite nice). We watched the end of the ‘Billy Elliot’ film, but Stew wasn’t too interested so set about trying to sort out the packing for the bike, which was all looking good. We just need another holdall, and Stew was able to get all the riding gear and saddle bags into the topbox. We turned in for the night listening to some music to drift off to sleep.

The next morning Stew made some tea and checked the days news, while I checked the weather and bank accounts. We headed down for brekkie around 9.45am; the same as yesterday – no rush, so I wrote a last couple of postcards, and Stew browsed around on the iPad. We also chatted about what plans we could make for the next few days, as we needed to extend the room booking. We had to get the bike to the airport tomorrow, and then go into the city to make the full payment on Thursday. It seemed sensible to book till after the weekend, and then we could work on what we wanted to do for next week.

Uruguay by ferry was an option for a few days, and so was trying to re-schedule our flight back to Perth; but they both needed more investigating. I’d write an email to STA later today. So we headed to the lobby to check if we could stay till Monday, and the cost. It was fine, and would be the same price $65 AUD a night. We did end up changing rooms though, just to try get some better internet (not that it helped much in the end).

We took the backpack, the brolly and rain jackets – the sky was totally overcast and promising rain. We ended up having quite a long walk, but stopping off at a few interesting places. First there was some kind of union march going on; there were flags and brollys waving as drums and trumpets were thumping out a marching beat (very loud).

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From there we found the Madero Dock side – and looking left we could see the old wharves, huge brick warehousing now converted at the ground level to street restaurants, bars and cafes (Even a Mac’s), and upper level apartments. And a lot of the old cranes too. There wasn’t much activity on the water, but we could see a gorgeous 3 masted old frigate moored up. It was the Argentinean Navy museum piece, and only cost 5 peso for a wander round. It was really nice, and built in 1899 in service round the world till ~1938.

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So the next few days were a mixture of finishing off all the bike freight activities, and getting in some decent tourist times too. There were definitely quite a lot of interesting things to do and see, in such a wonderful old and huge city. Brekkie in the hotel did get rather monotonous though, so we tried to remember to take our oaty granola down with us, and I also took our last portion of vegemite – so that made a nice change.

The day we were taking the bike to the airport the sky was really grey, but the rain was holding off – we just had to cover the 30 km to get there. We were soon on our way – a bit of negotiating the heavy traffic to get on the autopista, and then as we came to the peaje, a couple more bikes passed us – also heading in the airport direction. We caught up again at the air cargo entrance, and taking off the helmets, we were surprised to see Kalim (He was on a GS1200 when we saw him in Lima, travelling with Hans). He was now on a KTM with another rider, Chris – And flying the bikes to San Francisco. We only spoke briefly, but Kalim had blown the GS trying to cross a river in Bolivia – got water in the engine!!

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Anyhow, Franco met us and we were soon whisked off into the paper work and packing process. I was not allowed passed the entrance, so the guys went off while I went and parked myself in the nearby YPF garage café, and sat with a coffee. Hopefully it would go smoothly, and at least Stew now had a couple of friendly faces, who could help with any language hiccups. It was less than two hours when they came to find me in the café – all done, and Stew even managed to snap a few photos too.

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Now they just needed empanadas and coffee. The aerobus minibus transport was parked up right across the road, so we were soon on our way back to the city. We chatted away about our various travels, getting stopped by the police and what parts we liked the most. As we got into the city, we weren’t sure where the minibus would stop, but I thought I recognized a street when someone else alighted, so I said we should get off here too. Kalim and Chris got off with us too – they hadn’t yet wandered around the city, as they were staying further north of Dakar Motos. They were heading off for a bar, but we didn’t want early beers – So we parted company with handshakes, and wishing each other safe travels. We headed down the road to find a supermarket, and walked passed Av. Indepencia to San Tolme area a where we hadn’t been yet. There were so many antique shops around, but now after 2pm, so much was closed up for siesta, and the restaurants were filling up. We found a nice old market place, and San Tolme – but so much of the ‘antique’ stuff was worse than you see on the verge back home. There was was quite a mix in here, with fruit, veg meat, and eating places too. We found another supermarket, and wandered in to see what they had – not really any extension in the range of goods; pretty basic really. We ended up buying so ricotta ravioli fresh pasta and sauce, so we could make some dinner later.

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We got back to the hotel around 3.30pm, and soon were relaxing with a cuppa on the bed. Then around 5pm we thought we’d go check out the fitness machines on the ground floor, and changed into sports shorts and t-shirts. They are a funny place just behind the front window of the café area – but there is no one around at siesta time. There is a static cycle, a step machine and a treadmill. So we managed to get use of them over the next few days, and a couple of sessions in the pool too. We had the place to ourselves for 10 laps, then 3 more guys came in – definitely too crowded now, so Stew got out, while I finished my 20 gentle laps. It was too hot to cool down in, but nice just to stretch out. We showered off, and even did our 3 weeks worth of washing – pretty much all we had with us!

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I found an email back from STA, saying that we could change our flights and fly this Sunday evening. It would be $213 each. We talked a while about the option, and in the end decided we really wanted to just take the earlier flights. Another week would really just feel like hanging around, even if we went over to Uruguay – and the costs would soon go beyond another $400 with accommodation, food, and touristy activities. So I emailed STA back with and once we had the confirmation I’d write and tell the girls. We were quite comfy now, after being out most of the day and the exercise, so we decided we’d stay in and have the pasta for dinner.

There was another email back from STA, to say our flights had been changed and a lovely email from Sairha – saying how much she liked the birthday pressies from Peru, and what she has been getting up to; fancy (expensive) Japanese restaurant with Sean, Cici and SarahB, then shopping for retro 1920’s dress for Flicks birthday party, and going off to Comicon – saw her favourite author, but didn’t have anything to get a signature on! All assignments in TAFE, and now on 2 weeks hols. They will get a surprise when I write later today or tomorrow, that we will be back next Tuesday 🙂 We then got everything ready in the backpack, to head out for the day. The day was much brighter today, and pretty warm, with blue patches in the sky too. We had sort of a plan for the day – first we had to get more cash out of the bank; another 4000 peso. When we cashed up last night, the USD was short only 980. The last time we counted there was 1200, and we reckon Stew had left some in his bike jacket; now at the air cargo! So first stop was the ATM, and then we headed down Ave. 9 de Mayo towards the obelisk. There were riot police, and more of the union group out with their flags again – We didn’t hang around.

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We were heading for the airfreight office, which was the next street down Lavelle, towards the water. It was another big tourist street, and we found lots of shops selling souvenirs and the mate tea glasses we wanted to buy too. But we’d do that later – we just wanted to get the bike paperwork completed. We found the office no problem, but had to be directed 3 times, before we got the right info to the cashiers office on the 7th floor. The paper work was ready, and we just needed to hand over the cash. Then who should turn up, but the two guys we’d seen at Dakar Motos on Monday. They were supposed to get their paperwork completed yesterday, but they had trouble getting the cash from the bank! They were flying out tonight too. Anyhow, all good now, as they were counting out their pesos and dollars (their bikes to Seattle were 1900 USD each, and ours was only 2000 USD to the UK!). We handed over our 980 USD, and after very careful inspection – the guy would only accept 840. Any bills that had been written on were not acceptable! He calculated the remainder in peso; 16,6300 – and we just didn’t have enough, only 15300. It could have been yet more hassle, as we just weren’t sure if we could get more cash out of the machines today. The guy behind the counter went off to check the dollars again (with a superior we presumed) – and then Stew had an idea, he asked the American guys if they had any spare dollars. They did, and they were heading back to the States tonight – they were happy to swap our 100 dollar bill, for some 20’s (no writing on), so when the cashier came back, we handed over another 100 USD. Awesome, that was fine – and we now had enough peso (though it did just about clear us out!). How lucky that the guys had been at the office at the same time. We thanked them, and wished them well for their flights home. We were given a full receipt and the original AWB, so we could see the bike was scheduled for LHR, in Stew’s name, and that the consignee was Motofreight, UK – all good. So now we relax and enjoy the rest of our time in BA.

As we were already close to the Retiro central train station, we kept going in that direction, as we needed to go back to the markets to buy another holdall (the cheapest we’d found), and from there further on passed the cinema place we’d been, to the Recoleta Mauseleum. It’s a huge creepy place, and was quite a bustle with tourists. Definitely a fascinating place; a city of the dead – necropolis, like we’ve never wandered before. But neither of us really wanted to stay that long – it just didn’t feel comfortable, so many coffins on open display, piled one on another in family plots. Some were so ostentatious, gleaming tabernacles of grandiose affluence, while others were in complete ruin and decay – and there were definitely rotting and decaying unpleasant smells about.

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We left to wander the boulevards, with some amazing trees, back along to the Retiro station. We decided we might as well take a look in the railway museum as we were passing, and it was awesome – and we were the only tourists! There were so many items, like we collect – even an early old wooden heavy lifting jack, like we have and I’ve never seen another. There was an amazing huge electric valve – with a video playing next to it, in operation. And there were so many artifacts that had origins in the North of England – plaques of ‘Made in Manchester’, ‘Leeds’, ‘Blackburn’ – the hay day of the industrial might in rail building.

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Stew was by now getting hungry, so it was empanada time in the front of the station, and we walked across the road to buy the holdall. We’d been walking round for over 5 hrs, and I wanted to take the metro back (and so did Stew really). It was so nice and easy too….and without the rush our traffic, I could get a few photos of the lovely tiling and artworks. On the way back to the hotel we went into a supermarket on Belgrano Av, we hadn’t yet been in. It did have a few different stock items – refried beans, were 77 peso!! But they did have natural plain yoghurt, and we found a bottle of Sidre (apple cider, for only 110 peso), we also bought some more water and tonic. Back in the room we made a brew and had some mango and yoghurt, which was so nice.

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The next day we thought we’d just go back walk about, and hopefully be able to buy the mate tea cups for Sairha and Lacey. We headed out about 11am. It was grey and coolish, but didn’t really look like rain, and we made our way back to Lavelle street. Four hours later, we’d only managed to buy the one mate tea cup. The rest of the tourist stuff is pretty crappy stuff, and not really inspiring to buy, so I don’t think we’ll be taking much back. But we’d found another cinema playing an English spoken movie this afternoon at 5pm (London’s burning), so we thought we might head back later. We’d browsed the Gallerias Shopping centre – great old building, but the shops were global market stuff, and the place was packed, so we just used the toilet and walked back out. From there we headed down to the waterfront. It was so much more peaceful away from the traffic and crowds and it really is quite a long walk on the dockside.

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It was already 3pm when we got back to the hotel room, and we needed to head out again at 4.30pm to get to the movies. Stew was happy surfing, but I fancied a swim – not too much exercise, as it’s a warm pool, but I did get a good half hour in (80 laps) and then showered off. We had a quick brew, then got ready to head out again. We found the streets much livelier than earlier in the day, quite a bustle and the traffic density and noise were building to rush hour too. Lavalle Street is all pedestrian through, so that is nice. The cinema ticket office was on the street in front of the cinema, and we did really well, as the Friday ticket was only 45 peso. It was an old deco cinema house, and really quite grandiose – much bigger than the old Piccadilly in Perth. We were on the top floor, in quite a steep lounge, and we were surprised just how many people came in to watch the movie in English. It was only just about watchable – and so predictable, but it entertained us well for a couple of hours. It was just dropping dark as we got outside onto the even busier street. With the lights coming on, and so many of the café’s and bars having outdoor seating, we couldn’t resist sitting on one of the street corners to get a drink, and watch the crowds in the metropolis. It did cost us $10 for a beer though! From there it was another half hour walk back to the hotel, and we stopped off at the closest supermarket. We managed to get some small flat breads, plain yoghurt and we bought a pack of the yerba tea too. So it was dinner ‘a al hotel room’ tonight. Stew cooked up some fresh rice, warmed the curry left overs from last night, and the flat breads. The curry tasted better second time round (as is often the case), and we both enjoyed the meal. The internet wasn’t too bad, so Stew was able to get on Netflix for a while, as I got myself comfy and read until I’d finished the book – definitely one of the best ones we’ve read this journey, and we are both keen to read the following two in the Trilogy of ‘The girl with the dragon tattoo’.

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The long walks are definitely conducive for a good nights sleep, though I did wake with a distant storm. The lightening flash woke me, and then the thunder rumbled in. Stew didn’t hear it at all. I had to go to the bathroom around 7.30am, so thought I might as well make the morning tea. We thought we’d go out on the metro (Subte) today, and go further up to the Barrio Chino and Belgrano areas. The subway is so cheap at 5 peso for a 1 way trip to anywhere. We got ready and set out about 10.30am. We had to change stations at Diagonal Norte, and took the green line (D), almost to the last stop. It was a good half hour journey, and still quite busy – there were street sellers walking the carriages, and even a guy playing Tango guitar. I really liked seeing all the lovely ceramic tiles and murals at the different stations. We emerged into a suburb that really didn’t look very different – and we found a few street side market stall, with the usual wares – One had mate cups, and even a ceramic one with a cupcake on, so we couldn’t resist getting that for Lacey, and we got a couple of the metal straws too. We continued on into China town – not a very impressive one at that, but at least it did have all the familiar Chinese goods, supermarkets and restaurants, which made a really nice change round BA. We walked the blocks, and had a coffee stop in a rather posh quite café, before we headed back in the metro.

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So we came to our last night in Buenos Aires, and on the South American continent. We had intended having a last nice meal out, but Stew guts weren’t the best and he didn’t really want a steak, and I was happy to go with anything. So we got ready to walk out again ~7.45pm – it was raining, so we had to go back and get the brolly. The streets were much quieter than we expected, even as we walked right down to the San Telmo market area. Everything was pretty much closed, and all the eating places looked quite deserted. We really didn’t want to go back to the curry house either, as we’d get much better back in Perth in a few days. There was nowhere looking really inspiring to eat – so we decided not to bother, and we’d just get some take away pizza from place on the corner near the hotel. So by 9pm we were back in our room, with a rather stodgy and sad looking pizza (they put way too much cheese on and little else!). I finished off the evening with another half hour reading my book, while Stew drifted off to sleep with some music on his iPod.

The last day was going to be a really LONG day, as we were heading for a midnight flight, and so we resolved to do everything rather slowly. Stew even drew the curtains hoping we’d sleep longer – but we didn’t really, he was up at 8.15am making tea. But we weren’t rushing for breakfast, and were soon comfy with our computers on the bed. We didn’t head down to breakfast till 10am – and amazingly it was the busiest we’d seen the place. We took our time, and I managed to get the photos uploaded as we had coffee, cereal and toast. Stew was still happy surfing, so I settled for an hour on the bed reading more of my book. We were going for a wander round the street markets, but there was no rush – so we didn’t head out till 12.30pm. The day was much grayer than I’d expected, and it was actually drizzling as we got outside, so we had to go back upstairs for the brolly and Stew’s coat. The market wasn’t as busy today, as it had been last week – probably because of the rain. But even so the place was so much livelier than it had been last night, and all the eating places had a healthy number of customers. There was live music playing at several points as we walked along, giving the whole place a really nice ambiance. Most of the stall holders were covering everything in plastic covers as we got there. Today we headed down to the right off the Chilli – Defensa junction by the curry house, as we hadn’t walked that way last week. Its amazing what old vehicles you spot out on the streets too.

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The markets were pretty much more of the same, but at least with the rain coming down we headed into Santo Telmo market place – which was now fully open. Even with a few hours of assiduous browsing, we were struggling finding anything in particular that we wanted to buy. In the end we browsed old photos and letters, and I did by a couple of old envelopes with Argentinean stamps. The only thing Stew bought was a veggie empanada.

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It was after 3.30pm when we got back to the hotel, and we were both ready for a brew. After that we started to work on the packing – not that there was a lot to do, but we had a couple of bottles of wine, which fitted nicely in the leather bag we’d bought, and we had to sort out all the camping gear, and what we were not taking with us – the petrol can and oils, all the dried food bits and spices, as well as most of the toiletries. It all came together pretty well in the two holdalls we’d bought, including the bike tank bag too, so that was one less to carry. Stew just had few things and valuables in the small back-pack, and I had my usual satchel, with computer, and all the important documents. Around 6pm, I went down to the lobby to see about paying and sorting a taxi. I was told it takes ~20 mins to get one at this time on the weekend. So I was glad I asked early, and ordered a taxi for 7.30pm. By the time I got back upstairs Stew was ready to send out a search party – He’d just made a coffee.

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And then we were on our way. We checked we hadn’t left anything, grabbed all the bags and headed down to the lobby about 7.25pm. The taxi was already waiting. It looked like a decent private car, so I just asked the price to check; it was 450 peso, as we’d been told before. We were soon loaded in, seats belts on, and heading out onto the streets of BA for the last time. It was already dropping dark, and the roads were really quite busy. They became even more congested half an hour later as we got to the airport – it was a pretty big place, with so much ground transport and passengers around. We were efficiently delivered to terminal, and found a trolley outside the entrance which was a bonus. Just inside we checked the digital displays, and found he NZ flight was checking in at desks 34-40. We headed in that direction, and even though we were 4 hours early, we were quite surprised to see a queue of ~20 people were already in front of us. The check in all went really smoothly and efficiently, and we got a really chatty, friendly counter attendant. It all went well, as we are pretty chilled about the whole process of airports and flying. I sit with the bags and Stew goes for a wander – The was no free airport internet so I didn’t bother, just got my head into my book. We had about 400 peso left, but all the airport duty free was in ridiculously expensive USD. A small stone animal, (we thought maybe for Sairha) was $200. In the end Stew just bought a block of dark chocolate $12 !! It wasn’t too long a wait before boarding. There was no one sat behind us (a crew row), and the lady in front didn’t even use the recliner on her seat. It was nice to have a good film selection too; we both watched diCaprio in ‘The Revenant,’ which was very good, but I’m sure much better on a big screen, and after a pretty decent sleep; waking up 8.15am BA time, Stew watched ‘Promethius’, while I really enjoyed the 2015 Janis Joplin movie. I was half way through Kate Winslet in ‘The Dressmaker’ when we landed – hopefully I can finish off on the next flight. Being at the end of the plane we were pretty much last off, but there was no rush with a 6 hr connection.

As we made our way to the ‘Transfer lounge’, there was a currency exchange, so we managed to get $20 NZD for 300 peso. There was a bit of a queue through the security x-ray machines, but by 5pm we were set up in quite a comfy lounge area. It really hadn’t been too long a drag in transit, and I’d even managed to finish the book. Stew had already read it, so we left it in the departure lounge. We got boarded on time, and glad to find our seating was along the side of the plane near the back and not the centre. It was a smaller plane, so there were no 2 seats only sets of 3, so we ended up with another youngish guy, at the window seat. It wasn’t too full, and later on I  moved across to the centre, leaving Stew 2 seats and I had 2 seats too, so we had a bit more room to doze for a while. I finished off watching ‘The Dressmaker’ movie and then after the dinner was served, I settled down to enjoy watching ‘The Martian’ again. We’d both managed to rest reasonably well, and enjoy the in flight entertainment. There was a morning coffee and croissant round, as the staff roused everyone getting ready for the descent and landing. We had made good time, and were half an hour early.

It had definitely been a long haul, but now so exciting to be so close to home and seeing the happy faces of our gorgeous girls. We were soon off the plane, collected our bags and got through the whole immigration and customs process pretty quick. We were even ushered out through the customs check, after we were expecting quite a grilling. So we were soon elated and hugged into welcoming arms; everyone was beaming – it felt amazing. Lacey drove us home, as we chatted trying to catch up with lots of stuff. And then Snoopy (the dog) joined in the excitement, definitely happy to see us too. Entering the house we had a wonderful treat – the dining table spread with gifts, cards and a gorgeous decorated carrot cake. The kettle was put on, and we were soon exchanging pressies, and then tucking into the cake. What a wonderfully warm feeling of much loved family, that we could treasure for ever.

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So we now had 6 wonderful weeks to catch up, re-group, and get a load of ‘must-do’ jobs completed before we’d be getting on the plane off to the UK.

 

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