Thursday 4/4/13 – We rose early and were again stunned by the amount of mud in our bikes’ nooks and crevices. After a few more wipe downs from front to back, the bikes were clean enough and we left Peninsula Valdez northwards to Viedma, passing windy flat paddocks and sparse cattle for 500km. We again noticed that the passing landscapes of Patagonia are becoming slightly greener as we head north, however to me they are still no more interesting than observing the real-time drifting mass of a 1-kilogram platinum and iridium bar via atmospheric contamination. The highlight of the day was spotting a giant spider scurrying along the edge of the road. I’m not sure if it was a tarantula, but it certainly seemed big and hairy enough. It was surprisingly fast and camera shy, and wasn’t too happy when I got close for a photo.
We arrived at what was previously the Viedma campsite, but is now the Viedma underwater paddock containing muddy and scruffy-looking youths smoking and kicking footballs around. Apparently it’s been like this for the last 3 years. After receiving directions from a local cop, we rode east for about 30km to the small coastal town
of El Condor. All along the coastal road, we were riding beneath large flocks of lorikeets which would screech and perch along the power lines or swoop above the road on the strong winds. We arrived at a nice campsite just off the beach where the owner just wanted to talk about rock music. When we said we were from Australia he shouted ‘AC/DC!’ and threw his head back and played some frenetic air guitar. He then took us inside his house and showed us his impressive (?) collection of rock CDs and DVDS. Every dodgy rock and metal artist was there. He exclaimed that Iron Maiden were number one in his life! It’s crazy how popular the old rock bands are over here, almost every guy is obsessed with them. We passed a street in Viedma just today called AC/DC Street and it even had the lightning bolt on the official street sign! We left the man air-guitaring to his Cinderella CD and set up our tent. As we cooked and ate dinner there were numerous groups of lorikeets flying above us, the birds were making so much noise it drowned out the head-banger music.
5/4/13 – Today was our designated rest day. This was decided at around 10am when neither of us could be bothered riding anywhere. In an effort to pretend we weren’t being lazy we decided to ride the short distance to the lighthouse on the cliff above Viedma. Apparently it’s the oldest lighthouse in Patagonia, and it was typically painted white with the thick red stripe around the middle. When we got off the bikes to walk along the cliff top, hundreds of lorikeets appeared flying along the cliff edge riding the coastal air stream as it hit the cliff and rose skyward. There were hundreds of the beautiful birds all coloured blue, green, yellow and red which nest along the cliff (apparently it’s a nesting site for over 35,000 breeding pairs). It was pretty amazing to watch the birds flying along the cliff edge just a few metres away. After we had returned for lunch, I decided to walk along the beach below the cliffs to see the lorikeet nests. The cliff was honey-combed with holes where the birds had their nests. I walked along beneath the cliff spotting huge piles of guano, many scattered multi-coloured feathers and a few
dead lorikeets. There was even a dead fur seal which I smelt from 200m away before I stumbled across its carcass. Its face had almost completely rotted off revealing some scary teeth and empty eye-sockets. I stared at it for a while whilst the noisy and beautiful birds flew above me with some profound thoughts flittering at the edge of my consciousness, but the smell was so overpowering I had to leave before the ideas could fully develop so I can’t rightly say what they were (but I assure you they were weighty indeed!).
Saturday 6/4/13 – The wind last night was amazing, but not untypical for this part of the world. Kenz poked her head outside the tent and decided we weren’t going anywhere today. It wasn’t until after midday that I actually got out of the tent, and I didn’t stray further than 6m from the tent all day. At one time I walked about 8 steps to the bike, and then a few steps more to pee behind a tree. Besides that we did little else but relax, lay around in the tent, and read and write some blog (the bar for rest-days has
now been lowered). It’s nice to have almost no real plans for the next 2 months other than winding our way north to Brazil. It means we can stop for a few days wherever we want without feeling guilty. It’s the ultimate excuse for goofing off.
Sunday 7/4/13 – We travelled about 300km through the state of Buenos Aires to a town called Bahia Blanca. Again the ride was extremely monotonous. It’s becoming difficult to not fall asleep while riding here, often we stop to eat some chocolate in an effort to stay alert. Every day the road is getting marginally more interesting; today we got to see some yellow and red wildflowers on the sides of the road, the first flowers we have seen in weeks. We stopped in downtown Bahia Blanca for a late lunch, and were surprised by the appearance of the residents here. We could definitely see something about the locals was different. We were puzzled until we realised everyone here had elongated heads. We’ve spent the last few weeks in Patagonia where historically there must be less mixing of locals with Europeans, and the people that live there have more round-shaped heads
(similar to the indigenous people of Bolivia and some central American countries). But here in Buenos Aires the people have the elongated heads of Europeans, it’s a subtle difference but so obvious when you notice it. Another feature of the Argentineans (and Chileans) is their proclivity for awful haircuts. There are typically three types that your average southern South American man is proudly sporting: either the 80’s Italian soccer player long curly hair (also called the pirate-do); the Bon Jovi-type mullet that has been carefully cultivated over years into a tapestry of mullet-magnificence; or the patchy and typically zigged (but never correctly zagged) mohawk that their friend cut with a box-cutter or shard of smashed glass whilst they were both tripping on acid.
We found a nice campsite on the edge of town which was next to the city’s rubbish dump. The sky turned a brilliant gold and crimson as the sun set, and was made even more beautiful as the light glinted off the plastic bags and smashed bottles of the rubbish dump which was situated just over a head-high barbed wire fence. It was a scene of pseudo-beauty.
Monday 8/4/13 – We awoke to
a mob of criminals waving shovels and rakes in the air around our tent this morning. I think it was a group of convicts doing community service by cleaning the municipal campsite, at least they were all wearing the same gear and most looked pretty dodgy. A few stopped to examine the bikes but otherwise they just talked amongst themselves pretending to look busy whenever their supervisor glanced at them.
As we passed through town today we stopped to buy a bottle of oil at the moto shop. Whilst here I drained the carbies and got the mechanic to properly clean and lube the air filters after our mud adventure from a few days ago. Kenz’s bike has been running rough for the past week so we also bought new fuel filters whilst here. Again the mechanic did all the work for free and was happy just to chat for a while.
We rode the 500km to the city of Mar de Plata. I thought we were going to die from boredom until the bikes both stalled about 50km south of our destination. It was strange as they never stall whilst highway riding unless they run out of
fuel. They have been running poorly lately so maybe we just picked up some bad fuel. We arrived in town and found the tourist information centre where we got directions to the only open campsite in town. There were about 10 campgrounds on the list but they all shut during the low tourist season, which it currently is. (NOTE: If you’re an animal lover then skip this bit) As we rode along the city’s main street and out to the campground after dark, a man run out in front of the bike and I had to swerve to miss him. As I passed I glanced down and saw what he was trying to reach; a kitten must have just been hit by a car and was convulsing on the road with blood coming from its mouth and its eyeball had popped out and was sticking to the road. I’m pretty sure the cat was already dead and it was just its nerves making it twitch, but it was still hard to deal with. I yelled at Kenz not to look down but she did and burst into tears as soon as she saw it. It was a long few minutes
as we managed to cross a few lanes of traffic, pull off the main road and after some consoling we found the campsite in the dark.
We set up camp and met a fellow camper called David who was doing a RTW trip in a Land Rover. We entertained each other with stories as we ate dinner and chatted long into the night.
Tuesday 9/4/13 – I looked over the bikes this morning hoping to find the reason for their recent poor performance. I suspected a problem with the carbie, but was hesitant to do any dismantling as BA was only 400km away and here we would be staying with a mechanic who knows KLRs. We were entertained for most of the day by the two stray dogs that live in the campground, one was obsessed with food and being patted, and the other wanted to chase sticks or pine cones all day. After lunch we jumped in David’s Land Rover and went to the grocery store. After shopping I spent a while checking out his vehicle which he had previously driven across Africa. When we returned he cooked a great chicken curry for us. We
were a little jealous by the amount of cooking gear and food he had stashed away in his vehicle. He also had a mountain bike and two kayaks on board!
Wednesday 10/4/13 – It was time to leave the camp this morning. It’s probably been the best cheap campground we have stayed in for the whole trip. The bathrooms were amazing, the ground clean, the WiFi fast, and the stray dogs were really cute. The only drawback was that there were many pigeons roosting in the pine trees above our tent meaning that there were all sorts of strange noises for most of the night and an unreasonably large pile of pigeon shit on my pannier in the morning.
We rode 400km to the city of BA, the approach to the city was typically boring, but as we rode into town it was suddenly terrifyingly exciting. As we entered the crazy 6 lane freeway my bike stalled and wouldn’t start until I pulled across insane traffic onto the shoulder. And then it stalled again a few minutes later as we pulled off the freeway and into the main street of BA. It was a tense ride
through the city as we stalled 3 more times whilst trying to negotiate the crazy city drivers. The city has over 13 million inhabitants, most of which seemed to be pissed off and driving today. We arrived at the famous Dakar Motos mechanics and (rustic) hostel. The owners are some hilarious Argentinians who really know bikes. We told Javier about our recent bike problems and he nodded his head as Kenz tried to recreate the sounds her bike has been making recently. The hostel was full so we camped in their backyard despite the dire weather forecast. Amongst the hostel occupants was an American couple (Suma and Hoa) who recently got run off the road by a truck driver and came off their bike at about 80kph. Luckily all they had to show for it was a scraped bike, twisted handlebars, a broken hand, and a badly sprained and gashed foot. From all reports they were extremely lucky (well, after being unlucky enough to be swiped by the truck) and had to endure a painful multiday trip in a removalist’s truck to BA with nothing but ibuprofen and chain smoking Argentinian truck drivers for company. They prepared a great welcome
dinner for us which was far better than anything we have eaten recently. Hoa is Vietnamese-American and managed to make the chicken and vegetables taste amazing using various herbs and ingredients found around the hostel kitchen.
Thursday 11/4/13 – Last night we endured an incredible thunder and lightning storm. The tent was vibrating and lighting up all night while the heavens opened up above us. The tent handled the weather quite well but everything was slightly damp by morning. We had a small section of groundsheet poking out from under the tent meaning some water ran between the tent base and groundsheet making Kenz’s side damp beneath her sleeping mat. After breakfast, Javier spent a while going over the bikes and gave us a shopping list of things to buy in town. As we left the hostel the rain stopped and didn’t return for the rest of our stay in BA. Sandra told us that just last week her house flooded with ankle deep water and she was still trying to dry some of it out. She also said that people in nearby cities had drowned inside their homes as the waters rose and trapped them inside
their rooms. What a horrible way to go.
We bought the things that Javier needed and returned to the hostel without incident. From what we saw of BA it looks like beautiful and vibrant city. Once we returned I helped Javier for a little while and then relaxed for the afternoon. We all chipped in for dinner and we made a great chicken curry under the instructions of the wooden-spoon wielding Hoa. Phil, an English born Dutchman who did a similar trip to us on a V-Strom, was leaving tomorrow so he bought us a cake and a bottle of wine which he shared with us.
Friday 12/4/13 – For the last two nights Sandra’s cat who lives at the hostel has slept at the end of the tent in the vestibule snuggled on top of our bike jackets. Last night there were all sorts of cat fighting noises coming from the neighbourhood and this morning we found the cat on Kenz’s jacket with half her tail missing. It had about 3 inches of skeleton poking out where her tail tip used to be. It looked like someone had taken a wire cutting tool and slipped
it around her tail and stripped the fur and flesh off. The cat wasn’t too worried about it (besides not being able to sit down properly), but Sandra and Javier were obviously concerned and took her to the vet for a proper tail amputation. We gave the bike jackets a quick search for any blood or tail pieces left behind but didn’t find anything.
After breakfast we caught the train into BA and to the stadium of Argentina’s best soccer club (or worst, depending on who you ask). River Plate are playing Arsenal (Argentinian Arsenal, not English Premier league!) on Sunday and after seeing the prices of the ‘safe’ tickets (where you are accompanied by a tour guide/fixer), we decided we would just get a regular ticket, cross our fingers and dress in neutral colours for the game. We arrived at the stadium and jumped in the queue for tickets outside the River Plate museum which is attached to the stadium. There were some strange looking people lining up for tickets, most guys wearing all black with mascara and black nail polish but I just figured that football culture was a little different over here. 10 minutes later we
had chatted to the man behind the ticket booth, selected our seats and bought our tickets. Luckily as we walked away we glanced at the ticket and were surprised to see we had just bought tickets for The Cure concert at the stadium tonight (a gloomy British rock band from the 80s and 90s). Suddenly it made sense why we were surrounded by a bunch of ‘really happy looking people’ who looked like the types who cut themselves and write really bad poetry. We ran back to the ticket booth feeling like such idiot tourists and the guy roared with laughter, gave us our money back and told us to return tomorrow for tickets to the soccer game.
We caught the train back to the hostel feeling foolish about the whole experience. The trains here are a little different to most of the ones we have travelled on. The doors don’t close and there is usually a few gnarly dudes hanging out the doors. And if you feel like losing your arm or head you can just stick it out the huge open windows as the train roars past another train just a few inches away. There are also
guys who walk up and down the carriages leaving chocolates, biscuits, playing cards, or cards ordained with prayers and images of saints or popes on the seat next to you. They then return a few minutes later after their wares have enticed you to make a purchase. Apparently staring at a card with the pope’s face on it is meant to make me want to buy it. I wonder what happens if you collect the whole set of saint/pope cards? Maybe they tell you exactly why the pope is relevant to a religion whose founders and texts never specifically mention a pope?
Saturday 13/4/13 – We rode the train back into town today and again stopped at the stadium to buy tickets to the River Plate game on Sunday. This time we were much more successful and we managed to purchase the tickets we wanted. We continued on down to the city centre and then jumped on a bus out to the suburb of Boca. It’s one of the poorer areas but is well known for its brightly painted houses and paper mache statues on their roofs, balconies and door steps. There is an area of the
suburb that is safe for camera-wielding, flags-of-the-world t-shirt wearing tourists to walk around, so we headed here and strolled around checking out all the amazing coloured houses, street art and statues. Unfortunately its now also become quite a tourist attraction so many of the shop fronts are now full of Chinese made trinkets and rip-off football shirts, but we did see some great street art and statues a few blocks away from the main tourist streets. We also saw a homeless man lying on his back wearing tiny short-shorts with his legs spread wide open, perhaps trying to get a suntan on his inner thighs. It is yet another image that will stay with me forever.
We ate some empanadas for lunch which are similar to meat pies back home (but more spicy and savoury). We walked along the waterfront for a while and then caught a bus back into the city to the giant obelisk in the town centre which is surrounded by many old buildings that are half covered over by neon signs advertising McDonald’s or Sony products. The biggest banner was about 100m x 300m celebrating the new Argentinian pope (El Papa). After a short walk
down the shopping district, we walked back through the park to the train station trying not to look at a 60yo woman sunbaking in nothing but a G-string. She was on a large grassy area surrounded by brown wrinkly autumn leaves; it was actually quiet an artistic scene.
Sunday 14/4/13 – Again we caught a train into town but this time we walked along the harbour and through the antique and artisan market which stretched for about 10 city blocks in San Telmo. Most of the stalls had unique antique items or local handmade crafts so we took our time walking along the alleys and streets. There were also a few groups dancing the tango in the San Telmo parks and plazas.
After lunch we strolled around the city some more and then returned home and prepared for tonight’s soccer game. Javier and Sandra told us not to go without a guide/fixer as the games often end violently. The last guys from the hostel who went to a River game were wearing River shirts but were sitting in the away fans section, so they quickly put jumpers on over the top of their soccer shirts. But
some of the fans noticed the River shirts poking out underneath their jumpers and they basically got their stools beaten out of them. However we weren’t willing to pay around $200 each for a fixer so instead just decked ourselves out in neutral coloured clothing and walked down to the train station. Immediately a train pulled up which was almost totally packed, the last 3 carriages were full of rabid soccer fans with drums and flags all hanging out the doors and windows of the train. They started throwing fireworks out the windows so we ran a few carriages up and jumped on with the slightly more mentally stable fans. For the whole train ride we could hear all the singing and fireworks coming from the rear carriages. We had to stand for the train ride and were crammed in by a number of young guys all drinking wine, beer or spirits out of plastic coke bottles and passing joints around the train. In a haze of dope smoke with hooligans singing songs around us, we started to wonder what we had gotten ourselves into! The train station was about 6 blocks from the stadium but tonight the train stopped
in the middle of the tracks in between stations outside the stadium while a red and white stream of euphoric and eye-glazed fans ran across the tracks and slid under the 8-foot high wire fence through carefully dug trenches whilst a burly fan lifted the fence up about 6 inches. The train then continued on with the more sedate fans still on board to the station where we disembarked and walked towards the stadium. As we approached the stadium we began to encounter vast numbers of the local constabulary, most wearing riot gear with police dogs and a few tank-like anti-riot vehicles with gun turrets and water cannons on their rooves. It was all a little foreboding, but after passing through 4 police checkpoints we entered the stadium with all the singing and chanting fans. Kenz had to enter through a different girls-only line where they thoroughly checked her for weapons including searching through her hair braid. There was a pile of batteries, lighters, glass bottles, lip-balms and other confiscated ‘possible missiles’ nearby. After walking halfway around the outside of the stadium twice, we eventually found our section and our seats which were located almost in line with the goal
line. We were sitting in the couples and family section as there were heaps of girls and a few kids running around. About 20m to our left were the cheap ‘popular’ seats which were crammed with standing, sweating, chanting, insane Argentinian men. There was a 20 piece band (mostly drums, but a few trumpets and other wind instruments) who were fervently playing songs while the crowd sang along. I’m glad we were in the couples section, even here was a little daunting at times. I think they actually encouraged girls not to sit in the popular seats. Here there were about 20,000 fans behind the goals and only about 1 in 200 was female – I guess I wouldn’t want to be in there either if I was a girl. There was confetti, streamers, flares and even a small fire started in the stands above us. Most of the 3rd
tier safety railings were being stood or sat on by fearless fans with legs hanging over the ledge. When the teams came out the crowd went crazy, the team had to enter through long inflatable tunnels to protect them from fans throwing missiles at them, and the outside of the
pitch was separated from the crowd by a fence and deep trench to stop pitch invaders. Arsenal scored the first goal after about 15mins but this just made the home fans sing and chant even louder. The away fans had their own section behind huge fences and elevated away from the rest of the crowd with riot police standing around the outside, but they began singing and chanting after their team scored. River equalised soon after and everyone cheered and threw plastic cups, confetti and toilet paper in the air. It remained 1-1 for the rest of the match and after the game finished we were locked inside the stadium for over half an hour while the away fans were escorted out by the police and away from the stadium. When we eventually were let out, we crossed over the freeway and walked along the shoulder for a few blocks before cutting through some unlit parks to the train station. We squeezed onto the train with everyone else, got off at our station and had to walk about 10 blocks through the suburbs at close to midnight. The streets were almost totally empty so we walked down the middle of
the road under the street lights just to be extra safe. Overall it was a great experience and we felt pretty safe most of the time, we might even try and see another game when we return to BA in a few weeks.
Monday 15/4/13 – Today was filled with idleness for Kenz and I, but Javier fixed a number of little things on the bikes. For lunch we walked up the road and bought more empanadas, and I tried without success to find someplace for a shave and haircut. Here the smaller family businesses are usually open on the weekends so they typically see Monday as their day off. Javier finally finished the work on the bikes just after sunset, he left and I spent a few hours in the evening putting the bikes back together so we could leave early in the morning. I had a problem with my chain so he had to cut some new segments from one of his spare chains, and then we used a spare link I had and one that Javier took off another chain. He thought it was hilarious and kept calling it a ‘chain salad’. Once it
was finished he looked at it like it was a masterpiece, I just hope it holds for the last leg of our trip – I’m usually not so keen on salad…
Tuesday 16/4/13 – After a quick breakfast and receiving some route suggestions from Sandra and Javier, we rode out of BA. We did a few blocks around the suburbs to test out Kenz’s bike, and whilst it is still not totally fixed, it is running a lot better. We headed for the nearest 130kph 6 lane freeway and gambled with our lives in order to escape the debauched chaos that is the BA freeways. After not riding for a few days, it always takes an hour or two to get back into the swing of it, and it’s a shame when you have to rescale that learning curve in a city like BA. Once we had escaped the city, it was a boring 300km ride towards the city of Rosario - it was like all the possible excitement of a 300km ride was squeezed into the 30km around BA and then it was buzzards and tumbleweeds for the next 3 hours. Once we hit Rosario we
discovered that all the campsites here were closed so the lady at the info centre sent us to the nearby town of Pueblo Esther (village of Esther). Upon riding in, I glanced around for the gallows of Mordecai but only found a beautiful beach and nearby forest (biblical joke!). It was a nice municipal camping area and we only shared it with a few stray dogs and 2 old dudes fishing. After dinner we turned in early until we were woken by what sounded like hundreds of angry Jews screaming for blood (bible joke #2). It was just a guy in a rusty old backhoe digging ditches about 50m away in the dark; I have no idea why he decided to start at 9pm and use spotlights for an intense 2 hour backhoe session.
Wednesday 17/4/13 – During dinner last night we befriended a local dog whose back left leg was at a right angle. He had obviously broken it in the past and it was now hanging out like an aeroplane wing. We fed him and for thanks he sat outside our tent all night barking at anything that came near. I refer to these dogs
as strays, but it’s probably more accurate to say they are ‘community dogs’. They’re usually well fed and no one chases them away. Many people feed them or pat them when they walk past, it’s just that no one owns them but each one usually has its own local turf and is part of an after-dark scruffy posse.
We had known the road from BA to Cordoba was going to be long, flat and boring. Yesterday and today were exactly as we expected. I actually had a tumbleweed blow across the road in front of me this morning and that’s no joke. We stopped for fuel and lunch at a service station which had another dog with a right angle leg. It’s not that uncommon to see service station dogs with buggered legs as they sleep next to the petrol pumps and sometimes refuse to move when you pull up for gas. This one had broken its back leg and it was now poking out behind him at a disturbing angle. It was so bad that he couldn’t sit down but would sort of flop onto the ground on his side. The other noticeable site today was a tractor
driving down the highway towing 5 trailers (a water tank, a caravan, some harvesting equipment, a trailer with tools, and his car)! That’s not something you typically see back home.
We entered the outskirts of Cordoba and the GPS sent us down an old abandoned road that followed the river for about 10km. The road was covered in rubbish and old construction materials, except for a narrow path big enough for small cars and bikes. We dodged a few scroungers and kids on bikes before crossing lanes and riding on the wrong side of the road where there were less plastic bags and piles of old crumbling bricks. The actual city of Cordoba was quite nice with a rich cultural centre and the country’s oldest university. We rode past the large city centre (Cordoba has a population of 1.5 million) and spied an information centre across the way so we doubled back and rode through the pedestrian mall. I waited by the bikes whilst Kenz went in to find out about camping. Whilst waiting I got asked the typical questions and posed for photos with people as there was crowd nearby listening to a traditional band. As we rode
out of the mall Kenz stopped for a photo with a young teen girl who looked at her with stars in her eyes, she was also wearing flares like the girls in the Austin Powers movies.
We arrived at the nearby campground which was again beautiful, green and huge. I chatted to the portly campground caretaker who spoke a little English that he learned from rock music. When he realised we were Australian he began talking about AC/DC which is the usual response we get from men here. But he then began talking about Rose Tattoo and said “Angry Anderson is small man but big voice and powerful body with me!”. It was a strange sentence and made me wonder if I am the first person to ever hear those words in that order? Probably…
The campground was part of a nature reserve on the edge of town which was home to many bird species. In the trees above our tent there were huge multi entrance nests made from reeds with many bright coloured lorikeets flying in and out. Every evening we also saw red necked woodpeckers, large eagles and falcons, pigeons and a number of other birds.
Of course we also adopted 3 new best friends whilst here, one was a large dog who would always sleep up on the picnic tables, and there was an extremely skinny young female dog with mange and ticks who looked like she didn’t have long to live. The two other dogs didn’t like her much and made her stay about 10m away from us, it was hard not to get too upset for the poor thing.
Thursday 18/4/13 – It was an ordeal trying to organise a shower this morning. Sometimes the simplest things take a long time over here. 2 hours later we were both showered and we rode into the local Walmart to use their free WiFi and to spot the crazy shoppers. We spent the day relaxing and made pasta for dinner. We cooked way too much and gave the left overs to our new friends. Unfortunately we couldn’t find the mangy one so we gave it to the other 2 dogs. We then noticed that she was hiding behind a tree but she came over when she saw food. The others obviously wouldn’t share and we felt so awful. I fed her some
consolatory Doritos that I had, and we vowed to spoil her the following night. And to make us feel even worse, Mangey slept next to our tent all night half-barking at anything that came close while the other 2 dogs slept on the nearby picnic table. The little one couldn’t bark properly but sounded like she was coughing up a hairball whenever she tried.
Friday 19/4/13 – I tried to organise a shower this morning by chatting with the caretaker who was listening to a band called ‘Malignant Tumor’ at an insane volume. I don’t think he was learning English from this band, it sounded like 2 elephants fighting on a crashing aeroplane. We rode into town and walked around the various plazas and old churches here. I managed to get my first saint card in one of the churches by a spruiker who was trying to crowd us into one of their small prayer rooms. For lunch we ate at a small restaurant on a street corner and we both ordered the special of the day. We are pretty sure it we each got served a large, flattened pig foot. It tasted pretty good but we
could have done with a smaller serving. Once your hunger is satiated you begin thinking about what you are eating and this occurred with over half our meals left. I’ve never really thought about pig’s feet before today, and I hope I won’t ever again.
For dinner we cooked up some large steaks and I managed to flick a piece to Mangey. We also soaked up the meat juice with a bread roll and she tucked into that too. I’m not sure if we are just extending her suffering, it may be more human to let her starve to death. She has lost most of her paw fur and often gets twigs and sticks stuck in her paws so she constantly limps.
Saturday 20/4/13 – Today’s 400kms from Cordoba to Parana dragged by at a low interest rate. Eventually we arrived in Parana which we accessed by a huge 2.5km tunnel beneath the vast Parana river. The city, although small, is the state capital and is across the river from the city of Santa Fe (the capital of the neighbouring state). We found the info centre on the river front and parked the bikes on the
sidewalk. We walked in said hello and asked where the nearby campsite was. The guy at the desk then spent about 10 minutes giving us a running history of the province in Spanish and then all the attractions in the area. Eventually he pointed to the campsite on a map just when a cop poked his head in and glared at us. We said good bye and rode off before the grumpy cops decided to book us for illegal parking. The campsite was located on a hilltop overlooking the river and we watched a brilliant yellow sunset over the kayaks and sailboats floating down the river.
After dinner Kenz went for a shower and I ran up when I heard her scream. On the footpath was a giant warty-looking toad who just looked at us. He was massive and totally unconcerned about anything. I wanted to see him hop so I grabbed a stick and poked him repeatedly on his back, legs and even his face but he refused to even acknowledge me; it was almost like he was a garden ornament but we could see him breathing. After about 10 minutes I got bored watching his sedentary existence
and after I was unsuccessful at provoking a response I went back to the tent. I later thought about the toad and was impressed that no matter what happened he kept his cool. The next time everything seems to be going wrong and I feel like the camel’s back stacked with straw, I hope I remember to be more toad-like.
Sunday 21/4/13 – We had a decision to make this morning, to ride north up the east side of the Parana River or the west? We decided on the west side as it meant we could ride beneath the river through the tunnel again. Riding through tunnels is far more exciting on a bike than in a car, but once we reached the other side there was little else exciting for the remainder of today’s ride. There was plenty of roadworks where we had to wait anywhere from 1 – 10 minutes, which although annoying, it broke up the monotony. We stayed off the main highways and took back roads through small towns and vast expanses of pastures and forest. Riding through such farmland means you get a full collection of bugs and critters coming to their end on your visor, after a while it is like looking at the world through rainbow coloured glasses. One of the creatures (she thinks it was a bee or wasp) got its revenge on Kenz by flying up her sleeve and stinging her wrist. It was immediately red and puffy and apparently quite annoying.
We rode into the city of Resistencia and I could immediately understand why it wasn’t called ‘Irresistencia’. We rode into the centre in town where they have a few city blocks of parks with gazebos, small volley ball courts, soccer pitches, and even a large dam. They allow camping here for only $8 so we set up out of the way in a corner beneath a huge floodlight. By this stage Kenz was beginning to look like a lizard-woman as the bite on her wrist had turned scaly and had spread up her arm. We were determined to keep an eye on it and if she licks her eyeball or tongues a passing fly out of the air, we will take her to a doctor or veterinarian. As we were setting up camp we watched a few hundred people across the dam making a party with a live band and they danced well into the night. I also watched a dude with ‘John Platten’ style hair (huge afro) juggling a soccer ball nearby, it looked like thousands of small spiders doing conga-lines all over his head – amazing!
We walked up the road to the local supermarket to grab some dinner and spotted a few baby hedgehogs for sale in the pet department. There was also a cinema attached to the supermarket so we went and saw the movie ‘Oblivion’ on the spur of the moment. We were pretty sure it was an illegally downloaded copy that someone had subtitled with Spanish, the quality was so bad. The guy next to me must have never seen a scifi movie before because he was getting his mind blown every 10 minutes as the movie unfolded. At the end he sat in the theatre with the lights on shaking his head trying to work out what was going on, watching him was even more entertaining than the movie. Afterwards we walked back through the centre of town to our campsite being careful not to stare too long at the slew of drunk transients stumbling around the perimeter of the park.
Monday 22/4/13 – Of all the nights we had to be camping in the middle of a city beneath a floodlight, it had to be last night!! There was a meteor strike that was seen in central and northern Argentina which was apparently viewable from this city. I doubt I will ever get a chance to see one again and will just have to take solace in the fact that I was near one. I’m sure if I ever have grandchildren one day the story will have morphed so that I had to jump out of the way to be missed by the fireball. Every time I pass a TV the meteor is on the screen laughing at me for missing my chance.
This morning we had more pressing matters than the meteor opportunity we missed. After being waved away from a few fuel stations we realised that no one in town had any petrol – quite remarkable for a city that’s bigger than Hobart! No-one seemed too bothered by it though, and it is hard to imagine the people back in Australia accepting such a situation so nonchalantly. We headed north and after leaving the city we started seeing a few fuel stations with lines around the block. With that ‘acceptance of fate’ attitude ubiquitous with many South Americans we joined one such queue. It was the first of 3 fuel stops for the day as we rode 650km north towards Argentina’s northern border.
As we came closer towards Brazil we began to notice changes in the landscape and conditions around us. We left the boring plains and agricultural lands of Argentina and immediately struck thick jungle, rich red soil, crumbling infrastructure and thick winding rivers. It was almost like we had been transported to Central America again and we were both glad for it. Suddenly there was so much to see and observe whilst riding along, subconsciously we had slowed down to take it all in and the kilometres no longer dragged by but it felt like we were moving too fast and missing some amazing sights. For instance we crossed a river over a bridge with each of its sections slanting at strange opposing angles making it feel as though they were going to drop out from beneath us, whilst below there was a large pack of free-range horses swimming in the water. Later we passed a vast marshy plain were cows were standing belly-deep in the water eating floating plants and grasses that stood above the water line.
By 1pm we had only gone 300km and after talking to a bike enthusiast whilst eating lunch we realised we weren’t going to make it to Iguazu today. The GPS indicated 3 campsites at a town just 100km further so we decided to stay the night at one of those and ride to Iguazu the following day. As is so often the case the GPS was playing a sick joke on us, as none of the campsites even existed, and we even followed one wild goose down a 6km path over narrow dirt roads, washed out stream beds and a section of cobble stoned road (which I believe was created by a giant overturning a huge bucket of fist sized lego pieces on the road), eventually we found the campsite which was now only offering cabins for $100 a night. Yeah, no thanks…
With both of our tempers being sorely tested, we rode to a nearby YPF petrol station and hinted at perhaps pitching our tent on then thin narrow strip of grass beneath their giant YPF sign, between the highway and their pumps. The guy at the pump said no problem and pointed us around the side where there was a more suitable patch of grass for us to camp on. Never has a man seemed more beautiful to me than in that moment, we were so frustrated and angry but it all immediately melted away. We popped the tent up in record time and went into the service station to chow down on some chips and burgers for dinner. I then began noticing the manager who was giving us a few hard looks and I knew he wasn’t happy with us. I knew I now had a few options, either stare at him daring him to come over and say something (usually works), be friendly and introduce myself (a sure way of getting kicked out), act like an asshole, or ignore him and pretend to be busy doing something. I went with the last option but he eventually came over and told us to get off his turf. We said we would in half an hour and when he went into his office again we ran out, picked up the tent and carried around the back of the service station and put it along the edge of a field behind a row of trees so it couldn’t be easily seen from the road. We went and sat back inside and beamed under his suspicious glances.
Eventually it got dark and we snuck out the back into our tent prepared for a calm night of solid sleep – it didn’t turn out like that. At about 11pm a car drove off the highway across the field, behind the trees and pulled up about 2m from our tent. As the engine died and the headlights blinked out I furiously began to cold-sweat and panic, but when I poked my head out and glanced at the car I just got angry – it was a cop car. I thought the manager had called the cops on us and I slipped back into the tent waiting for the cop to shine his light on us and tell us to move. After 5 minutes he still hadn’t come over so I unzipped the door slightly and watched him. Two cops had the back doors and boot open and were cleaning out the rear of the car. Immediately crazy scenarios tore through my head, most of them to do with either dodgy cops dumping dead bodies, kidnapping gringos or planting drugs on tourists! After about 10 minutes they had finished cleaning and both jumped back in the front seats and sat there in the dark. It was a strange night and it got even weirder when we began to smell dope smoke wafting over from the car. They stayed there for about 2 hours whilst I sat their cramping and sweating watching them from a thin crack in the tent door, too scared to go to sleep. I don’t trust police all that much, but I have absolutely no trust of South American cops that smoke dope in the dark 2m from my tent! Eventually they got a radio call and took off at about 1am. I quickly went to sleep but two more times during the night they pulled up to their favourite hidden dope-smoking goof-off spot, and each time I watched them for a while hoping that they didn’t decide to mess with us. Luckily they didn’t.
Apology from Kenz: The portable hard drive where many of our photos were stored did not survive being dropped on a tiled floor, so there were a lot less photos to choose from for this blog. Hopefully, the photos can be recovered by a technician in Australia, but until then, these are all we have left.
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