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Published: January 21st 2006
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After the last thrilling visit to the barber I know you’ve been hanging out waiting for my locks to lengthen anew….today was the day.

I nearly didn’t make it as I had a small session in the wonderfully decrepit bar of the museum hotel. I’m writing from the bar this evening, the music is astonishing, some v cool jazz from I don’t know where, but the lighting is extremely low and moody. Several antique chandeliers have small coloured globes, the antique cash register has a little strip light, just enough to see your money. Mostly its dark! Late in the night, after several cervezas I ventured out to the back room and the bano…out the back is the big, cluttered, ‘disco’, haven’t seen it fired up yet but live in hope!..anyway, its pitch black back there, I stumbled, I tripped, I nearly fell, I got lost, nearly starved to death, discovered by the cleaning lady three days later........ well almost.

They are doing some rennos and outside a couple of guys are balancing on a treacherous bit of scaffolding patching the mortar between the bricks. They both have safety belts. One has his belt connected to a rope, tied to something on the roof, but the rope is easily longer than the drop to the ground! Furthermore, the rope is tangled around the scaffold itself so if it topples he will be dragged down anyway! His partner is stretching out to his limit and has no rope connected!
Yesterday arvo they nervously came to our room and asked if they could take a photo of the bikes!..its like that everywhere, extreme politeness and courtesy, you see it always in greetings etc, whenever you enter a building, shop or office you always say hi and good-day, friends always shake hands, after the first meeting its an embrace and peck on cheek, always an acknowledgement of everyone else, very social, very civil, very nice. Like this morning, I was walking up the street and ran into a woman and her daughter I’d met on the tour yesterday, we embrace and kiss hello, its so natural, so friendly, its hard to describe but I feel its something quintessentially Latino and something we miss!!...especially between men.

So, I found a small peluqueria, hairdresser, with a sign saying unisexo, the chica gestures me to the chair, I try and make small talk but
The Perfect ValleyThe Perfect ValleyThe Perfect Valley

Rio Azul, El Bolson
to no avail, she seems a little nervous, my helmet hair is hardly standing up, looks like carpet fluff in the head of the vacuum cleaner. I do the old Marcel Marceau routine.... No.3 on the sides and No.4 on top. Bueno. She gets stuck in to the sides with the No.3, I’m looking like Neil Finn back when Crowded House was still Split Enz, she stops to take the phone call that interrupts every haircut, then she’s fumbling the change over to No.4 cutter, then shuffling the No.4 over the top, not much is happening so I tell her to do the lot with No.3, she loosens up a bit. Hey what a non-event after the last one!

And across the main street a little artsy/craftsy bunch of faux-rasta, hippie stalls is coming to life, a chica has some noice little ceramic characters…she tells me they are pre-colombian ceramic fertility images from Peru!…does this mean pre-Christopher Colombian? or that former era, somewhat after the plasticene era?, there is something childlike about these things…but how am I going to know if they were hand baked in a primitive kiln somewhere around Machu Pichu a million years ago, or knocked up by some school kids last week in a second-hand Bimbo bread oven donated to the local primary school?

By the way, I’m still in Esquel, its day 212, and a lovely sunny day it was….I say ‘was’ because a great grey cloud just slipped over the mountain and its starting to sweat a little rain. Raf gets a laugh as I get the umbrella out of the pannier…macho bikie with little pussy fold-up brolly! Ha. Another note to BMW, the waterproof liner should have a hood!

I had decided to take a day off and get a few housekeeping chores done, bank, laundry, haircut, massage, airline office, replace the Velcro on the armour suit, oil the bike and a few other odds and sods.. it started out as a perfect day and I was halfway thru’ the list before 10am. Then I lost track of what I was going to say.

Last night the bar was almost deserted so I crashed about 11.30. I woke around 4.30 and I could hear the doof-doof of the disco!..I almost got up to check it out but rolled over instead.

Next morning a beautiful day so we pushed
BMW  Promo ShotBMW  Promo ShotBMW Promo Shot

Lakeside, road to Bariloche
on to El Bolson, renowned old hippie town half way to Bariloche. Fantastic ride thru’ the mountains, a bit of curvery at last, its been a bit embarrassing having the rear tyre almost bald in the middle and the sides still pristine!
Coming into El Bolson we picked up 2 Israeli chicas hitching into town and gave them a ride to the tourist info centre. This is your 15 seconds of fame…Gitat and Rachel doing the 6 month post military service travelling. But the real thing, camping, trekking and all that! Hope your tent stayed dry that night!
Only one or two million touristas in El Bolson but the information place did the right thing again and found us a room. Sandra, the woman of the house drove down and we followed her home. She had moved her daughters out of the room and we had a lovely little attic room complete with dolls and girly pictures on the walls!

Roamed the famous craft market but really, it wasn’t a patch on Ricoleto. But it did attract a huge crowd and a band was playing in the park, 2 chicas with saxs, 2 guitars and drums, a little amp and everyone chilling out on the grass…a few wafts of the herb superb passed over, the sun was dodging in and out of some clouds that were hanging around the mountains and eventually gathered force and it started to rain. The giveaway was watching the market stalls starting to pack up...when they pack up you just know its going to rain!
We hung out in a bar until it eased off and slipped home. It rained quite a bit during the night.
The town is surrounded by these massive ranges with snow drifts on many of the sheltered faces and in the morning a fresh dusting of snow covered all the peaks. Magic!

Another perfecto day and after a little side trip up to the Rio Azul, (it wasn’t as azul as the other one but) in such a perfect valley, steep sided with fir trees up so far and then just ragged rocks and scree slopes. Down the valley some 20 kms away you could see another perfect lake and ranges of snow capped mountains. We did a mini trek up to the top, just spectacularly beautiful. Realised just how spectacularly unfit I am!!

Then on to Bariloche, like Manaus and Ushuaia, a place that had always been in my mind. The road once more wound thru’ the mountains, chilly but so clear and sunny. The air is so clear and the views so perfect like only a hole in the ozone layer can create, but I think the ozone layer over here is intacto, yes?
I was having trouble getting back into the rhythm of cornering, its been too long, and frequently finding rocks and gravel on the corners, back end slipping, bike bucks and weaves, little more throttle to stabilise, drop it over to compensate, straighten up for the next, catch a glimpse of another picture postcard scene, again these fabulous ranges always getting closer, the skyline sometimes looks man-made with battlements, towers, ramparts, then totally jagged, ragged and closer up, the rock faces unbelievably, unscalably, impossible. And scree slopes running right down to road level, thru’ the tree line, again covered in pines. Ahh, and the lake!

Ahh, back to the fuschia….

Wild wild flowers carpet the roadside, inches from my nose on the long right-handers, daisies, straw flowers, thistles, marigolds, lavendar..what a smell!... And while we’re on flowers, back in the park with the oldest, biggest, shabbiest tree in the world I saw fuschias, now this park is tres eco-correcto so I couldn’t imagine anything imported here but I always thought fuschias came from either England or Asia hhmmm any botanistas out there? Did the originate in S America?
And the lake, omg, followed it for many kms, always looking for the perfect mirror of the snow-capped mountains..no doubt Ted will find the spot on his way thru’! This 120 kms would be one of the prettiest and most dramatic landscapes you could see.
Then into Bariloche, bit of an anti-climax as we ride in along a dusty, crappy bit of road, thru’ the slums and dumps, not v attractive at all…but then into the town and as we ride down the main drag you are hit with this mega view...the street, lined with shops and hotels drops down towards centro, beyond, the horizon is a vista of mountain ridges, capped with snow...man oh man..and off to the left, the old cathedral and the mother of all lakes...this lake is big, unbelievably blue and flanked all around by more mountains, add the blue sky, sunshine, crystal clarity...just perfect!!...this would have to be one of the most gorgeous settings anywhere. Crikey, I’m losing the cynical edge again, must be tired and sober. I’ve just arranged a massage for 8pm with sauna I think, my neck and shoulders have been giving me crapola for some time and riding in the wind has really stretched or strained something.
But at least now I’m up to date and can go back to ruminating on more esoterica.
Photos?? We’ll see.
I’m thinking there will be WiFi around here somewhere but for now I’ll use the stick.

And just a postscript, was downtown just now and copped another 15 minutes of fame. Met a guy who has a TV show about all things bikes, he’s been around bikes all his life, in fact he was in Oz a couple of years back in Traralgon for the 6 day enduro. Anyway, he got his crew over and did a little interview with me and Raf. He’s here for the rally that starts manana. Jeeps and bikes, 8 days, across Patagonia, unreal, so I’ll be down in the square for the start tomorrow and get some pix.

Well the pix got up but I don't have the one of the chicas!...go to www.aventura2.com

2 final observations:
1/ nearly all the baños (bathrooms, toilets) have wonderful tiling, no matter how old the building the baños are set out like a Reece catalogue promo.
2/ service in many places is S L O O O W .... in surermarket checkouts the checkout chica will have a 10 minute conversation with everyone as they go thru'...sometimes in bars/restaurants you can wait for 20 minutes, even when its empty!...Now, I mean to say, sometimes I can be in a hurry, here I've got all day, but crikey, sometimes you really gotta wonder!
Anyway, despite that little itch, everything else is wonderful in Argentina, I love it all!!

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