17 February 2004
Last night Mason and I headed out to dinner, but on the way heard a band playing, so we stopped to see what was going on. Turns out it was Molotov, the band that plays the joke song I mentioned earlier. So, we snuck in and watched the show. It was a very small show, about 50 people at the studios of the Argentine music channel, MuchMusic. Anyway, Molotov is a very popular Mexican rock band... and they rock! We talked to one of their roadies afterwards, and found out they are playing here in Buenos Aires on Friday.
But, by then we were supposed to be on the way to Rio for Carnivale. However, I was unable to get a visa quickly, so I would not be able to leave for Rio until Friday... Which would make the ride there impossible. So Mason looked into flights, and we are now planning on seeing the Molotov show on Friday, then flying to Carnivale on Saturday, and finally returning to BA the day after Carnivale ends, next Wednesday. Everything has fallen into place. Yee hah!
16 February 2004
So.. I been spending time here in Buenos Aires. Seen a few of the sites, a museum, and a bit of the night life. A few days ago Mason, his friend Jamilla and I went to a good museum here with lots of Argentine art. After that, I went off to the city cemetery.. amazing tombs with all sorts of decoration. The place was filled with cats to keep the rats out of the coffins, and there are a ton of famous Argentines buried there. However, only one was portrayed my Madonna in a major motion picture, so everyone was crowded around Eva Peron's grave. I avoided it, and just checked out the others.
Last night Mason and I went out with Lois, Rachel, and Rachel's friend Simon. Lois' bike is loaded on a ship, and she flies out tomorrow back to London. I bought her a drink to celebrate her completion.. and she is looking forward to getting home.
This morning I got up, had coffee, then went in search of the Brazilian consulate. Turns out I need a visa for Brazil, and Mason and I are now talking about blasting up to Rio for Carnivale. It would be 4 or so 500+ mile days to get there, but the roads are good, so if I can get a visa, we may go for it.. Unfortunately the consulate only deals with visas for a few hours, so I have to go back tomorrow. Plans are still undetermined, as I don't really want to have to race up there, and it would screw up my route.. and Mason is supposed to be on his way to Africa by now.. So we will see.
Food. The food in Argentina is very good. A lot of meat. Most restaurants are parillas, which are essentially restaurants with a huge wood fired grill. They have steaks, sausage, lamb, ribs, and all sorts of odd things.. ox tail, blood sausage, etc. etc. The steaks are usually excellent.. and cheap. A big rib steak is like $3.. And also, here in Buenos Aires, Mason and I found a great Chinese restaurant the other day. We got a little carried away, ate too much, and felt sick for the rest of the night, but it was definitely worth it.. I had not had decent Chinese food since I left San Francisco.
Buenos Aires is a cool city... Very European, tons of restaurants, bars, nightlife, museums, great parks, and amazing architecture. It is huuuge.. goes on for miles and miles of high rises and big buildings. The main drag is something like 14 lanes wide, and they claim it is the widest street in the world. And it is cheap. My hotel is in a cool old neighborhood, not the nicest, but fun. Cable tv, big bed, desk, and ceiling fan costs me $5 a night. Dinners are usually $3-4, beers are $1, and everything else is equally cheap. It is great.
13 February 2004
After changing my rear tire, eating more asado, and shooting the breeze with Jorge, I headed off from Azul the other day. Before I left town I stopped and checked my email. And I received an email from a guy from Seattle I had met on the road in Southern Chile a month or so. He was low on gas, so I gave him some.. and he emailed me to let me know he was in Buenos Aires, and would buy me a beer if I was gonna be around. We had said a month ago maybe we would meet up.. So I emailed him back, saying I would be in BA that afternoon. He gave me the name of his hotel, so I showed up and got a room. We went out on the town a bit, had some beers in a cool beer garden nearby.
I spent yesterday wandering about town, and scouting out places to buy books and whatnot. Mason spent the day at the BMW dealer, getting some work done on his F650. We met up again in the afternoon, and a friend of Mason's had joined us. As we headed out of the hotel, we bumped into two Australian guys on Dominators, who Mason had met a week or so back. So the five of us headed out and had some beers, then met a couple that the Australian guys had met at dinner.
After dinner we all ended up heading to an "English pub". It was not an English pub, but they did have Guinness on tap! Not the best Guinness, but Guinness nonetheless. Then, we headed off to a nightclub that Mason liked. It was pretty fun, other than the fact that I felt weird being on the other side. I'm used to working at a club, not going to one. The place we went to was like a big southern Endup. All the usual people, all the usual music. Like a good Foundation night at the Endup..
Today I am messing about after sleeping late.. nightclubs here don't get going until 2am or so, and so I didn't get home last night until after 5am. I am going to spend the weekend here in Buenos Aires, then start heading north, and figure out if I can make it to Brazil for Carnivale..
10 February 2004
Well, in Sierra de la Ventana, I managed to meet the campsite drunk. He is a nice enough old fellow, with a nice '30 Ford, and he and his wife invited me over for midday asado.. Argentine barbecue. Which usually consists of a lot of dead sheep or cow on a wood fire. Which I couldn't really complain about. Now, the old guy likes to talk, and his wife, it seems, has pretty much quit listening after 38 years of marriage. So I got to listen. But the fact that he had few teeth, was half in the bag, and usually had a mouthful of asado in his mouth made my understanding limited. But he didn't seem to care. Told me about his kids, about how much meat Argentines eat (included in this story was a quant charades-like rendition of the toilet situation after eating so much meat) and about rich Japanese. I'm not really sure what this last rant was about, but I nodded and agreed. He also told me about how last year (for their month long vacation here) he consumed 70 liters of red wine.. which figures out to be somewhere over 10 glasses per day. Seems he's going for the record this year.
I also met another older couple, who were as nice, and sober, so not as interesting. But the woman gave me her son's email and phone numbers in Buenos Aires in case I needed anything. And they told me about a gaucho festival the day I planned to leave, so I decided to stay there another night. Unfortunately though, it turns out the festival was about eight folks on horses following a group of people walking and praying. Not much of a festival, but what the hell.
So yesterday I got up, packed up, and headed out. A beautiful ride on a great little country road. A few potholes, but not bad, and everyone was flying! I was going about 75mph and was passed multiple times. Anyway, I made it to Azul, stopped for lunch, then went about finding La Posta del Viajero en Moto. The background on this is that the German guys I met in southern Chile said I had to go to this place.. Mendoza 685 in Azul. So, not knowing anything about it I wrote the address down on my top case, and showed up. Jorge, the proprietor, came running out, and showed me into the clubhouse. He has a full size garage, and a little house with bunk beds and kitchen and bath. He and his wife Monica live in the bigger house out back. Essentially, this is the local motorcycle club's hangout, and the spot where hundreds of moto travelers stop by. The walls are adorned with paintings, notes, stickers, and photos from the various people who have stopped in. And Jorge provides a place to sleep, park your bike, and also cooks up a huge asado for anyone that stops in.. All for free. So I decided to spend the night, and set about changing my oil, which I've been meaning to do for a while.
At dinner, which of course was huge grilled steaks, he continued to ask if I was staying another night.. He is quite the host, and said he would make more asado of a different kind.. So here I am, spending another day in this Mecca of viajeros motociclistas. I also spent some of last night working on a 14" tall version of Donger's logo on the wall.. See the photos. Today, I think I'll hang about, chat with Jorge, and maybe try to change my rear tire, which is now completely bald. I also noticed this morning that I have not spoken English in over five days. Seems weird, but my Spanish is coming along, and I am able to have conversations about things other than my moto and trip. My grammar is still atrocious, but people understand me.
He also gave me stickers, one for my bike, one to give away, and another for Pat and Abi. He saw the Sub Cycles sticker on my bike and asked about it, and I explained that it was friends who owned a shop, and where I worked on my bike after hours, and drank a few beers as well. He liked that, so Pat and Abi, you get a special sticker from Azul, Argentina.
Also, I have added two new pages to the web. I started keeping track for myself, and since these questions came up in my slideshows, I though I would put them up. Border Crossings (list of dates when I crossed from where to where.. total is now 21 crossings). And Bike Maintenance. I've had my fair share of trouble, due to my fault, other people's fault, and the mysterious bike god's fault. But this is the total list of everything (so far as I can remember) that I have had to do to the bike.
And finally, I heard an amusing song on the radio here yesterday. I have no idea who sings it, but it's called "Don't call me gringo you beaner." I immediately thought of The Deaner.
07 February 2004
I must be getting famous in Argentina now. I did my second media interview this morning. The first, which I kind of forgot to write about, was on Tierra del Fuego. The day I left Ushuaia, I stopped in a town just off the main road about 50 miles north. I pulled up to a small restaurant to have a coke and an empanada, and this guy with a big video camera rushes out and starts filming me. Then the cute reporter girl follows him out, and asks if she can interview me on camera. I ask what it is for, and she tells me the local television station. OK, sure. So she interviews me, half in Spanish and half in English, and I answer in kind. When necessary, she translates for me, then translates back for the huge viewing audience. Anyway, I don't know if I ever made it onto TV, but what the hell.
Then, this morning, as I am coming out of a store in Monte Hermoso, a big beach town with resorts, and quad rentals, and whatnot, a car screeches to a halt in front of me and my bike, and a guy jumps out. The car is covered in a huge sticker, 102.5 Monte, El Sonido del Mar. He asks if he can interview me for the radio. I tell him I can't speak Spanish well, which he doesn't care, and immediately gets on his cell phone to the DJ in the booth across town. He hands me a earphone with the station on, and I listen as the song playing ends. He then starts using the cell phone as a speaker phone and microphone, and he interviews me, live on the air. It goes something like (translated from the original Spanish, and I tried to translate exactly as I said things in Spanish):
So, I skedaddled out of town right after my big interview, getting some honks and waves from people in cars as I hightailed it out of there.
To catch y'all up on my progress: I left Viedma and put my head down. This stretch of Argentina is much like Iowa, Kansas, et al. Farmland as far as the eye can see, with little rolling hills here and there. But the road was good, it wasn't too hot, so I made it to Bahia Blanca relatively early. But after having spent time in Bajia Bustamente and Puerto Piramides, the allure of a big city (300,000 plus) was not there, so I pressed on to a beach town. Turns out, it was a blimey big beach town. All the familiar trappings, quad rentals, horseback rides, dune buggies, etc. But waaay too many people. I spent the night in an overcrowded campground, then after my interview, I headed off to a small group of mountains nearby, Sierra de la Ventana. It is nice here, a lazy river winding through town, and not too many people. I have set up in a nice campground with lots of trees, and will spend the afternoon messing about by the river. Tomorrow I am off to Azul, where there is a local who loves traveling motorcyclistas, so I thought I would pay him a visit.
One thing that amazes me time and time again is the friendliness of the Argentines. Everywhere I go people come to say hi, ask me about my trip, and offer help. When I went through Bahia Blanca, some guy damn near ran me down trying to offer help. Today, as I was sitting at an outdoor cafe for lunch, the proprietor of the clothing shop next door came out and gave me a Sierra de la Ventana handkerchief. Everybody is always offering help, advice, anything. It is incredible. Go Argentina!
Other thing I want to touch upon. Products. One, Touratech bags suck. Unless you plan to immediately bring them to a good aluminum welder as soon as you buy them, don't bother. The bottoms are held in with two sided tape and spot welds. I've met 4-5 people who have had problems with them, particularly that the bottoms fall out. I say, buy Jesse. My bags are rock solid. After many small crashes, a few rollovers, and one good crash (the minivan), my bags are dented, scratched, but have not deformed, fallen apart, or had any major problems. So buy them Jesse bags, and skip Touratech.
Two, guide books. My Lonely Planet book seemed to be good for Central America, but the South America one sucks. I'm not sure if the continent is just too big, or the people who did this one didn't do as good a job, but don't waste your money. It contains only the big towns and big tourist places, and even these are covered briefly with little information. I barely look at mine now, and when I do I am usually disappointed. Maybe the individual country ones are better, I don't know. In the meantime, I just look, stop and ask a lot, and use the city's and town's tourist offices for info that I need.
05 February 2004
The morning after the Patriot's victory, I headed off towards Peninsula Valdez. After stopping in Trelew for internet, I carried on.. as it began to rain, and then it started coming down harder and harder. I finally decided to call it a day and ducked into Puerto Madryn, a decent sized beach town. It rained the rest of the day and night, so I pretty much holed up in my hotel room.
The next day dawned sunny and clear, so I packed up and headed out. I rode onto Peninsula Valdez and headed for Punta Delgada, where Gerardo and Vicky from Bajia Bustamente had recommended. I went out there, met their friends, and headed out to see the elephant seals. The seals were napping on the beach, and rolling around occasionally to scratch off their old skin. Unfortunately, it is prohibitively expensive to stay here.. so I headed back down the peninsula to Puerto Piramides, an idyllic little town with huge beach, and a nice laid back atmosphere.
I had met a German biker, Axel, in Punta Delgada, so we had dinner together, but not until after I had arranged for a couple of scuba dives the next day. I crawled into my tent early, ready for diving.
The diving was awesome. We did a deep dive in the morning, and I reacquainted myself with the techniques. I then sat on the boat near the beach while some people offloaded and we waited for new people. One of the local kids caught a small octopus, and brought it up to show the dive shop guy in the boat with me.. So we played with the octopus, then everyone else arrived and we headed out. As we approached the dive site, Steve, a native San Franciscan living there, spotted a bunch of dolphins a few hundred meters away. So we hauled ass out there, and everyone jumped overboard. The dolphins swam in and out of us, under, around, and all over the place. At one point one dolphin made laps around us, jumping higher and higher every few yards. It was unbelievable. There were at least 30 of them, and they seemed to enjoy hanging out with our group.. They were swimming within a few feet of me, coming from all angles. Soon, though, as apparently this is frowned upon, we had to take off. We went back to the dive site and spent a nice 40 minutes underwater. Unfortunately, I took very few pictures because I had used up most of my memory space with the dolphins... I had dinner with Axel again, after helping him fix his crappy Touratech boxes. and then this morning, I got up and headed out, hitting the pavement for over 300 miles... I am in Viedma now, and heading farther north to more beaches manana..
01 February 2004
I finally left Rio Gallegos and Lucho Motos, after waking up, having coffee, and then fixing their computer. Apparently, as I have learned later, a rather large virus was sweeping the world, and their computer was hit. They were getting dozens of emails with the virus, and unfortunately, their virus protection was not up to date. So I set to work on that, and eventually found over 15 copies of the virus in various disguises on their machine. Of course, that took an hour or two, so it was now around noon, and Maggi, the wife, was preparing lunch. But, before we could eat lunch, Luis got their XR50 running, and a small quad for Esteban. Well, I am never one to turn down a ride on a motorcycle, so off I went on the XR50 with Esteban hot on my tail. He had more top speed than me (not hard to do), but with my knees sticking out quite far, he couldn't get passed me, and I stayed ahead of him for the few laps down the sidewalk and back.. Quite amusing riding a 50 when you are 6'1" and 200 pounds.. Anyway, we got around to lunch, and then I packed up and took off, at about 1:30 in the afternoon. Another cracking start.
Thanks to Luis and Maggi for treating me like a long lost friend.. Having never met me before.
The road north was good and there was bugger all to see. It is a desert, with small scrubby bushes and a few grasses. It is all ranch land for sheep, but I didn't see too many sheep. So I wicked her up to 80mph, and tucked in and went. A few quick stops and 200 plus miles later I decided to call it a day, as I could see rain clouds and rain coming east across the plain. I stopped in a small rather in descript town on the water.. The beach was kind of rocky with lots of seaweed, and the town was a little rundown, but I found a hotel and a pizzeria.
The next morning I got an early start (9 am) and started piling the miles on. The only thing of interest is a petrified forest, 30 miles off the main road, so I ducked down that road to see it. I had never seen something like it, and it was pretty interesting. All these huge (redwood sized) trees lying on the ground, somewhat broken up. Except it's not wood anymore, more like rocks. Evidently the area, which is now a large desert somewhat like the Four Corners area of the US, was once a huge forest. The brochure explained that 150 million years ago, there was lots of water there. Before the Andes grew and blocked the Pacific wind and water. Seems a bit odd, "before the Andes."
I got back on the main road after the brief but interesting stop, and started piling on the miles. My plan was to get to Comodoro Rivadavia, the largest town in the area, and stop there. About a 330 mile day, with 60 miles of dirt. Unfortunately, I arrived in Comodoro, and went to 4 or 5 hotels, none of which had parking. And none of which knew a hotel with parking, except for the very expensive Plaza or somesuch. There were a few hotels on the edge of town, but I didn't want to stay out of the downtown area. So I searched the web for the next town up, on the beach, 100 plus miles north. And I found some mention of a hostel there. So off I went, after stopping at the supermercado for my usual emergency food supplies, cookies and tuna fish. I didn't know if I would find the hostel or if they would have food, so I try to err on the side of caution.
About 100 miles later I saw the small sign for Bahia Bustamente, turned off the main road, and started down a gravelly sandy side road. I found the small town of Bahia Bustamente, which is basically a ghost town. Problem was, I couldn't find the hostel. So I stopped and asked two small girls, the only people in town I could find. They looked at me like I had just arrived from Mars, and were little help. I ended up driving all over the area, which is laced with small roads, asking a rancher and his grandson, who also looked at me like I was from another planet. The rancher was literally rendered speechless, gaping at me with his semi-toothless mouth open. His grandson was kind of enough to point out where Bustamente was.. which of course I knew. I realized later that not only was I a strange man on a motorcycle who spoke oddly, but I probably had that thousand mile crazy eyed stare you get after a long day on the bike (and at this point I had been on the road almost 12 hours and had done over 450 miles). Anyway, I returned to the town, and finally found a man who knew what I was looking for, and directed me to the place.
And it turned out to be amazing. Bahia Bustamente was a company town. The story goes that a Buenos Aires businessman was making hair gel from seaweed imported from elsewhere. Back in 1950 or so the importation rules changed, and it became prohibitively expensive for him to import the seaweed. So he went about trying to find it in Argentina.. which he did here. He then built a town on the beach and employed 400 people, who brought their families here, built a school and church, and had a thriving little community for years. There are now less than 20 people working here, still reaping the seaweed, which they sell to companies for various products, and also to Japan for sushi. The hostel has taken over some of the buildings, and now offers for rent small houses as well as barracks-like rooms. It is brilliant. It is staffed by a young Argentine couple, Gerardo and Vicky; they speak English, are extremely helpful, polite, gracious, informative and fun.
So I checked in, got my little room, changed, and headed back to the main restaurant/bar/clubhouse. There, Vicky served me a delicious guanaco with vino tinto over rice. Guanaco is this four legged beast that runs around everywhere down here. Glad to finally eat one. And as it turns out, Vicky can cook. Her husband, Gerardo, talked to me about the places around here to see, the birds, the penguin island, etc. So the next day I woke up, and after my third cup of coffee was motivated. I rode about on the sandy gravelly roads, venturing to the beaches, the dry lakebed, and of course, the island with penguins. Nice thing is, at low tide, you can walk to the island and amongst the penguins. Truly magical. Most of the little guys wanted nothing to do with me, but one fella just stood around and let me take photos of him.. even continued to preen himself in between photos to make sure he looked his best. I returned to the hostel to be treated to potato and seaweed gnocchi's in a parmesan cream sauce. Mmmm. Gerardo waited on me, announcing before dinner, "tonight we got potato and seaweed gnocchi's with cheese sauce. You want 'em?"
Yesterday I had planned to leave, so after a lingering coffee I packed my bike, changed clothes, and moved the whole setup down to the clubhouse for one more coffee for the road. At which point the grandson of the fellow that started this town sauntered in, Matias, and he started chatting with me, and mentioned that he and Hector, the foreman, were going fishing that afternoon if I cared to join him.. Well, so much for my plan. I moved my bike back to my room, unpacked and changed clothes again, and went fishing. The three of us set off in a 14 foot inflatable, after fixing the flat tire on the trailer and putting some more air in the leaky inflatable... The trip was incredible. We visited several islands packed with dozens of species of birds, and tons (literally) of huge sea lions. Amazing. We even managed to catch some fish, unfortunately not the supposedly bountiful 20-40 pound salmon. Oh well, you can't have everything..
Last night Vicky cooked up our catch and a few other odds and ends, and we had a great meal. This morning we all traded info, and Mathias gave me names of a hotel run by a friend of his (where I am staying tonight), and gave me his brother's info in Buenos Aires. Vicky and Gerardo asked that I let them know when I will return to BA to ship my bike (which is my current plan) as they want to try and meet me there and take me out on the town.
So I finally left Bahia Bustamente today, and tried to upload all this when I reached my current town of Gaiman, but the internet connection here is apparently a team of hamsters running back and forth with messages. So maybe tomorrow.
As for the Super Bowl, when I arrived here Pablo, the hotel guy, said there were no tvs around, but I could watch the game at his house. Sounded good to me, so at 8pm we headed off in his rusty old '52 Ford pickup, and stopped to grab a sandwich on the way. When we arrived at his house, we found that his DirecTV was not working.. so we sped around in his truck, and he found a restaurant where I could watch the game. He then went back to his house, ended up calling DirecTV in the United States, and got the tv working again. He came back to the restaurant and picked me up, returning rapidly to his house, where I watched the rest of the game while getting mauled by mosquitoes. They may not understand our 'norte-americano' football down here, but they definitely understand the importance of a big game (or match)..
And damn those Patriots, they just can't get ahead and leave it at that.. they gots to make it go to the last minute. But hey, a win is a win. Go Patriots!
Some stories from past days:
When I was on the road from Chile to Argentina heading to EVIL Ruta 40, I had just crossed the border and was riding along this sandy gravel road with embankments and shrubs on both sides, when a creature jumped in front of me and started galloping down the road in front of me, moving pretty damn quick. It was about 4 feet tall and madly flapping it's useless wings. What the hell?!? Turns out they have ostrich like creatures here called choique. They are bit smaller than 'real' ostriches, but otherwise very similar. Anyway, he finally dove over the bushes and disappeared, but you see these things constantly down here.. Always running frantically away when I am riding down the road, so I have been unable to get a photo..
When I crossed the ferry from Punta Arenas to El Porvenir, I arrived in town and was looking for a gas station. I couldn't immediately see one, so I spotted a man looking in a store window by himself. I pulled up on the sidewalk next to him, and said, 'excuse me sir'. He turned, looked at me, at which point I realized what he was looking at in the window of the store. Women's underwear. Oops, uh, sorry to bother you sir, obviously you are busy, but, uh, do you know where there is a gas station? He hurriedly pointed down the road, and I took off. Apparently there is not much for the single gentleman to do in small towns on Tierra del Fuego.
When leaving Cochrane, on the Carretera Austral, I spun by the main square on my way out to pick up some emergency food for EVIL Ruta 40. I was pulled over by a cop on foot, who told me that it was illegal to drive or ride around the town square on Sunday. What? So anyway, we discussed that for a few minutes, me complaining that they needed a sign if that was gonna be a law, him saying there was some sign somewhere like four blocks away. He then inspected my paperwork. And in Chile, citizens of the USA get 90 days.. Says so right there in black and white. But on the form there is a question, asking me what my estimated time was to be in Chile. I had written 30, and at the point I was pulled over I had been there about 40. The cop started hassling me on this, me pointing to the form where it is printed 90 days. He finally gets frustrated and calls a plain clothes cop over who speaks English. This guy says yeah, you get 90 days. I say no shit. The cop then tries to play it off like I was confused about that or something. Dumbass.
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