Time has gone so fast. We are heading for Buenos Aires…….but not before a quick stop off in Uruguay.
The roads have melted from the heat which makes it tricky to ride, keeping between the tyre tracks and changing from left to right to find the smoothest bit.
We were due to sell the bike in the next few days so I decided to get the bike washed – the first time in months.
It was bad timing as the following day we were following behind a double-decker cattle truck which sprayed us and the bike with a mist of cow dung and urine. I sometimes ride with my visor open, especially on hot sunny days or early in the morning before the caffeine kicks in. It took me a while to realise the water on my face and lips was not coming from the cloudless sky…..
Entering the final country of the trip at the Fray Bentos border, just 250km north of Buenos Aires.
We picked up another biker en route to Uruguay as he was traveling the same direction as us.
Ernesto from Germany started his travels 20 years ago in Canada and even rode through the Darién Gap but only made it as far as Venezuela where he met and married a woman from there. He now gets to ride around South America whenever he likes!
We stocked up on US dollars from an ATM machine in Fray Bentos and would be able to change them on the “Blue Market” in Buenos Aires when we get there. The Argentine Peso isn’t great at the moment and everyone wants a stable currency like the US dollar so people are willing to pay above the official rate to get hold of it.
After filling the wallet, we rode back into Argentina the next day and stopped in the town of Gualeguaychu, which is just over the border.
Gualeguaychu is famous for Carnival and we timed it right to catch the last one of the season.
Emptying a can of foam in someones face is funny in any language.
Meet Tobias and Suzanne from Holland. They are both students that are planning to ride around South America by motorcycle Transalp. Ooh, we just might be able to help them out there! 😀
The carnival gets going late into the night and carries on until 3am. We had plenty of beer and wine so no worries….
The next morning was more sober as it dawned on us that this was the last day of packing up and riding the bike.
Lisa showed her view as pillion on the bike for the last 10 months in the previous post, and this is mine. I think mine is better.
Buenos Aires is in sight. Shame it was cloudy – but not raining so can’t complain!
We ride past slums in the northern part of the city.
This is it. We have arrived at our destination!
Photo taken outside the Congress building in Buenos Aires.
For some reason I took this photo at the start of the trip so had to take another at the end……
The bike has weathered pretty well – I’m not sure the same can be said for me.
We struck a deal with Tobias and Suzanne for the Transalp (although it is obviously priceless) and set about servicing the bike ready for their 5 month trip around South America.
Over the next few days, we replaced the head-bearings, tyres, chain, sprockets, broken bulbs, spark-plugs, balanced the carbs and gave it an oil change.
There is plenty to see in the city and so we took a break from bike stuff and started at La Recoleta cemetery.
Evita’s mausoleum is a shrine and probably the most visited here.
Lisa is back in her element while navigating us around the cemetery…..
After staying for a couple of weeks in the city, it’s hard to ignore some of the problems that Argentina still has.
There are various protests everyday and night.
Homeless live in and around Congreso Plaza.
Confitería El Molino building. Positioned next door to Congress, it was once a fancy cafe and has been declared a national monument. It is in a terrible state and in need of urgent restoration but squatters have since moved in and taken over.
Casa Rosada is the prime location for protests and demonstrations. It’s also where Madonna filmed Evita.
“Malvinas” graffiti can be seen everywhere too. As a Brit, it’s best not to mention the war!
If you look past the pavements covered in dog poo (although you will probably get poo-shoe), constant protests and the economic problems, Buenos Aires is a great city with a lot to offer and some quirky sights.
A house rebuilt on the top of an office block…
Organised mass bike ride causing traffic chaos…
Weird old superhero….
News broke of the newly selected Pope and after discovering that he is from Buenos Aires, we walked to the city cathedral to check out the Pope celebrations.
Che is another national icon and his face is everywhere…..
A painting of President Christina Kirchner and her late husband Nestor……she is an icon for some.
We took a taxi to Caminito in La Boca. It’s a real tourist trap but only has a couple of streets that you would want to venture down….
…..the rest of the La Boca looks like this. It’s off-limits to tourists in the day and even the police keep away at night.
The time has come. The bike is now prepared ready for Tobias’s and Suzanne’s adventure and I must relinquish her.
It’s strange to think that the Transalp will no longer be a part of our daily life. I’ll definitely miss it.
We watch as they ride away…..
A few stats from the trip:
4 sets of tyres
0 speeding tickets
0 bribes/bent cops encountered
And no breakdowns!
Motorcycle travel gives the freedom to go pretty much anywhere and without the hassle that comes with using public transport. There is more uncertainty of what might be around the next corner – but that’s what makes it so exciting!
We’ve met some great people on our travels and made new friends along the way. It’s been an unforgettable experience.
As our adventure ends, another one begins. Good luck Tobias and Suzanne, it’s gunna be awesome! 😎
P.S. If anybody would like any further information on our trip or wants to get in contact, drop an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dan and Lisa.
After the fun of the great Ruta 40 roads, we spent a few days in Mendoza. The city is fairly modern compared to a lot of the places we have visited on this trip, but still a pleasant place to hang around.
We even stumbled across an old red telephone box….just like being home!!
Of course, the main reason to hang around here is the countless vineyards. It is the largest wine producing area in Latin America so it would have been rude not to sample some of the local Vino.
We took a trip out to the CarinaE vineyard and were given a tour by the French owner.
Naturally we had a tasting session too….none of this taste and spit business, we just drank it :).
Before leaving Mendoza, we bumped into Johnny Depp….
We carried on further south along more of Ruta 40, which although mostly paved, was still an enjoyable ride.
It got pretty windy on our way to the town of Chos Malal. It’s hard to capture just how windy it was in a photo….but I had a go. We had to ride leaning into the wind and big gusts kept pushing us over into the other lane! We had heard that the Patogonian wind was tough on bikers.
When we finally arrived in Chos Malal we checked into a nice little hotel in town for what was supposed to be a one night stop over. Unfortunately when we attempted to leave the following morning, we discovered that both fuel stations in town had run dry.
We had heard about ‘fuel issues’ in Argentina in previous years, but had figured all was now okay. We were told the problem in this town was a one off due to strikes holding up deliveries (mmm, sounds like the UK!!!). After riding around the town making unsuccessful enquiries to try and buy some fuel elsewhere (the problem was that it was Sunday and any mechanics’ or other type of shop that might be able to help were closed 😦 ), we rode back to one of the fuel stations to see if they had any news – still nothing. Oh well, it looks like we’ll have to stay another night.
We met a Argentinian guy who was also stranded so we hung around with him in the plaza for a couple of hours.
On the plus side, we got to try ‘mate’. This is a traditional South American infused drink made from the Yerba plant which is really popular in Argentina. When we first arrived across the border we noticed loads of people wondering around with thermas flasks, wooden cups and metal straws. After some research we found out that Argentinians rarely go anywhere without their ‘mate’. This was proven when Tomas invited us to drink ‘mate’ with him and grabbed all the necessary instruments from his bike. There is an etiquette involved in the drinking, hopefully we didn’t break any of the rules as we passed the drink around!!
Tomas didn’t need as much fuel as we did to get to the next town, so we gave him our spare which meant that at least he could get on his way, there was no point us all being stuck!!
They finally had a delivery towards the end of the day so Dan queued up with the locals for about 50 minutes to get the Transalp filled.
If only we had known that the next day things would be worse!! We rode onto the town of Zapala and then decided maybe we would carry on further – so off to the fuel station. Oh dear, no fuel! Here we go again. After checking into a hotel Dan headed down to fill up at 6pm as they said they were expecting a delivery. By the time he got there the queue was unbelievably long – it took him ages to just find the end as it snaked along blocks and around corners. This time it took 3 hours of queuing, and from chatting to the locals he found out this issue had been going on for 10 days and affected a large area of the country.
There was only one thing for it….super economic riding!! So economic, Dan even had chance to put his feet up :).
We did manage 73 mpg though…amazing work by the Transalp!
Cruising through Patagonia…..
There are a huge number of people who do this trip by bicycle…crazy people, what they need is an engine!! And, believe or not, there is also someone doing this overland trip on a unicycle :).
The views in Argentina’s ‘Lake District’ are pretty awesome!!
This area of Argentina is really amazing, I would love to see it in the winter!
Next up we were heading for the town of Trevelin. This is one of the places that the Welsh settled in after searching for somewhere to start a new Welsh nation in order to protect their language, religion and traditions.
And one tradition they have bought over to Patagonia is ‘tea’. These towns are full of Tearooms and Welsh souvenirs so we bought a Welsh dragon sticker for the bike and ate cake….lots of cake!!
Yes we ate the lot….and drank the best tea we’ve had since leaving the UK :).
Not satisfied with just experiencing one Welsh town, we headed to town of Gaiman – once visited by Princess Diana, she also stopped for afternoon tea.
In the true style of Wales…it rained a lot. We had to get the ponchos out but still got our feet soaked as the only restaurant in town was across the other side of this road!!!
The lady at the guest house we stayed at in Gaiman was 3rd Generation Welsh and spoke the language after being taught by her grandfather and also traveling to Wales to study. She now teaches Welsh to others.
So, Welsh Patagonian is the furthest south that we go. From here it was time to start heading north towards Buenos Aires. After over 43,000 and nearly 300 days the final countdown has begun.
Here’s a pic of what I’ve been staring at almost every day for the last 10 months 🙂
Our first stop on our way north was the coastal town of Las Grutas….our first view of the Atlantic Ocean since way back at the start of the trip….
We’ve got some more places to visit and some more time to enjoy the trip yet….but it is drawing to an end soon!
From Sucre we decided to head back into Argentina. As we did not want to back-track along the same roads, we decided to take a different route and travel through the town of Tarija – this would also mean we could avoid using the border at Villazon which was unpleasant and super slow.
The roads in Bolivia were so much better than we expected, they seem to have paved a lot more of the major routes now so some of the horror stories about ridiculously long journeys are becoming a thing of the past – at least on the routes we took!!
We did come across one stretch on the way to Tarija which hadn’t been quite finished – they were working on that though. They had very kindly spread thick sand all over the road as part of their construction works…..thanks, bikes and thick sand are a great mix 🙂 Dan tried to ride along the side as much as possible….and we hoped this didn’t go on for miles!!!
Thankfully it didn’t. It returned to regular gravel road…..and then came to a halt at a river! Mmmmm, we watched a truck ride through and it looked fairly deep so decided (actually ‘I’ decided – Dan wanted to take his chances with the bike through the water!!) to try and find a route to a bridge we could see further up the river. After getting a bit lost we found the road to the bridge – although the it did look like it had seen better days and no one else seemed to be using it – but it was fine – despite the large gaps between the planks it was structurally okay 🙂
A new tunnel had also opened which reduced the travel time to Tarija….and it had stunning views on the other side!
We had previously met a group of Canadian bikers when we first arrived in Bolivia who had taken this same route, but had problems buying gas in the town of Tarija. The had been refused at every station they tried and ended up having to get a local to go and fill up some cans so that they could fill up their 5 bikes!!! This had always been something I had worried about – the fuel situation in Bolivia is kind of strange. Foreign registered vehicles are supposed to pay 3 times the local rate per litre and should be given a special receipt. But for some reason some gas stations just refuse to serve a foreign registered vehicle. We had previously read some tips and advice on this website by some other overlanders who have done a good write up! http://www.liferemotely.com/trip-shenanigans/bolivia/276-the-art-of-buying-gas-in-bolivia-.
Our experiences of buying gas whilst traveling in Bolivia had ranged from sometimes paying the local price, sometimes paying the full tourist price and sometimes paying a rate somewhere in between after a bit a bartering.
For some reason Tarija does seem to be one of the more difficult places and after being denied service at the first two places we tried, we did manage to get fuel on our third attempt!! Here’s Dan doing his best to try and get service after initially being refused – a queue started to form behind, people started to gather around us, we tried being super friendly and nice, then tried ignorance, then tried just not moving out of the way from the pump…..no joy here though – eventually we got bored and left!!
The next day we enjoyed our final ride through Bolivia on the way to the border….Bolivia had been amazing, and although we didn’t get to see everything we had planned, we had really enjoyed the places we visited.
The ride to the border took us back down to a lower altitude as it twisted alongside a river….there were a few obstacles to avoid though – lots of fallen rocks and animals to avoid!!
The border at Bermejo / Aguas Blancas was much quicker and easier so before we knew it we were back in Argentina. Most probably our last border crossing with the bike….woohoo 🙂 I dread to think how many hours of our lives we’ve spent in total at borders over the past 9 months!!!
Our first stop was the picturesque town of Salta. We decided to hang around for a few days and take in some sights whilst figuring out a route to take around Argentina.
After reading some other blogs and information online, we decided the best route would be Ruta 40 down to North Patagonia. Ruta 40 is kind of Argentina’s version of Route 66 in the USA. The more I read about Ruta 40, the more I loved the sound of it…..crossing through loads of national parks with spectacular scenery, we were in for a treat.
Before hitting Ruta 40, I had read about a route from Salta to the small town of Cachi which would take in another couple of amazing routes – we hit the road to ride Ruta 33 and 42.
The day started off well with a mixture of tarmac and gravel…..along with great views.
Then we hit Ruta 42, little did we know what we were in for!!
It all started off very civilized….nice gravel road and stopping to take photos with the cactus…..
Then things got interesting…….the nice gravel road was no more!!!
Riding in a straight line became a bit tough….
At least the scenery and views made up for the hard riding conditions 🙂
The wheels were now caked in the muddy, sandy, clay like red stuff!! No tread anymore….
As we went around each bend and over each brow of a hill I hoped that the nice gravel road would reappear!! I even suggested turning around – I guess I’m not as adventurous as Dan, as he was enjoying himself and wanted keep going. I knew this section of road was about 30km and we had taken ages to just ride 8km…….how much longer would the rest take?…
The answer to that is ‘a long time’!! For the first time on this trip (apart from the stationary topple over in Nicaragua which we don’t count) the Transalp was on her side….only a very slow speed incident, but our first proper ‘off’ none the less.
Having picked the bike back up, the Transalp and ourselves were now looking pretty dirty!! No harm done and we needed to get going….we were still not even half way along the road!!
It got worse before it got better……
Oops…it happened again!
But then Dan realised why it was proving so hard to ride, yeah, the roads were bad – but the problem was that all the clay like mud stuff had clogged up under the front mud guard and the front wheel wasn’t moving.
So….take the mud guard off – problem solved 🙂
We managed to stay upright for the rest of the ride!! And eventually the nice gravel road did return….happy days!!
We made it to Cachi in one piece 🙂
The next day was another day of off-road….but at least this was mostly dry and not muddy – with the mud guard re-fitted we hit the road on Ruta 40.
It’s amazing how the scenery changed throughout the day….we took so many photos – the views were incredible!
Time to take a break and relax!
The scenery changed yet again, it’s hard to describe how spectacular this route really was 🙂
We spent the night in the town of Cafayate….a really nice tranquil little town – I could have stayed here longer.
The next morning we headed for the town of Belen, a less exciting ride in terms of scenery and the roads were all paved….so an easier day for riding – apart from the fact we got a puncture!! Still it’s our first one since California back at the start of August so we shouldn’t complain really….
We were on our way again in no time. We spent the following night in the town of Chilecito after another easy day on nice tarmac roads.
That night it rained….and it rained hard!! Maybe the most torrential rain I’ve ever experienced – the nice little guesthouse we were staying in developed several leaks in the roof as the rain was so intense!!
Our plans for the following day were hampered as we headed for the town of San Jaun via the mountains. There was evidence everywhere of the amount of water that had fallen overnight – not because everything was flooded – the water had all subsided, but the rivers and streams had carved out new and deeper paths overnight. We barely recognised the road we had driven in on as a small stream had created a ledge and small cavern through the road. This was easily passed, but less than a hour into our journey we came across a road block. It seemed that the road ahead was not passable due to problems further along – probably a landslide I would imagine. And where we stopped you could see that a small (now non-existent) river had risen up and over the road and swept through a family home.
There was evidence everywhere of the problems that must of occurred overnight – quite a few buses were abandoned / ground-out on the sides of the road….I was amazed that there was no sign of the water considering how much there must of been just a few hours before!!
We had to take a different, longer, flat and unfortunately less interesting route, diverting from Ruta 40.
We’re now in the wine region of Mendoza….time to check out the local vineyards and unwind for a few days before continuing south to Northern Patagonia….I wonder what the roads will be like further south 🙂
Now…….off to get some wine!