Friday, 31 May 2013

Buenos Aires, Argentina to Uruguay and back

Fast forward about 1330 kms of hard core riding and I came to the outskirts of Buenos Aires.  I've been told a couple of times to be careful riding into the city.  It's very dangerous and if you get caught out in the wrong neighborhood, the bad guys won't be afraid to pull you right off your bike at a stop light.  That could be anywhere really, some places worse than others, but I'll stay alert.

At a large round-a-bout off Ruta 3, there are 2 major options for a road into the city.  Luckily I didn't choose right there and then.  Which way??!! I couldn't make a quick choice, so I continued the circle like a bike going down a drainpipe to look at my choices again.  I then noticed a female police officer waiting on one of the corners for a ride.  I stopped and asked her which route was the safest and she was very clear that I must take the toll road into the center.  She also said, the standard route through the barrios is very dangerous and to avoid it at all costs. She pointed me onto the toll road without stoplights. Decision made.. done and thank you!

I knew which neighborhood I was headed to in the city, because I have a place to stay!  Facebook friend, Martin, who's been messaging me for nearly 2 years just happens to be here visiting his family and friends.  Otherwise, he lives in the United States.  We will be meeting for the first time and staying at his best friends Mom's house, Ines.. got that straight?? ;-) 

Martin says that each year he comes home to visit, he buys one of these little Hondas' to get around town.. It's cute, I love it!

I follow him through the busy city streets a bit to help me find the office I am going to use to organize my shipping out of South America.  I'm quite keen to get everything organized as soon as possible.  There is a lot to do to prepare shipping from South America to New Zealand.  Plus, even though I'm in Buenos Aires now, I have one more country to visit before I go.. Uruguay!  So it was really helpful for Martin to show me around this town now as I'll spend more time here when I return from Uruguay..

We got back to Ines' home and I love this woman!  She lives in a part of Buenos Aries that is completely taken over by highrise apartments.  She's been living in this one house for over 40 years, raised her children here and she doesn't want to sell or move!  So she hasn't and I'd say she's not going to anytime soon!  One very adventurous inspiring woman who's planning a trip to Africa with her sister AND Martin..ha!

We came back to drop off luggage, etc. and Martin was feeling a bit cold.  I've got a bag full of warm riding gear, and for once I'm not the cold one!  So we dressed him up in my winter jacket and neckscarf.  Looking good in Sherri Jo's clothes, Martin!

We sat and visited with Ines for a while.  Martin said she was originally concerned to have an Aussie/American stay in the house because she doesn't speak English. But I was able to communicate in Spanish, thank goodness.  I still screw up a lot, but I've been in enough countries to know that language barrier can be uncomfortable if you are staying the night.. So we ended up getting along super well and she loved hearing some of the travel stories in my bad Spanish!  Such a busy social lady, that phone never stopped ringing!

She reminds me of what I'll be like at her age.. a cooky crazy Auntie with funny little things to show off from my travels. I could only wish to be as classy as she is though.

Martin wants to take me around central Buenos Aires on the back of his bike.  It's just easier that way, we can talk, not get cut off in traffic, etc.

The first government house built in colonial times, called Cabildo de Buenos Aires 1609. Far too small, they didn't use it long, and currently a museum.

Buenos Aires is often called the "Paris" of South America.  I found that hard to believe, but now I see why!

Then there is the North America comparison. Here is the equivalent of the United States White House; the Buenos Aires Pink House! Casa Rosada, office to the President of Argentina. Don't get me started on what I think of HER!

He's a latin man... he'll dance anywhere.. ;-)

Martin asks what I would like for dinner.  I'd rather that he decide since this is his city! He says, I want to take you to my favorite pizza place and then go to my favorite place for steak and then ice cream!! Gee whiz!!!!  As long as each one is small, otherwise, I couldn't imagine eating that much!  First stop, pizza in a famous old neighborhood, San Telmo....

Ummm Martin?  I'd be lucky to get through just one of those, let alone a steak afterwards!!  Oh man, that was good...but super big and heavy. Now back on the bike! Who ate the onion slice?????

What's fun for me sitting on the back of Martin's bike is being able to have a good look around, to take photos and not worry about traffic. I loved this old car, but you would have seen many old cars in my other posts. Argentina is known for keeping the oldest cars on the road, and they are always so great to see.. 

Another stop on the Martin tour is this famous bridge called "Puente de la Mujer"  (Bridge of the Woman).  It's a suspension walking bridge, with a center piece built to rotate to allow water traffic through. It's a fun piece of modern architecture in contrast to the old industrial buildings that connects Puerto Madero to the city.  Interesting history, the $6 million bridge was donated by a wealthy family and the city of Buenos Aires takes no responsibility for it.  The bridge was closed for repair just 3 years after it was built and the family have been "chosen" to keep it maintained. I personally think they should have had that minor detail sorted before it was built.. but from our point of view, it does look good!!

Now, Martin finally agrees that steak and pizza is a bit over the top, but we're not giving up on the most important part.. Ice Cream!!  And to be more clear, Dulce de Leche Ice Cream.. OMG!!! We should have just come here first! I can not tell you how good that ice cream was.. I will remember it forever.. I sure hope I can find this flavor when I get home, or I'll probably just start hand making it.. Yep, I'm looking up the recipe now... ;-))))

But wait, there's more!!  Now we are riding the bike around this super pretty planetarium which quite proudly displays the Argentine colors.. a lot!

Next is an important monument, Obelisco de Buenos Aires.  It was built to commemorate 400 years since the foundation of the city and has since become an icon. It sits in the middle of 9 de Julio, the widest street in the world.  And I can vouch for that !  I crossed it nearly every day and it usually took 2 street light changes to make it across, unless I wanted to run like a ding dong but it wasn't that important.. ;-)

Martin and I are stopped in the middle, so double that distance to cross the road.

I enjoyed the next 2 days running around as a little pillion Honda rider with Martin as he made the rounds saying last goodbyes to family and friends. It was a super fun time. I do enjoy riding on the back of a bike and always that much better to spend it with a local.  Martin has a flight out to Africa and I want to get to Uruguay, so we eventually said our goodbyes too.  Thanks again for the hospitality!!

The next morning I take the ferry from downtown Buenos Aires to Colonia, Uruguay.  I quite honestly don't have much in me to visit this country.  I've heard great things about it and I'm not going to walk away without seeing it, but ever since the last few weeks I have felt my South American time is done and I'm quite ready to move on.  So this will only be a little 3 day trip, and it's an easy one obviously, ferry to ferry.

Welcome to Uruguay!  As I'm waiting for the aduana guy to give me my papers back, I got a chuckle out of this sign.  "Welcome to Uruguay.. now get out! (Salida)"  Of course it's not what they're saying.. And then below in English. "Welcome to Uruguay, sorry for the inconveniences caused.."  Ha! Now I'm worried, I wonder what's going to happen?

The road out of Colonia is a pretty one!  I'm expecting to see a golf resort any minute now..

I traveled along a really boring road to my first stop, the capital, Montevideo.

This building in the center really caught my eye as I was exploring downtown. It's called Palacio Salvo, built by an Italian architect in 1928.  Originally built to be a hotel, it was a bit too big to keep full, so they turned the units into luxury apartments.

Moving on up to the next big city, Punte del Este and a must-see to ride over the wavy bridge at La Barra!!

I think there should be more wavy bridges in the world.. are they earthquake tolerant??

If Argentina has old cars, well so does Uruguay.. both countries are like taking a huge step back in time.. it's nice, I like it!

View from my camp spot, Uruguay

I rode back to Colonia a day early.  The bike was acting a bit funny and I couldn't put my finger on it.  Also I wanted to be in town to do some banking business, stay the night and explore before catching the morning ferry back to Buenos Aires.

Colonia was built by the Portuguese.  Clearly evident in the architecture and the stone streets!  This historic center is a world heritage site.

I know I've shown a few old cars on the road.  This one is not for travel. They use it outside the restaurant.  You can sit inside for a cup of tea if you like! Looks very limiting for business, but a cute idea! ;-)

This so much reminds me of south Portugal.. memories!!

I spotted the ferry arriving from Buenos Aires.  I can't get my head around this muddy water. I hear about so many people coming here to retire and I imagine that water would get to me. I'm a bit spoiled and prefer the blue/green waters of the world! Anyway, it's a mix of the Atlantic Ocean with river water from Rio de la Plata. Here is an aerial view to give a better perspective Aerial view muddy water from Colonia, Uruguay to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The next morning I pack up my bike and I had a gut feeling that I wished didn't come true.  The bike wouldn't start.  I tried and tried, it's not a dead battery.. just dead!  I don't know what it is.. I'm not sure I want to know.  But what can I do.  I've already booked and paid for the ferry ticket.  Luckily, while staying in Colonia, I was close enough and able to roll my motorcycle down hill to the ferry port.. how lucky is that!!??  I checked in at immigration, then rolled my bike through the line to board the ferry.  I was not happy.. at all!

In line I met another ride.. remember in just the last post?  I always meet riders on these ferries.. always!  Anyway, this lovely man, Mario was traveling with his daughter.  He was so kind, with worry on his face when he saw me, "What is wrong?"  I told him the bike won't start.  He had lots and lots of the right words to say, made me feel better instantly, and they both looked after me on the ferry.  We had so much fun. Mario and Candy have been traveling 3 weeks together and they will be home once they get off the ferry and ride another 200 km.  so close!

It was great to see a father and daughter traveling that far together on their motorcycle.. so happy to meet them.

We docked in Buenos Aires around 11 pm, but Mario and Candy would not continue their own journey until they knew both me and my bike was completely secure for the night.  Far too sweet as they have quite a bit to accomplish at this late hour themselves, another 200 km riding!  So I feel very guilty, but they wouldn't leave!

I did get everything sorted and said goodbye to my new friends. Here my dead bike will stay tonight in the underground parking at the ferry office. I took every little thing off the bike, just in case they find a way to break into the panniers at 3 AM in downtown BsAs!

I'm not sure what I'm going to do or how I'll handle this as of yet.. but I give up for now.  Hopefully the bike will be there in the morning and I'll tackle the problem then.

Buenos Noches!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Awesome Perito Moreno Glacier y Peninsula Valdes!

My extended 3 week stay in a tent Ushuaia style has finally come to an end.  Now it's time to say goodbye to another Argentinian family who I just adore.  I really loved living here, Camp Rio Pipos for any of you heading to Ushuaia, I highly recommend!!

I have no idea what could ever replace my mornings of having a helicopter land on my breakfast table!

Ciao Ruben!!

There was a young couple from Poland staying at the campground and we chose to ride together today to Punta Arenas Chile, about 430 km north.

We got to the border and there was this motorbike parked using the fence to prop it up.  I thought, this bike has to be a joke, there is no way somebody actually rides it!  But I was wrong, the rider was waiting in line for immigration and sipping on his Yerba Mate.

The headlight is busted out and there is no side stand.. and I don't think it could handle a side stand anyway! And I never want to hear anybody judge me by my black bag again. This is a male rider!!

There is a cheese grater by the license plate.  The computer bag is hanging over the fence side of the bike.. open!  I wish I had a Horizons Unlimited business card.  The guy needs some guidance from their website!  But I may take up his idea to travel with a cheese grater..!

The road to Porvenir Chile, where we'll catch the afternoon ferry.

Even with 3 gps's at work, there is always a question which way to turn in town.

Irrelevant.  I remember thinking while watching the Mom do yardwork, that I haven't worked in my own yard for 2 1/2 years.. and thinking about my yard caused me to take this photo. Not logical but that's a bit more insight into how my mind works than you need! ;-)))

We got to the ferry on time, which is important because there is no ferry again until this time tomorrow!

I think every ferry I've ever been on is where we meet other riders.. always! Here we met some guys from Brazil.

We stayed the night in Punta Arenas.  James had been living here for 3 weeks, so there wasn't much point in hanging around.  I got my new tires (Heidenau's! ;-)) the next day and we headed north to Perito Moreno Glacier.

First glimpse of the glacier.. wow!

Perito Moreno Glacier is the most impressive massive glacier I've seen on the planet thus far.  I knew it was a highlight for the area. Quite honestly, I've seen plenty of glaciers in northern Canada and Alaska and was just expecting the same.  But this crazy glacier blows those other ones away and well worth the journey!

I usually don't like photos that include tourists, but this one I like because it's a better perspective of just house enormous this thing is!

Every few minutes there is the large sound of thunder, which is not thunder but the sound of a big piece of ice breaking off and crashing into the water.. spectacular!

To me, this looks like nature's cathedral.

I really enjoyed hanging about.  The park services did an excellent job putting together viewing platforms from top to bottom and even a boat to get you closer.

We stayed in El Calafate, and I made a surprise decision, even for myself!  The road north of here is supposed to be gorgeous, the Carretera Austral through Chile.  What will I see?  More beauty.. lovely lakes, mountains, views, the type of world we dream of.  But I've been seeing beautiful lakes, glaciers, views, Iguazu Falls, Machu Picchu, Galapagos Islands.. the list goes on forever!  Feeling very content and ready to complete my South American tour, I decide to bypass more pretty roads, leave James behind and head out.  My plan is to get to Buenos Aires where I'll be shipping my bike to New Zealand.  Buenos Aires is the last big thing on my list for this part of the world and all I can think about is getting there and preparing myself and my bike for the next phase of the Because I Can World Tour!

My heated jacket is still not working, so in this chilly weather I've got all my layers on including my winter coat! This is one supersize Sherri Jo, but at least I'll be warm~!

James is not so pleased that I'm leaving.  It's always hard to say goodbye to friends you travel with.  But there is no question.. I gotta go!  James still has a lot to accomplish of South America, including Bolivia.. big wishes that the remainder of his travels are safe, a nice big hug and I'm gone.

After all those photos I took yesterday at Perito Moreno Glacier, I forgot to recharge my camera batteries last night.  This is the one and only photo I took all day.. What a shame!  This road was crazy.  280 kilometers of super deep gravel ALONE.  I did not see a single car all day, only a couple on a double bicycle loaded down with gear, which to me is worse! I stopped and asked if they needed anything as they were pushing that push bike up a hill.  They didn't.  Why the heck would you come to this part of the world and ride this gravel road on a bike!? I guess I'm not one to speak.  It was a shortcut for me, is why I'm riding it today..

You see that little bit of blue sky in the photo above?  I chased it the entire ride.  It was black, pouring rain in El Calafate, and didn't want it to get me so my goal was to ride faster than the clouds and I won!

I couldn't believe it.  I rode so fast standing on my foot pegs, nearly hitting every Vicuna on the way.  I wish I got photos of them, they were great.  Near the end of the road, I was wondering how much farther to Ruta 3, so I looked down at my gps.  In that split second I put myself into the middle of the road where the gravel was the thickest.. Really deep.  My bike starting swaying so hard back and forth in the soft rocks, there was no question I was going down big time.  It kept swaying and I kept trying to gently direct the sway out of the gravel.. and I won that battle too!  Seriously couldn't believe that one either.. I was going way down and didn't!!  I slowly came to a stop.. took a few breaths.. said a few bad words.  Saw the gps finally, it said only 5 km's to Ruta 3.  If only I had known I shouldn't have bothered to look.

Once on Ruta 3, I turned north and that wind was blowing a gale.  I had it behind me down the gravel road riding east, which was great.  But it was evil as I rode north again. I was tired and didn't feel like battling the wind, but I did it anyway and made it back to the same campsite I used on the way down a few weeks ago near Puerto San Julian.

Now I just need to concentrate on riding north 2,200 km (1367 miles) to Buenos Aires.

Fairly uneventful.. few photos, just wanting to get the job done.

I stopped in Puerto Madryn for the night at a backpackers and learned about Peninsula Valdes. Some of the young guys were telling me there are Orcas out the peninsula.  Well, I haven't seen an Orca yet!!  I decided to ride the gravel roads out there to try my luck.  There is no guarantee they'll be there the next day, but it's worth a try!

You can see how the wind blows the sand and gravel around like snow.. Nonetheless, it's a super easy ride.  Well maintained road.

I arrived the point for the best views of the Orcas supposedly.  I was early enough that I was the first one there.  The park ranger was really cool.  He said I'd have to hang around all day to see the Orcas and if they show up, they are pretty far out there.  You need high tide for them to be close, which is around 4pm. My Orca experience is getting dimmer and dimmer.

The sea lions are cool though!  I've seen a fair amount of these guys lately, so I'm not as excited as I should be.  Really enjoy watching the pups play, they are so goofy!  But I get an unnecessary worry when one of the babies is crying to his Mom out to sea.  I can't help but to want to sit with it, keep it calm, give it some fish.. but I can't!

Back down the dirt road, the same way I came in to head back to the mainland for my ride north.  I still have quite a lot to accomplish today.

One last stop at Puerto Piramides.. It's time for a very late lunch, about 3 pm.. and I'm starving!!

Mmmmm. Vegetable tart at a cute little oceanside cafe!!

El viento viene.. El viento se va. (The wind comes, the wind goes... )  That is South Argentinian life,and I can say it comes far more than it goes!!!

Finished the road.. no Orcas.. but lots of Sea lions and an awesome lunch. Now.. on to Buenos Aires!!!