Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The wrap up

Well, I'm almost home, in a plane at 30,000 feet somewhere over Colorado looking down at all the city lights and I have to say that the trip turned out to be exactly what I wanted it to be, even though I didn't really know what that was when we left over 3 months ago. It took on a life of its own, it changed and morphed along the way. I think I have come away from it changed in some ways, hopefully for the better. I kept waiting for that to happen and then when I had forgotten about it, there it was. I find myself wondering why I really set out on the road in the first place. The answer I came up with was really more of an answer to why would anyone decide to do a trip like this in the first place? I think that there are lots of different reasons, but two of them stand out to me... to ride to a specific place and see certain things along the way, or to just go for a ride. The latter seemed like a better idea to me. I sure enjoyed the journey both in myself and on the bike. I started a to do list to catch up on some things for when I get back to real life and it has some odd items on it. The last two that I added today were to live in the moment, and to help someone in need bigtime. I think that both of those items will most likely stay on the list and not get checked off as complete anytime soon.

I can see the snow lit by the moon out the plane window and I sure am expecting some culture shock. Just standing in line was weird for me at the airport. Everyone just waited for their turn in a nice personal bubble, nobody crowding and shuffling to solidify their place in line. At first I was anxious and felt the need to move up and crowd in, but then I relaxed and moved back into the different way of doing things that I used to be accustomed to. Such a small thing as standing in line, I wonder what the future holds as far as culture shock!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Time flys when you're having fun

We got back into BA and headed straight into San Telmo for the Sunday market to get some souvenirs for the trip. The market was fun and we even had time to wash the bikes before finding a place to stay while we setup the shipping of the motos. The hostel that we stumbled upon is amazing. It's called the art factory and it is full of cool paintings and all the walls and rooms are decorated with amazing art. We went to Dakar motos to set things up the next day. Sandra explained the process to us and we were on our way. We found out that the last time we crossed into Argentina, the customs guy screwed up our paperwork so Sandra sent us to the customs office downtown to have it fixed. 3 hours in a waiting area later, we were told to have it fixed at the airport. Turns out the customs official at the airport said everything was fine in the end and we loaded the bikes on the pallets by 11am. It's now 3 pm and the drug dog has gone missing so we are sitting here waiting for the last step before we can get things shrink wrapped and be on our way. Stretching the croissant and coffee a little too far today. ;) We were sitting around this afternoon talking about how it seems like the time has gone by so fast, it's hard to believe we have been doing this for this long. All that's left is to pay for the shipping at the bank on Thursday, as tomorrow is another holiday, and then we get on a plane on Friday. I can't wait to be home, but at the same time it's a little bittersweet for it to be over. A saying that has come up a few times on this trip seems to fit here.... "Didn't waste that day."

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Windy mileage.

Leaving the 7 lakes region was tough, it was a pretty place. The road east was quite windy. It may have even rivaled peru for a little while there. I was filming things with the gopro camera for a while and then all of a sudden a massive gust of wind ripped it off the bike and sent it careening down the highway. I pulled over and located 8 different pieces of he one piece camera, including the memory card which came away unscathed! We pushed our luck and rode past a few good campsites as we had an early start, but we ended up in the middle of nowhere at sunset and had to stay at a gas station hotel. The temperature rose steadily as we headed away from the lakes and it was over a hundred for most of the 400 mile day.

We got up this morning and had our obligatory medialunas before heading out again, we have 700 miles left to BA... and we managed to cover more than 450 of those today! Nothing much to see in the middle of this country. One of the best sights are the caravans that roam the farms in the heartlands of Argentina. The one pictured is a tractor pulling 3 different trailers! They go from farm to farm working the fields and they tow their housing along with their equipment.

This might be the last installment of the roadside creatures... Flamingoes!!!!! Pictures included. We also saw some
wild guinea pigs today.

I am excited to return, with my wife, someday and spend some time in the southern regions of Argentina and Chile. Tomorrow we will be in BA to start the shipping process and get our last taste of the tango capital of the world.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Chile is my favorite country.

After the extreme hospitality of last night and the ride to the south of Chile this morning I think I have found a near perfect place for a second home. I have always thought that I would like to live in a place with snow, mountains, ocean and rivers. Chile had excellent food, nice people, amazing landscapes and an abundance of opportunity to go with all those things. I think the only drawback might be the temperature of the ocean. I will just get a wetsuit. We stopped for a tire at the dealership in Osorno and headed for the Andes yet again. The crossing was easy and the borders went smooth save for some long lines. We managed to make it to the southern end of the seven lakes region. The ride was breathtaking and only hampered by a little rain here and there. The top of the pass was a bit strange as the trees were all dead from the top down, and the entire landscape was covered in ash. The small town at the bottom supplied us with wine and chocolate before we found a campsite and had a fire and some pasta for dinner. We slept great in the rain. The next morning we broke camp in the rain and hit the road for Bariloche. The wind kicked up along the way and soon we were hanging on to the bike at a 45 degree angle. The lake was throwing white capped waves at the shoreline and we found a set of cabins, after some searching, so that the girls could get all packed up for the trip home tomorrow. I sure will miss Lisa for the rest of the trip. Speaking of the rest if the trip, I think we have been thwarted by the weather in the south as temperatures are already freezing at night and we may have missed our window for Ushuaia. The timing required for this trip should have been longer as well, I figured we could do it in 3-4 months, but we have ridden everyday for the most part and it sure would have been nice to take things a bit slower. It was never about a destination for me on this trip though, the end was always just a means for the middle. The journey itself has been the goal all along. I think we will just blast around Argentina for while longer before heading back to BA and then home. Speaking of touring around, today we rode through the seven lakes region after taking the girls to the airport. What an amazing place! Big peaks littered with awesome lakes and rivers. I would love to put a pack rafting trip together here someday. I think that there will be many more trips to Patagonia in my future. Anyone want to come?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Marble roads and smoked salmon

The road out of the campsite was right into the mouth of the beast! The elevation began to rise as we headed for the mountains. The road started out as brand new asphalt, then it went to crumbled old asphalt and then when we were ascending for the pass it went to dirt and then as we crested the ridge line we wished for the crumbled asphalt again instead of the 2 inch marbles and dust we were now navigating with extreme caution. This crossing of the Andes range was beautiful, but it was hard to look around for a while. We made it to the Aduana and took care of the exit paperwork and headed further down the "gravel" road, dodging herds of horses and gauchos using the highway to move their animals. At the top of the road where we were about to cross the border into Chile, there was a massive gathering of people all selling and trading their wares. There were tents everywhere flying either Chilean or Argentinian flags and people scattered all over the moonscape. The wind was whipping up a dust storm so we decided to head out, but it was definitely a strange scene in no man's land. The border was a line on the Garmin, but it was also marked by the return of the pavement! I rejoiced with some speed as we headed down. The entry paperwork was a breeze and before we knew it we were heading for the coast and the town of Concepcion. The dirt and the border activities had really cut into our day and we knew we wouldn't make it to the sea until 8 or so, just about the time it was going to get dark. We pushed on through the rain and made it to a holiday inn just as the sun was setting. We got cleaned up and headed to an amazing seabass feast at a nearby restaurant. The hotel was brand new and we slept great! The breakfast was good the next morning with scrambled eggs and not a ham and cheese sandwhich or croissant in sight! We got going earlyish to catch a glimpse of the pacific before heading inland. Driving down the highway we were all of a sudden struck by the smell of ripe berries wafting through the air. We pulled over and feasted on tons of wild blackberries for about a half hour. We stopped for lunch and had some amazing soup called casuela. The restaurant sold pottery including tea pots with a funny shaped spout. After lunch we made it to a little town called Pitrufkin before the rain shut us down. We found an amazing little hotel called Millaray and the innkeeper drove us around town to buy some smoked salmon from his friends, who opened her store just for us, and even drove us to his favorite restaurant because it was raining out. The restaurant was excellent and we even got a ride home from the waitress! The people were so nice and went so far out of their way to make our stay great.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Wine the day away...

We decided to hit the wineries today on bicycles, but first we needed a home base from which to launch our attack on the Mendoza bodegas. We found a place called Tikaykilla, with an excellent host named Francisco and a perfect location nestled into the vineyards of the Maipu region just outside Mendoza. The bikes were there waiting for us and we pulled into the villa, parked the motos and headed out right away. We went to the beer garden before we got going on the wine so that we could have some lunch and get a good base in our stomachs to handle the massive amount of wine we were about to stuff into them. The beer was some of the best I have ever had and the empanadas were outstanding! There was even a puppy to play with and a couple of varieties of fresh plums on the trees in the garden to snack on for desert. The first winery on our tour was the biggest, Trapiche. The grounds were impressive and the wine even more so. We took the tour to start off and saw how the region got its start as the building had a ton of history. The first wine makers were housed there and they revolutionized the wine production industry in the region with automatic presses and a train track to haul the wine away. The bottling all takes place at the point of creation nowadays because of a crazy past where they would ship the wine all the way to BA and get charged by the bottle and the bottlers would dilute the wine to increase profits, with sometimes deadly results. The wine tasting was a blast because the jefe was gone and we got to sample some premium wines! She also just left us with the bottles and said we could have as much as we wanted! We loaded up and headed for our next stop, a small family run bodega called Di Tomasso. The wine there was excellent as well and we got to tour the inside of the old fermentation tanks and even had another light meal before heading back to the hotel. A great day was had by all and we woke up the next morning to a fresh cooked breakfast and blue skies. The sky soon took a turn for the worse though as towering cumulus began to build over the mountains. We met a road block on our way into the pass that turned us back to Mendoza due to rock slides that had covered the roads because of heavy rains. We decided to check out a local hot springs and wait for the road to be cleared, but we encountered strike two when we needed a reservation to get in. Instead of giving up we found a pool and lounged the day away in the sun. The water was refreshing and the pool was clean. We headed for the road block in the afternoon and found it open. With such a late start on the pass we decided to stop short and stay in Uspallata for the night at a nice camp in the trees. The night was quite stormy and when we woke up it was pouring rain and we were in a giant mud puddle. We managed to pack up only to find that the nights rains had caused 20, yes 20, more rocks slides covering the highway and blocking our route into Chile. We decided to turn back and head south for a different pass over the mountains. It was bitter sweet as we could see Aconcagua in the distance and we were
really looking forward to the Andes, but this way we got to see some more of Argentina. The countryside was full of hills and twists and we made our way to Malangue and found a campsite just in time to chef up some vegetable soup and get some groceries before it started to rain. We played some cards in the tent as it started to hail! The stones got up to quarter size! Safe and warm in the tents now we are falling asleep to dreams of crossing into Chile tomorrow, and sea bass leaping into our helmets once we reach the coast.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Big day, I don't know if we'll have time!

The first day on the bikes with the girls was a big one. We managed to pack in about 300 miles, including getting out of the city in rush hour and our second stop for a bribe on the trip. The day was whizzing by and we were looking for a place to camp as the sun was starting to sink in the sky when we passed a semi crawling along on a big sweeping curve only to find a cop standing in the middle of the highway waving us over. Seeing as passing lines on the road ceased to mean anything when we left the states, I figured we were in for a bribe. The cops started with the usual aggression tactics then they moved on to separating the group to create confusion and anxiety, followed by the threat of a large fine combined with delays in travel and the loss of our license. When I just said ok to all the penalties and that I was sorry, they didn't know what to do. They even asked me why that wasn't a problem for me! I said I would be happy to pay the tickets as I was so sorry for breaking the rules. This really threw them for a loop and they figured they would just come out and ask for some money at this point. I told them I would be happy to bribe them, but I didn't have any money. I asked where the nearest ATM was so I could go get them some and they got really scared that I was going to report them so they settled for a couple of bucks that I dug up in change. House of Motorrad 1 cops 0. They even wanted to help me with directions to the best camping down the road after that. We headed to their suggestion and found a nice forested area backed to a corn field and had a great nights sleep.

The next day we topped our mileage from the previous day and ground out about 380 miles! We had lunch, to break things up, at a nice little restaurant along the way. We tried to order some simple Milanese sandwiches and we were treated to a banquet! Appetizers and all. It was quite a feast. The day got really hot after lunch, the thermometer read 103 as we cruised into a small town just short of Mendoza. The police were working overtime in this area as we got pulled over again! This time we had done nothing wrong so we just sat and talked with them for a while and never gave in to a bribe. They didn't try real hard though and after a few minutes we had a photo shoot and everyone was smiling and laughing. We made it to Mendoza and tried to find a bodega that we had researched for our lodging. The address on trip advisor led us to the wrong part of town and then directions from an Argentinian got us almost all the way there followed by more directions and some dumb luck we stumbled upon it only to find it closed. Discouraged we headed back into town and found a hotel and decided to hit the wineries by bicycle tomorrow. The night was capped off with some excellent Spanish tapas and wine followed by a game of musical rooms in our hotel. The room we had didn't have a functioning toilet. The repair man was able to get it fixed, "mas o menos", which meant that he made it run over constantly. We transferred rooms only to do so again after we discovered a broken air conditioner in the next one. 1am rolled around and we finally got some rest.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Have wife will travel.

We made it to the airport on the 2nd, to pick up the girls, about 10 minutes before their flight landed. We ended up hangin out for a few hours as their luggage didn't come through for quite a while. We loaded up the bikes at the airport and headed into town at about midnight. It was nice to have less traffic for the initial two up ride. We unloaded at the apartment and caught up a little before heading to bed around 3 am! The next day we o.d. on steak and eggs for breakfast before hitting the city for some sightseeing. We made it got the Casa Rosada, to see where Eva Peron delivered her famous "Don't cry for me Argentina" speech. We also walked through the Sunday market in San Telmo and got a few nice things for friends back home. The market seemed to go on down a small cobblestone street for miles and miles. After we were all shopped out we went to the Puerto Madero neighborhood and hiked through the reserva ecologia to catch a glimpse of the Atlantic before heading west. The shoreline was less than inviting and the beach was made up of old pieces of buildings all smashed up into chunks. Our last stop on the whirlwind tour was the La Boca neighborhood. We had been warned several times by several different people to steer clear of this working class neighborhood because it was too dangerous. If we had listened to advice like that we wouldn't be on this trip! We hopped a cab and drove past one of the shanty towns that are never far away in BA on our way to La Boca, where "they were waiting for us!" as one person who had warned us to stay out had said. The neighborhood was one of the highlights in my book. The buildings were all brightly painted with a traditional style that stems from the early inhabitants of this area being the boat painters, that used left over vibrant boat paint to adorn the neighborhood with so much character. There were tango shows and sidewalk cafes filling the streets with music and laughter. As the sun was setting we decided to hop a cab back to the apartment for a siesta before hitting the town again for a night of Tango! We managed to get to the Milonga at about 1am and took a seat beside the dance floor hat was packed with people on a Sunday night, all tangoing away in unison. The ritual was for the man to send a stare in the woman's direction and if she holds his gaze then it was a go! Brooke is a lover of the Tango and she was on the floor in minutes twisting away. It was so different than what I had imagined. The crowd was full of older men and young women all dancing the night away. We didn't get to bed until after 3am and we had to be out of the apartment the next day at 10am. We all got up and hustled out of there on time. The bikes got repacked, and all 4 of us headed west!