Category Argentina

vamos, vamos Argentina! vamos, vamos a ganar!

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Argentina to New Zealand

This is an info post for riders, mostly.

Well, it all starts here, at Dakar Motors in Buenos Aires. Rather than ship with a freight forwarder I met with in Santiago who didn’t inspire confidence, I crossed SA to the experts. It seems they handle 90% of the bikes flying in and out of Argentina and I had a special recommendation from Adam Shani. Also, they shipped for the famous ‘Radioman’ and the equally famous Sherri Jo Wilkins.

So I’ve been emailing them getting an idea of how it all works and I show up to get the paperwork started. For riders, the GPS coordinates are S34 32.474 W58 30.998. Here are Javier and Sandra, the owners
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They’re hilarious. Anyway, Sandra is waiting for me with all the paperwork I have to complete and we work out a schedule. She has a complete printed itinerary of events (as it’s a bit complicated) including maps and names of various people involved.

The thing is that shipping to a first world country like New Zealand may be a corruption-free process, as best as we know, and no-one is going to intentionally try to ruin your day or your life, like they do for fun at Latin borders, but there are rules about stuff. For instance New Zealand has extremely strict quarantine requirements and the bike must arrive ‘as new’. Spotless. Same as your helmet, boots and riding suit. Plus there are regulations about bike fitness-for-the-road, etc.

First thing is to do a first-clean. Lucinda’s first pro-clean ever in her life. She likes it.
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Back at the hotel we spend hours with toothbrushes, rags and sprays of various sorts finishing the job. Ditto the suit and boots in the hotel room shower.

Then off to the airport to be weighed
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Air out of the tires, strapped down and palleted and off to a sniffer machine by forklift where they check her for drugs, bombs or firearms
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Then wrapped
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Then off to pay for her flight. Cash only, $2100 US in Argentine pesos, about a 3 inch stack. This is always a weird thing, doing a transaction with a big stack of money, but the Latins of course are used to it and love it. Dakar’s fee for making all the arrangements was less than I expected.
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That seems like a fair price for this distance
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Then a few last days in Buenos Aires before heading off to the airport myself
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We’ve flown into and out of a bunch of Latin American airports and sadly Buenos Aires International isn’t a great one. That prize goes to El Dorado International, Bogota.

At the other end we’ve picked TNL International to receive Lucinda. So there you have it, Dakar and TNL, no matter which way you go, east or west, and you’re in good hands.

Here’s Deanne at TNL Auckland working on the paperwork with me. She seems to handle everyone with a motorcycle as she knows the big names who have come through. As a result she knows all about bike quarantine, the WOF and all the hassles ahead
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Then, 3 days later, because it takes that long in NZ, Lucinda has passed quarantine, is through Customs and is ready to pick up. A bit of a pain. I prefer corruption to bureaucracy because it doesn’t take as long and is cheaper.

Here she is, and she’s thrilled to see me. We maul each other a bit
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Then it’s off to get a WOF, which is a certificate you need here which shows your bike is road-worthy. There are WOF stations scattered around Auckland
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And here’s the inspector. He makes a long list of little things that need to be attended to within 28 days. Lucinda says bullshit, just three things and we’re already on top of it. Atta girl.
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Then he says he has to take her for a road test. I look at him in horror. He’s only got maybe a 30″ in-seam and Lucinda, being the world’s most gigantic enduro has a 37″ stand over height. I ask him if he’s sure, he says it’s the law. He takes a while to figure out how he’s going to do it and I steady the bike for him as he climbs on. He takes it for about a 50′ loop in the parking lot before I catch him and he calls it quits. Scary.

Anyway, we’re here. It’s a major culture shock and we weren’t expecting to be this affected by it. Leaving Latin America has been hard. But this is the way west and we’ll get over it.

Buenos Aires – music

Tango is everywhere in Buenos Aires.

I’ve been to a few shows, I’ve seen it countless times in the street, and even tried it. The best show is at Tango Carlos Gardel. It’s the most formal, the least sensual but the show quality is excellent. So let’s start there. The stage is superb, with the small orchestra balanced on a perch above the dancers
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And of course, there’s a lot of this
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This is all very nice but it’s very formal and not very sexy. To see that you go to the clubs or the street.

So we headed to the famous and immense Sunday street markets. Our hotel is close to the huge obelisk, the centre of Buenos Aires
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Past St. Martin’s with another Falklands Malvinas memorial set into the grass
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Then due east
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Through a few of the many parks
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The city of love and sex
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Then through narrowing streets. This is the classic BA shot, there are countless miles that look exactly like this
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Past a cafe where music was pouring out into the street. A couple dance mid-morning, always a good time of day for this
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Up high now, wife of mine
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It’s the feet
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When we got to the market it was miles long. It disappears into the distance, as you can see below. Hundreds of thousands are in the streets for futbol and hundreds of thousands for this, or anything they feel like really, like Eva Peron
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You can be as individual as you like, just be well turned out
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There were some stalls that were dense with specialty items, like old men’s watches
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There are stalls of poster art and original retro photographs. You see them in a different light here. For example there are few or no porn magazines in the stores and sex shops are rare. Everything this way is re-calibrated. They don’t need it mostly except unless it’s artistic or whimsical. It’s not difficult to figure out the hows and whys
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But anyway, elsewhere in the market – meat slicers for instance. Everything is here but I liked the red disks.
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Or if your child wants to play with black baby dolls, here they areP1030728

Dying your hair red is the colour here, but not enough to be very common. This booth-owner wears it well
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It was all pretty interesting and after 18 months here we’re getting an idea of where the boundaries are. They’re in very different places even. And some are very narrow that you’d never guess, some wide open that you might. But it works well and if there’s a happiness gauge, they’re ahead.

A little further along, Argentine folk music, and everyone nearby is dancing. They have bright handkerchiefs or something they wave
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To the left is a video from here. I wished I could have joined them but it’s a traditional dance and maybe the wrong time/place to do that. Video to the left.

The thing about Buenos Aires is that there are a limitless things to talk about and photograph. It’s all so interesting and exotic. I have a ton of photos that I can’t put into blog context.

So back on market street
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There was music everywhere on the adjoining side streets. Traditional
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And in quieter corners, tango
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Tango busking is everywhere. It’s always beautiful and always gathers a quiet respectful crowd. Every dance couple has their own movement, style, interpretation, and everyone appears thoughtful, even serious, about it no matter how formal or outrageous it may be. Video to the left of this couple. Traditional.

Later that night we headed off to Bar 868, rated one of the top 50 bars in the world. But I’d give that claim to Ruta 36 which doesn’t appear on any list, the world’s only cocaine bar back in La Paz Bolivia, where 10 grams of the finest uncut Bolivian is $8 and a glass of the best Scotch $30. Or so they say, and I understand they’re stopped in the last few months. Bar 868 is unmarked and the doorman armed, always a good sign
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But on the way there we pass more intimate tango on a busy street corner. Video to the left.

Lucinda and I have been to BA three times. The first time I wasn’t so sure about it. The second was better. The third time I wanted to live there. It’s old, refined, confident, and a world apart. It’s not totally gringo friendly, but nowhere that matters in Latin America is that we’ve been to. Maybe, for preservation of the great thing they have, this is a good thing.

Buenos Aires – River Plate

The Guardian/Observer magazine lists seeing a River Plate/Boca Juniors match as the #1 of 50 sporting things to do before you die. The BBC (and others) call it the greatest sporting event in the world.

75,000 young futbol fans mostly between ages 18 and 25, both in control yet out of control is a huge sight and an unworldly sound. This is Argentina, and the team most revered and feared and with the most ardent fans is River Plate. Their rivalry with Boca Juniors, another team from Buenos Aires, is called the most intense in any sport worldwide.

The long and complex chants (and there are many, maybe 20 for River Plate alone) are sometimes shocking. One for example taunts Boca fans that they’re like ‘Bolivians who shit in the street’. Another is unprintable. They’re not social liberals and they don’t compromise.

The team name is in English. Like Boca Juniors. And they have an interesting way of chanting it. It goes like reeeva plate! reeeeva plate! It sounds beautiful and the streets and sky of Buenos Aires were tribal with it before and after the game.

Tonight River Plate are going for blood. It’s the Championship game, against Quilmes, Boca Juniors have been knocked out early, and it’s at home in River Plate.

The streets of Buenos Aires have been crawling with packs of lunatic fans all day
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We arrive at the stadium about 3 hours early as advised. The tickets were hard to get, but since we aren’t about to see this again soon, we get good seats.

It’s chaos everywhere. We’re on one of three streets that are packed with fans at huge 300 foot wide line-ups.  There are police helicopters overhead
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We’re told that at all three entry directions the fans will be ‘processed’ by security in groups of about 1000 at a time. It will take a few hours. We are in a group about mid-wait. It looks like this
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That’s the huge River Plate stadium ahead and another crowd coming from another direction in the distance. Many of the fans don’t have tickets and will listen to the game from outside. So maybe 100,000+ people here tonight. Impressive.

There’s another thing: all the fans are River Plate. They have banned competitive fans from games anywhere in Buenos Aires all year due to violence and killings. All fans have to have team ID, a sophisticated plastic card complete with holographic image, and there’s a central data base preventing you from getting multiple team ID’s. We’ve got tourist entry cards, so we’re exempt.

The waiting groups of 1000 are calm for the first couple of hours. They dance and chant quietly. See movie to the left, enlarge first.

We’re frisked at one of the two stations
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Just as we’re through the crowd starts loosing it and throwing bottles at security. After we approached the next group we heard a roaring behind us and the crowd had broken through security and everyone started running. Video to the left.

So did we. An escort pointed us at a private entrance, with more security, and we were through quickly. Into the immense stadium. Our seats are perfect
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The stadium is too vast to get a picture of the whole thing. Opposite it looks like this
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And to the right like this
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As the sun sets and the game is about to start the crowd goes crazy and dump their red and white cylinder things. Incredible. Video to the left

There are few girls here and fewer kids. But in our more secure seating area a Plate fan has brought his son to the game. He’s a terrific guy and a passionate Argentine, like all of them
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The fans have a fairly violent salute they all do in unison when chanting. I’ll use our neighbour to illustrate. Bring the right arm right back
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Hold it for a sec, then fire it forward as hard as you can
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Finish with a sweep
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His son is loving this: his dad brought him. For other things of great importance his mom will take him. Granny will dip strong coffee into sweet bread and teach him to chew when he’s a baby. Grandpa will oversee everything
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Whenever there’s a bad call all the hands go up in a desperate wtf?
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Somewhere out there a game’s playing
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Quilmes can only watch and River Plate kick in a goal every 10 or 15 minutes. They’re getting killed. The stadium is a riotous and massive human happiness exhibit.

It get’s darker at about half-time
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Monumental
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Flares
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Lots of smoke
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Nice effects
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With River Plate up 5-0, riot police roll in and form a perimeter
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River Plate win, the crowd goes crazier and there’s  huge fireworks show
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We leave before the crowd. I didn’t want to leave, ever, and I think at the moment the obvious thing I’ll never forget is the singing/chanting. It was from the depths of their soul and never stopped for a minute

But outside it’s pandemonium. The non-ticket fans are trying to get to the stadium. They’re held back by separated lines of riot police. We have no idea how we’re going to get through
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There are fires burning ahead and the noise of the crowd is deafening. We move off to the side, and not feeling like there’s a good strategy for getting further in the face of it, we move behind a riot truck along with a bunch of police, who are hiding there. This is not the first time I’ve seen Latin police behave realistically in the face of impossible odds

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They don’t like this and tell us forcefully to get away, so we move across to the other side of the street, not having any choice
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The crowd is taunting the police. Not 30 seconds after we get to the far wall the police make a decision to bail, and run to the same wall, and the crowd explodes through. It was an amazing sight and sound. I’m concerned we’re going to get trampled but we’re able to hold tight for the few minutes it takes for the wave of fans to rush past. The police are either hiding, or running with them. It’s nuts.

As we move further away there are vendors out cooking carne for the mob
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The welcoming smell of burning chorizo.

God I’m hungry I think, but later, we don’t know what’s ahead
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Finally we’re through into semi-sanity
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And a few hours later we’re home.

There were 300K people on the streets tonight. The atmosphere in the stadium was beyond description. These are Argentines. They went to war against Margaret Thatcher having full knowledge they had zero chance of winning. The country has been eaten alive by corrupt government and in 2002 defaulted massively on their debt. Plenty has gone wrong.  But failures don’t define them, tonight does.

The next time River make it to the finals I’ll be back
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Pacific to Atlantic

Lucinda and I had to go back Buenos Aires to prepare for a big flight west. Although you’d think this would be a shorter thing to do from Santiago, Lucinda’s welfare is my top priority. There’s a freight forwarder in BA who has a great reputation for handling bikes well so we went there, despite the additional hassle.

So here’s the route we took, right across South America (and thanks Dan for showing me how to group these tracks)
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Not many pictures or story for this very long track. There’s an explanation at the bottom of the post.

The first leg is back over the Christo Redentor pass between Chile and Argentina. We’ve been here before but it’s colder this time.

Out of Santiago we climb into the Andes
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This time we climb rather than descend the famous switchbacks. It’s like climbing a wall. Poor contrast in this pic, you’ll probably have to click on it
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Serious road engineering. There’s been progress since we were last here
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To the border, but there’s a problem. Both countries immigration/aduana are now in the same building. Last time they were miles apart. I need a gap where neither border can see me for a few minutes. This will present difficulties down the road, but nothing that can’t be finessed. I can’t explain what yet, but nothing too weird
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Through the equally famous tunnel. It goes the whole way under the mountain ahead
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Through smaller tunnels
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Through valleys
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And across the plains to Mendoza.

I haven’t done a restaurant review before. But I wandered into this small place and had my best meal in 20 months. The food has been not-so-hot for a long time. I’ll explain another time. Three courses and a bottle of Torrontes for 350 pesos, about $37 US. A lot of money here. Stop here at GPS coordinates S32 53.508 W68 50.861
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The ride between Mendoza and San Luis was boring. And it rained. I didn’t take a single photo.

Just outside of San Luis there’s the small town of Potrero de los Funes in some hills which appear surprisingly in the great plain of central Argentina. You see that little road here? It’s a racetrack
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Lucinda has never been on a track before and wants us to try it. It’ll  be romantic, she says.

The track at Potrero de los Funes looks like this
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Stuck in the middle of anywhere, 100’s of miles from anything, the Potrero de los Funes Circuit, a 6.3km track was inaugurated in 2008, and hosts local Formula Renault, TC2000 and FIA GT Championships, among other stuff. So it’s a serious circuit. From above it looks like this
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And on race day it looks like this
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We get up early the first day
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We roll out onto the track. Take a couple of laps warming her tires up.

Start in pole position
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Into the first corner nice and easy
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Out onto a long stretch
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Approaching the next right
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Sweeper
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A left
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Hairpin
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Etc etc

Race to the finish
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Then on to Cordoba.

Up into cold mountains
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Pretty ridge running
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A section of track
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There were huge Cotoneasters roadside
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And a good orange shrub I couldn’t ID
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Pampas on the hillsides. Normally they’re on the flats
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A small Silene
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The summit was a bare rocky plain that ran for a few miles
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With small ponds everywhere
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And down to rich green pastures
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Lucinda poses in the middle of a roundabout
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We arrived late into Cordoba and left early so no pictures.

As it happens my Garmin GPS has been a nightmare for the last few days. I do all the tricks I’ve learned over the last 20 months and nothing I can do can bring it back to sanity. I won’t bore you with the details but despite Garmin insisting it’s not a hardware problem I’ll be replacing it down the road. In the interim I have to use it as a map, not a GPS. Here’s an example of it’s routing skills. The road is in red, the purple is the recommended route. Nuts
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Or a particularly bad moment. It wants us to follow the purple line! So we ignore it and follow the hard map background, just like stone-age times.
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Nothing but grief from this useless thing since it first lost its mind back in Savanna, Georgia. And Garmin support is useless.

The next two days were a fast ride over flat farmland through Rosario to Buenos Aires
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This is one of the biggest roads in Argentina. I would never normally ride on such a thing
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But truth be told, my mind has moved beyond South America. We’ve been here long enough and we want a change.

So I take this enormous road and let my thoughts wander to wondering where in the world I’ll find my next adventure. Lucinda and I have a much clearer idea about the big picture now. It’s taken me a long time to come to some conclusions about why I’m doing this, but the picture is clearer. I can now see more than just where, I’m beginning to see why and how.

Adding to this clearer picture is the realization that Lucinda and I are riding well together. I haven’t dropped her once in a technical riding situation in South America. I’ve dropped her hitting a traffic barrier outside Lima (I had a similar surprise in Leon, Nicaragua) and we’ve had the standard drop manuevering-at-walking-speed in sand or mud when I’ve put my foot down to find nothing there.

So combined with some new ideas about goals, we’re in a happy place right now.

Or we thought we’d finished here, but a nice thing happened on our way to do a bike/paperwork chore: Uruguay.

four days back to Puerto Natales

Nothing is less fun than backtracking, specially if it’s a big distance. There’s no alternative route back to Natales where we have a date with a boat.

On day 2 of the return, we hid behind this building from the wind on the way back to Porvenir
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Hours later we were back on the coast of the Magellan Straight. Lucinda posed for a shot
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Wrecked fish boats every few miles
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With some time to kill before Porvenir and the wind down we rode down a track to the fishing village. A collection of shacks really
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There were 10 or so homes. A man appears from one. We look at his net
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And his boat
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He’s finished fishing for the day. He can’t believe I’m from Canada and have ridden my bike down. So he insisted he makes me te (tea) in his home. He tells me about the fish (no less than ever) the birds (he loves them) and the sea (he loves it). He’s been here all his life
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It was a shame to leave such a gentle soul without hearing more stories. We had one thing in common – something neither of us had
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Lucinda likes riding these tracks through the turf and we took a long detour back
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The next morning we got the same pretty ferry out of Porvenir. No wind. Sun. Warmish for the first time in days
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We roll on and this guy insists on doing the tie-down. He makes a mess of it but is very funny as we go very slightly off-topic
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He ends up untying everything, chocking her up and throwing a single line over. I don’t really care as the water is as smooth as glass. Lucinda’s cool with it either way I can tell
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Bye Porviner
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Then it’s a windless and fast ride back to Punta Arenas. Claudia’s flying in tomorrow and I have to meet her at the micro-airport. It’s taken her 24 hours and three connections to get here from Guatemala.

The next morning we walk the waterfront to see the birds. There are three species of cormorants, two albatross and numerous gulls
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We’re not the only ones out birdwatching
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It seems to me that birds can show brilliant colors like no other life. So maybe someone could explain why marine bird life, shorebirds, cormorants, penguins, gulls, you name it are nearly all black and white
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The industrial buildings on the waterfront are painted with murals. They’re not for the benefit of tourists. They have a strange quality about them
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and
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Punta Arenas is a great place. My favorite Chilean town except Valpo. But this blog is a road report only, so limited in what I get up to or photograph, so just get down here and see for yourself.

Then there’s a logistical thing. Lucinda hasn’t the room to carry a passenger with the duffel so we put Claudia on a bus and follow/lead it to Puerto Natales. I’ve explained this to her in advance.

Along the way we finally get close to the Rheas we’ve seen off and on. These are maybe 40 or 50 pounds of huge flightlessness, maybe 3 feet tall at the shoulder, 5 feet tall when looking around.
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Meanwhile the ride has been mostly like this and freezing
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When we get to Natales I can’t believe it. What was a maelstrom a couple of weeks ago is a millpond
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Por ejemplo, here it is today

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And was two weeks or so ago
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Clearly no predators around
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This being Chile, the boats are sophisticated
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But on the dock is a rope drying. Depth knots in meters? Not fathoms, too close. Why anyone is doing this is another mysteryP1030155

The water’s clear cold and beautiful
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The passport epic worked out. Everything always works out. As the space for stamps got more desperate, the officials looked more carefully at my problem. And they all cooperated. The bad start was because I flirted with the Chilean lady officer thinking that was a slam-dunk winning strategy and she wanted to correct me on that.

So, they had no problem with overlaps. I can’t tell you how grateful I was to all of them
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Ushuaia

Here’s a chunk of the Ushuaia Wiki:

The Selk’nam Indians, also called the Ona, first arrived in Tierra del Fuego about 10,000 years ago. The southern group of the Selk’nam, the Yaghan (also known as Yámana), occupied what is now Ushuaia, living in continual conflict with the northern inhabitants of the island.

For much of the latter half of the 19th century, the eastern portion of Tierra del Fuego was populated by a substantial majority of nationals who were not Argentine citizens, including a number of British subjects. Ushuaia was founded, informally, by British missionaries, following previous British surveys, long before Argentine nationals or government representatives arrived there on a permanent basis. The British ship HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain Robert FitzRoy, first reached the channel on January 29, 1833 during its maiden voyage surveying Tierra del Fuego. The city was originally named by early British missionaries using the native Yámana name for the area.

One of the interesting things about the Yaghan tribe was that they ran around naked. I know, you’re immediately thinking that with the year-around freezing temperatures this must have been embarrassing for the guys, but whatever. When the British missionaries clothed them they got sick and many died from the various bugs in the clothing

The Beagle Channel from above the town
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The setting is gorgeous
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We forget that we have solo round-the-world sailing brothers that share this important waypoint. This (approx 80′) steel ketch was Dutch registered. Suddenly I got an idea
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But anyway, what really got Ushuaia going as a town was the building of a jail in 1896 for dangerous criminals and reoffenders from Buenos Aires. So off we went. It’s not hostile looking at all
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I was surprised at how few cells there were
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The common area
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There were small naval boats in the harbour flying colours
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There was a gathering at the park around a sculpture of the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands. It was the 32nd anniversary of the war
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Children, officers and cadets
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A military band played
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The Vets
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The park was ringed with war images. Most were powerful and I photographed them all. I asked an older guy a bunch of obvious questions
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Hanging white crosses for the men from Ushuaia who the British killed
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A veteran boat
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Saludos
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arrived

Back-posts in a few days. Check below for posts being filled in.
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