Thursday, February 25, 2010

I just arrived !!! I love HOME...( VICTORIA BC )

Hello my friends, my adventure just finished and now I am at Vancouver airport ready to take the plane to Victoria....
Now, a new life is waiting for me, I am looking forward to share my adventure with you.
Thanks to all of you for the support.
Your friend

Total days on the road = 195 (6 months, 11 days)

last day words

Friday, February 12, 2010

Adios Buenos Aires !

Buenos Aries

I did not have a good day in Buenos Aries. It was hot with heavy rains. I was soaked and quite miserable as we lugged my luggage around town.

We arrived at the airport to find out that my 20:05 flight to Washington DC had been cancelled because of storms. Poor me. The next available flight will be Sunday night. All of a sudden, the day was pretty good.

V’s friend from Chilicito, Solidad and her husband Daniel, kindly accepted V’s announcement that we were coming over for dinner. They are a lovely couple who live in a funky loft style apartment.

After a delicious dinner we rode around in a taxi to find a hotel. It was not an easy task as it was pouring rain. V found a great old hotel on 25 Mayo. Its got great character with minimum decorative renovations (except the bathrooms) since the building was constructed at the turn of the 20th C. Its clean with tall ceilings, wooden floors, old furniture and a wooden elevator (cage).

Saturday February 6

V spent the day in the hotel because his feet were causing him bad pain. I walked for hours but basically spent the time in the Recoleta area where there are old mansions, parks, and museums. I enjoyed the national art gallery and the Recoleta cemetery where the rich and/or famous Portenos are buried. People still leave fresh flowers at Eva Peron’s tomb and the tourist were lined up for their photo. It was fascinating to peek into the mausoleums to see the caskets, some including pictures of the deceased.

Gems mine

Ride from Iquazu Falls

We decided to have an easy day and left Iguazu Falls after lunch. Along the way, we stopped at the Wanda Mine where they mine amethyst, rose quartz, and citroen. The semi-precious gemstones are found in old magma tubes. Their colour (and type of gem stone) is dependent on the mineral content. We skipped the jewelry (expensive) to stick with buying a few rocks.

From there, we rode in the heat back to Posadas. What can I say? The people are friendly but its a border town on the Uruguay river.

Marathon to Ville Maria

Our 800 km treck for the day began very windy and stayed that way until well after noon. We crossed a high bridge over rough water but the wind causing the motorcycle to move radically. I simply could not look down and was thankful when we returned to firm ground.

The land became very fertile with farms, ranches, and small towns strung along the railway. Overall, the area seems prosperous and I loved watching the gauchos at work.

Ville Maria

We did the final 300 km in the rain. I felt that we were in Italy. People not only sang their Spanish but also spoke with wild hand gestures. We arrived soaking arrives at V’s dad Antonio and his girlfriend, Nene, house at around noon. They fed us a good lunch, kindly did our laundry for us, and allowed us to rest.

The afternoon V took me around his old haunts. Its a lovely town, reminding me a bit of Victoria with its city park lake(s). Its quite bigger and more cosmopolitan than I expected. We stopped to visit V’s grandmother and Aunt Kika. I really fell in love with those two women.

During the evening Antonio made a grill for 10 people they had invited for dinner. Clever man - he used an air compressor to get the charcoal going. Its quite a lot of manual labour to do an Argeninian grill. However, the end result phenomenal.

V and I caught the 1:30 a.m. bus to Buenos The long distance coaches are double decker with tv and non-alcoholic drink service. It was quite a comfortable sleep as the deep seats lean all the way back and come with leg rests.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Iguazu Falls

We stayed the night in Posedas after a very long ride from Formesa. The landscape is green, low, with some swampy areas. We were back on the rode by 6:00 a.m. As we rode north, the weather became quite cooler, around 32C.

I admit being unsure of our plan to ride to Iguazu Falls and was concerned if it really was worth the distance. When we rode into the Iguazu Falls Park, butterflies were everywhere in the air, like in a Disneyland cartoon. I was waiting to see Bambi appear from the jungle.

Argentinos get into the park for $25 pesos and non-Argentinos for $85 pesos ($22 dollars). I followed V’s instructions, kept my mouth shut (was difficult) and paid only $25 pesos.

What can I say about the Iguazu Falls? Nothing prepared us for the experience. Yes, its one of the wonders of the world. Yes, it is the second biggest falls in the world. We knew that and yet were overwhelmed by its magnifence.

Obviously the zodiac ride was “pretty cool”. First we toured the smallest falls. With forewarning, the captain steered us right into the falls. Visibility was zero. Everyone screamed as we became soaked. (I had been wondering why some people were wearing only bathing suits.) The experience was like having a shower.

The park itself is very well constructed. You follow rock stairs through the jungle, right next to the falls. There are numerous rock “out croppings” for views and steel catwalks right over the water.

Unfortunately I am unable to describe the sound and power of the water, being surrounded by the dense jungle, and its wildlife. Iguazu Falls is truly in the middle of nowhere but was worth the frustrations we experienced in reaching this destination.

Litoral Argentino and PANIC at Paraguay !!!

When we left Salta, we came across a protest blocking the highway. Considering that most of the protesters were hiding their identities by wearing similar clothes and scarves. The police were present but I did not like the look of their rifles. Traffic was backed up and the heat oppressive. Fortunately, V and I did not need to wait long before the blockade was disbanded. We quickly past everyone to get ahead of the traffic.

The ride to Formasa was interesting. I love watching the gauchos on their horses but although the road towards Formasa had cowboys, there seemed not to have fenced estancia. Cattle, horses, goats, pigs, wild boars, and other animals roamed freely on the side of the road. This made riding after dark dangerous so we stayed in Ingjuares at a truck stop. Surprisingly, nice, new accommodation.

We decided to leave at 5:00 am the following day because the heat is becoming unbearable. Formasa is a border town on the Parana River separating Argentina and Paraguay. Not much to say about the town. However, overall I found the people in the Chaco region very friendly.

Panic at Paraguay

We got up early on Sunday and arrived at the Paraguay border by around 8:00 (115 km ride from Formosa) to take the short-cut to the Iquaza Falls. As we prepared to cross the border, V discovered that he had lost his passports. Both of them. At first I was not concerned. V has the tendency to lose things but the “lost” objects are always located. Not this time. We unpacked at the border and had that sinking feeling that the passports were indeed gone.

We returned to Formasa where Victor made telephone calls to advise the Canadian embassy of his lost passport and the credit card companies. Then a quick stop at the police to report his lost Argentinian passport.

We had to decide what to do and in the end, we decided to do the foolish thing. We will take the 900 km route to the falls through Argentina. The trip from the falls to Buenos Aries will require about 700 km riding every day for three days to arrive in time for my departing flight.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A day in Salta

A day in Salta.

V and I spent a day in Salta following our passions.

Victor worked on Plata (wash, oil change). Once the mud was removed from Plata, he discovered that the front rim is very bent and will need to be repaired.

I had a manicure, got lost in the city streets but eventually circled back to the museums and window shopping. I learned how to cross streets without traffic lights. (Despite the heavy traffic, there are no signals outside a few inner city blocks. To me its simply a game of "chicken.")

At 1:00 the city shuts down for a siesta, even cafes are closed, and the city does not start again until 5:30 - 6:00. One thing that caught me by surprise is how cool the plazas are despite the 38 C temperature. The plazas are a nice place to hang out to people watch.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cafayate - Salta

What a ride !!! what wonderful scenery ! We left St. Maria and headed north to Cafayate. The landscape continued to be dry shrub desert. We eventually came to a valley of green with a string of villages. Eventually the entire landscape was agricultural with vineyards.

I was surprised when we arrived in Cafayate. It is a pretty little tourist town that boosts its local wine made from grapes that grow at high altitudes. This area was part of the Inca Empire and one sees this in the people and the local crafts.

Leaving Cafayate behind, we took a bend in the road and all that I could say was "WOW"! As far as we could see was a massive red rock canyon. Victor was not having a good day riding the curves (it happens) but I was perfectly happy on the back taking photos.

We arrived in Salta and again, all that I could say was "WOW". I believe the city is the oldest in Argentina (it used to be the capital), and was established in the 16th C. The public structures, which arl built in the Colonial style, lit at night giving it a romantic atmosphere.
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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Santa Marta - Catamarca - Good friends on the road

From Chilicito we rode to Santa Maria, Catamarca. We were again on route 40 nicknamed the most lonely road in the world. Again, nothing to see but desert. Eventually we arrived into some lush valleys with a string of villages. The architecture and the people are now very South American, unlike Buenos Aries and Mendoza which is quite European.

There had been some down pours ahead of our travels. In one town we had to come to a stop because of the flooded road. As we waited with a group of people for the flood to subside, a motorcyclists began to talk with us. It turned out that Marcus just loves motorcycles and generously invited us to his house for a cup of coffee to wait for the flood to lower. We were joined by Marcus' long-time girlfriend Delores. Although I do not speak Spanish I simply loved their company.

They rode with us into Santa Maria, helped us find a great hotel, toured the evening market with us, and joined us with a fun dinner of pizza and empanadas. A great couple who we were fortunate to meet.
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Monday, January 25, 2010

Chilecito, Leather factory and Cable Cars

I really liked Chilicito and agree with a fellow tourist that the city should do more to promote their town. Chilicito got its name from the Chili miners who came to mine the local resources. In the 1880s a German company decided to mine gold deposits in a mountain at 4,700 metres.

To transport the gold and other minerals in an efficient manner to the town which sits at an elevation of 1,070 metres, they developed a cable car system of 265 towers, the highest of which is 56 metres. You can still see the rusted towers and cars, which Victor of course just had to play with. You can imagine how busy the cable car system must have been when in operation and how noisy.

We also visited the leather factory were Victor worked as an export agent. Touring a leather factory is not for those with a weak stomach but I found it fascinating to know exactly how leather is produced. The smell is not only from the skins but also from the strong chemicals of chrome and sulphoric used to process the leather. Unfortunately, the local environment is heavily contaminated. Maybe this explains why they do not promote tourism.Posted by Picasa

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Mendoza, vineyards and Cuesta de Miranda

We decided to spend an entire day in Mendoza. We began by having a picnic in the city park. The park has wide boulevards and huge, dramatic statutes representing freedom from colonial dominance.

We took a tour in the afternoon of two bodegas and an olive oil factory. The two bodegas were a contrast, the first was a modern industrial wine producer. They grew their own grapes to make the wine. The second bodega was built in 1932 and purchased the grapes to produce the wine. They used the original equipment and had limited production. In 2009 they were voted having the best Malbec in the world. One bottle cost $300 euro, which is over $600. Both bodegas produced wine only for export.

The next day we rode to Chilicito. It was a magnificent ride through the desert. I have never seen such a lonely space in my life. By the afternoon we were in the red mountains Cuesta de Miranda. The unpaved road was only one lane wide with over 250 curves. Drivers had to issue a warning honk each time they came to a bend in the road. Cacti grew on the rock, some were in bloom. Unfortunately Plata hit a rock hard, ending up with a front punctured tire. Victor was brilliant in fixing the puncture with a "plugger". We arrived in Chilicito as a hot wind called a monsoon, swirled into the city. This a hot, powerful gust of dusty wind which lasts about an hour. It was quite dramatic.
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Saturday, January 23, 2010


The ride from Mercedes to Mendoza was hard. It had to be at least 40C if not hotter. We were now in the dry pampa where there is nothing but shrubs, empty highway, sun, and heat. The three hour ride seem to take forever.

Mendoza is a pretty province of vineyards at the foothills of the Andes. The capital, Mendoza City, has wide tree lined streets, many pretty plazas with fountains and statutes. I found it interesting how the city came to life in the evening after the sun set. Families with their children sat in the parks and the sidewalk cafes were full until midnight.

On Friday we rode into the Andes on the highway into Chile. Again, a very good road. The Andes are dramatic. The mountains are steep, high, and some where mutlicoloured in reds, pinks, greens, whites, and greys. There were no villages. We rode to Puenta del Inca which, according to the tourtist book, is one of "the" wonders of South America. It is an interesting yellow rock formation of a "bridge" created by sulphur hotsprings.

We then rode to the foot of the highest peak in the Americas, Aconcagua. It was a windy, lonely destination.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Buenos Aires and the GF

What a wonderful sight when I entered the arrival area of the airport in Buenos Aries...Victor was front and centre of the waiting crowd. No need to worry of having to try and find him.

The hotel Victor picked was wonderful. Situated in a former private residence built in 1870 with many original features like mosaic floors, all rooms facing the private courtyard garden, fancy light fixtures, brass fittings and tall ceilings. It was an oasis from the road outside.

January 18 and 19 we simply wandered around Buenos Aries. I loved the old wooden subway trains with the canvas straps, varnished benches, and open windows. Canadian safety standard inspectors would have a wonderful time handing out violation tickets.

My first impressions of Buenos Aries? I felt immediately "at home" - very European but distinctly Spanish colonial. We took two bus tours to get a feel of the size and districts of the city. I can not get over the tree lined boulevards, the mansions, statutes, plazas, parks, sculptures, and the traffic. V is teaching me to dance through traffic against a red light but its not for the weak hearted. At the same time, however, there are gritty districts of poverty and life can be hard for some sectors of society here.

Victor quickly got me into the Buenos Aries attitude towards life. We shopped, o.k., I shopped. We sat at cafes to people watch. We are eating pastries, ice cream, meat, meat, and more meat. And of course to prevent heart disease from this rich diet one must have red wine.

Today will be our first ride. Victor is just loading the motorcycle now and soon we will be heading towards Mendoza.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

More trains, now in Rio Gallegos

I just visited the train cementery in Rio Gallegos. I love trains !
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