Both biks strapped into on crate. Thats it our home, our cloths, our life for the past seven months...
What more can you ask for it was the time of our lives and we would turn around and do it again in a second if we had the time and the money. We left with 1000km of experience and return home veterans, after conquering mud roads, lakes, rivers, dirt highways, mountain passes, boat rides and so on. We connected with people, inspired others, and learned and experienced more then we could have ever imagined. But it is all winding down from here. We are to board a plane tomorrow for a 14-hour flight to New York City and one last ride home. This wonderful feeling came over me when I realized that all our belongings fit into a crate 3X6 feet. I used to be proud that all my things fit into Volkswagen Golf but this is so much better. We spent a day in the air cargo warehouse packing up our bikes. Talking and joking with the warehouse guys, witch we can finally do in Spanish (Liz more then I). We had to take the front tires, mirrors, windshields, fenders, boxes etc. to make everything fit snugly. The smaller the size the cheaper the flight. The cargo company said they were going to give us a plastic crate because they often have problems with wooden crates arriving in the US. So we packed up our bikes on a skid and waited for the plastic crate to arrive so we could slide the crate in. But it wasn’t as we expected, they just saran wrapped the bikes and slapped some dangerous good stickers on it and they were good to go. It took the entire day to take care of all the paper work and disassemble the bikes but it was done.
Yesterday was May 25th; it is the largest holiday in Argentina and Liz’s birthday. We were woken first thing in the morning by mortars (fire works) going off feet from our hotel. Fire works are a little different here, it has nothing to do with how cool they look just how lowed they are. The streets were filled with people, representing their preferred political party. The president cam to speak to the people. It was great, people dancing in the streets, and chanting political slogans. The subway was free so we took that around the city and got lost a few times. Buenos Aires is quite the city. It never seems to stop. Clubs and bars stay open until the sun is well up, and people seem to party every night.
We fly out tomorrow. I am already dreading 14 hours on a plane without the ability to smoke, or stretch my legs. If we had the time we would turn around and bike home in a second. But I am already a few weeks late for work and we both are out of money. On our return next week I will post an entry summing up the trip. What it meant to me and some of the highlights. So keep checking there should be one more.
May 25th, 2006. Argentinas biggest holiday of the year.
So here we are at an internet cafe with a bunch of strangers, and yet so comfortable. We have been here once before and so we now have a sense of comfort and familiarity with this room. The smell of smoke is in the air and the gentle humming of the 10 or so computers is interupted by the taping of fingers on the keyboards. I have often thought about how the trip would end, and this wasn´t really what I had in mind. We are patiently waiting for the mechanic to fix my ( liz ) bike so we can fly to New York, but when that will happen is out of our control. From new york we bike the 900 kms home and thats the end of this chapter.
Our Hostel is filled with youthful travellers who like to drink and party all night, which isnt our scene but these are always the cheaper places to stay. Everyone speaks english there, making it easier to communicate, but at the same time I want to keep struggling through spanish so that I can continue to improve my third language. Its funny how people get home sick and desperately want something familiar, but when its available its less apealing. I have never done a big trip like this before, its been the most undescribable experience of my life... to date. It seems that the more things change and become foreign to me, the more comfortable I am and the happier I get. I have snapshots in my head of all the things I have seen and places I have been, but there really is no way of acurately describing them. It is going to be frustrating being home and telling friends and family about the hairy donkeys in Ecuador, or the funny reed boats in Peru, I just dont think they will be able to grasp what I am saying. I can still smell the garbage burning on the side of the road, a subtle hint that a town is nearby. I can hear the megaphones blaring with the good news of banana sales at 6am. I can feel the sand whiping my skin and the rain filling my boots. The most intense memory I have is that of Junior, the 6 days and 6 nights of near death. I will never be able to share the full experience with anybody that wasnt there, and it saddens me.
We chose the hostal we are in simply because Jeffrey was staying there. He is a fellow biker from new york, and he was on the boat with us. We saw him over the past weekend, and though we would never be friends with each other under normal curcumstances, we now share something that most people would never understand. I remember listening to calebs stories of his visit to costa Rica and Panama 4 years ago. He insisted that he could never describe the situations well enough, but I would be on the ground in pain with tears in my eyes from excessive laughter from the tales he told. I had no idea that he was seriously not describing things well enough, I was sure I had a good picture in my head, but after creating my own experiences I finally understand what he was saying. There is a point when nothing makes any sense any more and the world that I knew is a place I wont recognize anymore. I see things everyday that I would never see in canada., but after this long I dont even notice the family of 7 on a 50cc scooter barelling down the 8 lane highway.
We just had dinner at a nice cafe, it was quiet looking on the inside with few people and signs posted with sales on raviolli and coffee today. once we got settled we noticed there was alot of commotion all of a sudden, tables being moved around and fancy looking people everywhere. Everyone seemed to be on a mission and then the cameras came in and the lighting, a whole crew of people and half the reastaurant was intantly transformed into a tv set. We sat through the filming of a russian soap opera being fimed in Buenos Aires and had our coffee and hot chocolate while we watched. I know its not unusual to film things like that in restaurants, but what I found to be strange was the fact that it was 2 russian women, trying to speak spanish for the scene, and it was business as usual in the rest of the restaurant. customers comming and going and nobody seemed to notice the huge set up. I think if you have grown up in Latin America you really dont notice anything as unusual, because nothing is. a good example is: I would say that riding a motorcycle on the sidewalk would be completely normal, almost expected, and I have only been here for 6 months. Try that at home and you have people yelling at you, others on their cell phones calling the authorities and you would be fined for something absurde and so on.
I have noticed a huge diference in cities vs smaller towns. Each has an appeal to it, but also its disadvantages. Cities are always cleaner and have less obvious poverty, where as towns are usally smelly and money seems hard to come by. Now on the other hand, in the city you typically can´t safely walk the street at night and in the towns its never an issue. I think that the smaller communities have a much more welcoming atmosphere and are generally more open to strangers. There are always people who want to talk to you and truely concider you a friend from Hello. In the cities you can get the same warmth, but it takes longer. Latin America seems to have sorted out how to be happy with what you have, even if its very little and worthless to most, something we can all learn from in North America.
I will be glad to be home and with the ones I love again, but wherever I go and in everything I do I will always take what I have learned here with me. I am anticipating having a tough time adjusting to the high prices and strict rules, but I think that a little less chaos will be good for me aswell. If I could do the whole trip ove rknowing what I know now, I would change very little, but more time and money is always good.
We have done it, we made it out of Salta! Its was amazing being back on the road, we had done some small trips to Chile, and Bolivia, and around Argentina, but now we were on the road with a purpose a goal and two bikes, yep thats right Liz´s bike was flying along down the road once again. We had attempted 2 days prior to this attempt but only made it about 20km when Liz´s bike once again died on the side of the road. We had to get a tow truck to bring it back to Salta for us (this is a free service in Argentina, even for Gringos) amazing eh. Anyway, so the mechanic fixed the new problem (more corrostion complements of Junior the boat) and two days later we were back on our way. We did great the first day, Liz re-learned how to master riding her bike and we took it easy the fist day so she could get back into the groove of it. We spent the night in a small town and were up at 6:00am (before the sun) if you know me personaly you would be impressed. Anyway, so the sun still wasnt up and we were off, we quickly covered nearly 500km, then it happened... Liz´s bike started to chug, and cough and she began losing speed. We happened to be near an SOS phone so we stopped and we both tried to figiure out the problem, but it didn´t apear to be obvious and at this point her bike wouldn´t start. We called the tow truck and he showed up 20 min later and took us to the next town (Santiago de somthing). The tow truck could only take us to the outskirts of town so we had to push Liz´s bike about 10km into town for a mechanic. 10km is a long way to push a bike even a small 250, so we decided to try to push it with my bike. We had seen our mechanic do it in Salta and it didn´t look that hard. I pulled up next to Liz´s bike put my right leg on her rear passenger peg and eased off on my clutch. It took a lot of work to get the bike going, trying to keep your balance and pushing a bike with your leg is really a lot harder then you would think. But we slowly got the hang of it, if I went to far to the left I would lose liz and if I went to far to the right my highway pegs would have gone into the spokes of her rear wheel so its a bit more tricky then it sounds. But we fought with it for a while and now we are pro´s. We can boot along at 60km/h like that, its pretty cool, we can even do round abouts. So we managed to find the crazy red neck mechanic down a small dirt road. We would have been better off not finding him... He proceeded to take Liz´s bike apart when we came back the next morning, pieces of the bike were missing, wires were cut and ripped out the gas tank was know where to be found ect. The mechanic had no idea what was wrong with it or where most of the parts were. So I held Liz back so she didn´t kill him and we got him to put the bike back together the best he could and we pushed it to a shipping company and loaded it onto a transport truck. It should be at a kawasaki dealer in Buenos Aires on Monday and hopefuly they will be able to sort it out.
My bike is doing well, we know we have a ways to go on my bike so we did a little work to it to make sure it would get us to Bs-As; without any problems. We bought a new front tire $22 and the guys were so impressed that we road from Canada to there that they gave us free chain oil really great guys. So off we went to the guy on the side of the road that changes tires $1 and five minutes we were out of there with the new tire on my bike. Around the corner we found a garage that did oil changes. They changed my oil, cleaned my bike, taped up my highway pegs and went and bought us coffee. Amazing people, so frinedly fast and efficient and they only charged us for the price of the oil. You just cant get better service than this. I am afraid of the culter shock we will experiance returning home. We did look into selling our bikes down here and flying home but Argentina requires you to pay %100 tax on the value of your motorcycle. That means about $5000 USD jsut for my bike and another $4000 USD for Liz´s bike and that just allows us to be able to sell them. Then we have to find a buyer and a KLR sells for up to $18,000 USD in Argentina so it is very hard to find a buyer. Not to mention I love my bike (not sure if Liz would say the same thing about hers at this point) but I am very happy. I get attached to cars, and this bike has been my transportation, and my home for the last six and a half months. It was new when I left and now its covered in scratches, dents, oil, and dirt it finly looks like it should. I don´t think I could ever part with him. Anyway, so tommorrow morning we are off to Bs-As; to find a plane, liz´s bike, and hopefully get home one of these days. We do miss Salta, in the time we spent there we made friends, good frineds. I miss them and we plan on staying in contact with a lot of them. Argentina is a great country, and Latin America has given me a new found hope for humanity. Till next time...