BA to the border.

Between Buenos Aires and Iguassu Falls that are situated on the border of Brazil and Argentina. We dealt twice with corrupt police, Mike got a flat-tyre so we unexpectedly spent the night in a massive grain processing factory during torrential rains.

These rains the following day turned one section of the road into a river. Oncoming cars would send a wave of water that lapped our knees. Mike said yes to picking up a Argentinian hitchhiker at a fuel stop. She got soaking wet and promptly got off in the next village.

I caught an oil spill at one stage doing 100km/h, fear shot through during the momentary loss of traction.

Corruption

We rode out of Buenos Aires northward towards Brazil. The roads we planned to take were Route 12 and 14.

A couple of hours after leaving we came up and over a bridge. As we came down the other side we were signaled by some police officers 100m further up the road to pull over. We stopped and were promptly asked to remove our helmets. The accusation that followed was that we were speeding.

Obviously we denied this, and we began to explain how we had no money. The two offices spoke with limited English so there was a difficulty in translation. I explained that we wanted to see proof of the speeding accusation. They said they had us on camera, a photo.  Wanting to see this we were led inside the compound and were shown a monitor of the security cameras of the immediate area. While treading carefully we joked about this and also explained that our bikes are so slow that we could have been speeding if we wanted to. Twenty minutes later we had our documents back and we were on the road again.

It wouldn’t have been more than an hour or two and we were pulled over again. This time the attitudes of the officers were more forceful, probably a scare tactic. We were escorted to a senior officer leaning against the bonnet of his car. He had a calculator and documents spread out like it was his desk. He didn’t speak any English but successfully told us that we were being accused of overtaking on double yellow lines, witnessed by an officer 20km prior.

Unsure if we should  or should not pretend  to understand, or to use the deny, it was  going to be a lot of work for either tactic. Denying at the time seemed the option to pursue. He then typed 3950 into his calculator to explain that was our fine. This figure was in peso’s and equates to about US $1000. Not being able to pay this fine even if we wanted to, he eventually brought it down to 1000 peso.

I told him that he would have to contact the Embassy for this sort of money, or house us for three days for the money to be cleared from Australia. He threatened to take the bikes and lock us up, a bluff I called, and he retracted.

We were then told to go to the nearest fuel station to withdrawal the money to get our passports back. Frustrated by the time this was consuming I responded with a blunt NO.

His next move was to shout a command at a junior officer to take photos of our bikes. He said we wouldn’t be able to leave the country without payment of the fine. This was our chance to do the same, I signaled to Mike to get the camera and take photos of the officers. Not long later we had our documents back and were on the bikes. The whole ordeal would have taken over an hour.

Buenos Aires

We reached Buenos Aires in five days from when we left Punta Natales. The same distance on the globe from Santiago in Chile down took over a month.

A friend of mine from school, Nicko Marlor, lives in Buenos Aires with his family. And in the days that followed, Nicko, Helen and Mark took us in and revived us. We hadn’t showered in days and Mark was a motorcycle man so we managed to bring the bikes up to speed as well. Red wine, red meat, a bed to sleep in and the Marlor’s hospitality leaves a lasting impression with all of us.

Without this revival, I doubt the stamina could have been maintained. Rifts in our group dynamics were already taking place. Mainly between Nick and I. I would typically carry the map and I have a strong sense of faith in my direction, combined with an assertive personality, rarely giving anyone else a say.

Video Blog 3#

Repair and Run

To change the broken part on Mike’s bike, commonly referred to in Kawasaki KLR 650 circles as the ‘doohicky’, we needed to make a ‘special tool’.

This tool was like a big bolt (rotor puller) and needed to be the right size and thread to work properly.

Jose, voted by us as one of the worlds best mechanics, had the ear and the answers to fix anything. He had the “special tool” made at a engineer’s near by. We spent days with Jose, and learned so much about our bikes.

Jose spoke next to no English, except he did know “special part” which he used in most conversations, explanations and as the punch line for jokes, especially concerning Kawasaki and the manual we had access to.

He helped us check our valve clearances and swapped shimm’s between bikes. I beat out the top box and repaired bits and pieces that were well overdue. Somehow I managed to destroy my speedo cable/mechanism (on Mike’s advice). I was never to be aware of how far or how fast I was traveling from this point!

On our final night in Punta Natales we shared our hostel with a dozen or so American students.  It was our first taste of being adventure motorcycle celebrities, or so we thought. The questions and compliments came thick and fast, and with little contact with English speakers in the previous six weeks, we lapped it up. With no ties to the other world, saying no to a little affection wasn’t likely to happen either.

Early in the morning,  ready to or not, we were on our way with Buenos Aires the new focus. Riding east we had the roaring 40’s blowing us forward. When the day grew dark, in typical fashion, we left the road and set out across the plain. We found a camping sight where we thought we wouldn’t be disturbed and settled down for the evening.

It wasn’t strange to find Nick in his massive tent with a block of chocolate, Mike once commented that the only thing missing is a Jane Austen novel. While he seemed to have the luxuries, one thing he didn’t have was a quality sleeping bag.  Hence, the night that followed, as the frost and ice settled on our bikes and tents, Nick claims to have the worst night of his life…. wrapped in absolutely everything he owned, he was forced to jiggle to maintain blood flow.. ……but he had to much pride, or perhaps to much loyalty to Rachel not to come crawling into Mike’s or my tent.

We moved quickly each day, sticking to the highway. Our biggest day was roughly 1150km and every night when we found a place to camp it was about five degrees warmer.

We were stopped one day while passing through a town by a man who insisted we had lunch with him. We later discovered that he restored classic motorbikes and had a number of half finished projects in the an adjacent house. A man with a passion we all admired and we were grateful for the hospitality.