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01 New York
02 New England
03 Maine to Midland
04 Midland to Sturgis
05 Indians'n Cowboys
06 British Columbia
07 San Francisco
08 SF to San Diego
09 Baja to Canyons
10 Baja California
11 Northern Mexico
12 Mex. to Guatemala
13 Gua. to Costa Rica
14 CR to S. America
15 Ecuador
16 Peru and Bolivia
17 Chile
18 Patagonia
19 Argentina/Brasil
20 The road home
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E-mail: mail at dagjen.no
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Chapter 19 Northern Argentina and a loop

Start: March 30th, Rivadavia, Arg. Stop: April 27th, Buenos Aires, Arg.
6300 km, Total Distance: 53766 km [Map]

The last chapter from South America takes us through the flat countryside of Argentina's Atlantic coast to the good beer and coffee in Buenos Aires. A final four and a half thousand kilometer loop to Iguazu Falls, southern Brazil and a snapshot of Uruguay made a very nice conclusion of this trip. A fantastic journey was in its final stage.

Peninsula Valdéz

Sea lions

Sea lions on Peninsula Valdéz

Peninsula Valdéz in northern Patagonia is a paradise for sea lions, sea elephants, penguins and orcas (killer whales). A two hundred kilometer gravel road goes around the national park, and on our way through we hardly saw any car. It was late in the season as it had been everywhere we had gone lately. But on the northern tip of the peninsula, three identical dual sport motorcycles with Swiss license plates stood looking over a colony of sea lions. The owners were easy to spot and we sat with them for a while exchanging stories from the road. They were on a four months trip from Brazil to Ushuaia and up to Ecuador. It had taken them one full month to get the bikes out of customs in Brazil, which added to the stories we had heard about shipping problems in and out of this country. They told us they had asked for sponsoring from the manufacturer of the bikes. Not even in their dreams had they imagined what level of support they would get. The manufacturer quickly came back to them with a positive answer. A while later 250 pens and 250 lighters came in the mail, each item decorated with the brand name. "Here your are, folks, and good luck with your trip." That would help them see through the trip all right.

We sat for a while hoping for a visit of one or two of the orcas that often came to the beach here. I remembered a sequence I had seen in a nature program; an orca that slid onto a beach and snatched a sea lion, an incredible sight which I told Bente was all I was hoping for on this visit. "You blood thirsty man," she said, and suggested that the chance of seeing it was about zero. After a couple of hours we gave up, as the patient nature watchers we are, and continued south along the eastern coast of the peninsula. On a stop at a hotel, one of very few in the park, Bente talked to an American photographer who told her she was there for three weeks with one single shot to make; an orca snatching a sea lion on the beach. So I wasn't that far off. But she also said she chose to take a day off that day because the wind direction was wrong. When it blew from the north the orcas stayed away.

Further down the road we came to the first colony of penguins. We walked over to the fence and the closest were about a meter away. They stood, lay and walked around aimlessly, and of course looked pretty comical when staggering around on their short legs. We discussed a theory we read in a newspaper a while back. A scientist claimed that airplanes flying low over the south pole did a lot of mental damage to these animals, because they where so curious that they would look at the plane until it passed over their head and then they'd fall on their back. Imagine a colony of thousand of penguins falling simultaneously on their back from astonishment. It was impossible not to laugh.

A moto club in Azul

Mc Azul

The Friday night barbecue in Posta del Viajero en Moto, Azul. Jorge, the caretaker is number one to the left, the only one who doesn't look into the camera.

We did a couple of long days in the saddle after Peninsula Valdéz The boring stretch of road was only good for one thing, open up the throttle and lean into the wind. One day we did 600 km with only three stops. Then we arrived in Azul. Gerald, our Triumph engine mounts fixer, was waiting for us at the Posta del Viajero en Moto. Also Dai, the Japanese biker we met on the border between Peru and Bolivia, was there. A moto club in town had for several years offered free stay in their club house for long distance moto travelers. We got their card from Carola and Reto who we met in Cusco, and who again had gotten it from another traveler somewhere on the continent. It was an admirable initiative. The club house had two beds, kitchen with fridge, bath room and a garage with lots of space to work on the bikes. Jorge, one of the club members, lived and worked next door, so in case we needed any tools he had lots available. We stayed a week, and joined in on the Friday night barbecue which by default was free for the visitors. A lot of beers and a bottle of whisky disappeared during the week, and also I was able to do some long needed work on Rocinante.

The air filter, forever a source of annoyance, was taken off again. I replaced all the screws that held the two parts of the filter box together with bolts going through the plastic. They were secured with nuts. I also used wire to keep the filter box secured towards the carburetors, because the box lately had tended to slide off and let unfiltered air come in on the engine side of the filter. The oil was changed as well, and some bits and pieces tightened, cleaned, oiled, greased or fixed. All we needed now was a new set of tyres to be able to go the rest of the trip without more services. The Metzeler Tourance tyres I bought in Costa Rica had done almost 20000km, and the rear was dead, quite simply. But I was very happy with them, and when Jorge presented me for the editor of Informoto, the biggest motorcycle magazine in Argentina, who said he had good contacts with the Argentinean distributor of Metzeler, I built up hopes of getting a good deal on a set of new ones. In Argentina German imported products are very expensive, but the editor claimed he could get a very good price for us.

An European city


The smiles are genuine. Bente's drinking a Kilkenny, while I am drooling over my Guinness. It tasted like heaven.

From Azul it is only a short days ride to Buenos Aires, and we picked a good day to enter this enormous city. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon in low traffic and had no problems finding our way to the center. Because of the ever difficult parking situation in big cities, we ended up far away from the preferred hostels in a shitty hotel that had parking. But it was central and we started a hunt for a pint of Guinness. Gerald was not a dark beer fan, but he loved good pubs, and one thing the Irish and English know how to do well, is to run a proper pub. In Calle Reconquista the Guinness signs flourished, and soon we sat there with a black and delicious Guinness, a Kilkenny and a regular draft. Life was good after all, wasn't it. I had not had Guinness on tap since the States, so I clearly announced that budget was not an issue that night, and ordered another.

Buenos Aires was a city closer to the Spanish capital and other southern European cities than any we had seen so far on this trip. Eight million people live in the capital, and the traffic can be horrible. They claim to have the highest traffic accident rate in the world, but this is hard to accept, since cities like Lima probably doesn't have the same resources for calculating the statistics. Tango is still popular, while in most other aspects it was like being in Spain. And most of those aspects are meant in a positive way. Our guidebook warned us about crazy and cheating taxi drivers, which we didn't experience, and which only added to our feeling that guide books sometimes takes their warning section to serious.

The first two days in town we drank beer and slept late. Then on the third day we started digging into the shipping question. Gonzalo, an Argentinean photographer and moto traveler living in Norway but currently on his way down the continent with his Norwegian girlfriend, recommended a cargo company for us. When we got there we were surprised at how easy everything sounded,. and at how familiar the contact was with shipping motorcycles. We set up everything, got a price, and then headed for the travel agencies to negotiate a one way ticket for the three of us to Madrid. The costs were high, but still slightly cheaper than the initial flight and transport from Oslo to New York, 520USD for each ticket and 615USD for the bike. We booked the ticket for the second of May. That gave us three weeks more on the continent before flying over to good old Europe.

An e-mail from the editor of Informoto gave us the contact information for the Metzeler distributor, Monsa. A telephone call was rewarded with an offer for tyres for both bikes at cost prices, 250 USD for front and rear. A few hours later the new tyres were on and we were ready to explore northern Argentina and southern Brazil.

Tarantulas and waterfalls


A very small selection of the Iguazu waterfalls..

For three days we rode north without seeing any positive change in the landscape. It was flat and boring, just as it had been since Patagonia. We were questioning ourselves why we bothered to take this extra round trip, but at the end of the road Iguazu Falls waited for us. On the first night we camped behind a gas station, something which is free in Argentina. We were about to pitch the tent when Bente pointed at something in the grass and asked me if it could be a tarantula. I looked closer, but it seemed to be a small wooden root. No, it moved. The two front legs pointed straight up and an even closer look revealed two nasty looking teeth. It was indeed a tarantula, no doubt about it, and the first any of us had seen in the wild. Gerald used to have one as a pet, so he filled us in on the details. This was a young male and it was ready to attack. A few goose bumps was natural in this situation, but in reality this is not a very dangerous animal for human beings. The poison isn't strong enough to do serious damage. We moved the tent to a spot further away, after having decided without words to let it live. But then the gas station attendant came over to look, and he was quick to crunch it under his heel, claiming it could be slightly bad for his four year old daughter.

After four days we arrived at the falls and found a hotel in Puerto Iguazu on the Argentinean side. It was an old luxury hotel faded and worn down, but most important of all, cheap. It had a swimming pool, a bar and a fabulous breakfast. The next morning we hired a taxi for the day and went to see the falls. There is a Brazilian side and an Argentinean side, and both are worth exploring. When the falls came into view, it was a sight grander and prettier than any waterfall we had seen. While the Niagara Falls with its two big falls are impressive, this simply takes your breath away. One point two million liter of water pass through every second, and the falls are spread over an immense area, making up many hundred separate falls. It is impossible to describe or to catch on photo, and it is simply a must if you pass through this part of the world. We were soaking wet by the end of the day, after walking over and under water falls and seeing rainbows everywhere. It rates very high on the single most beautiful place we have seen on this trip.

A new language

Bad gas

Gerald's emptying his gas tank to get rid of the first gas we bought in Brazil.

At the border nobody seemed to have a clear idea of how to make the bike permits. Gerald and I walked from office to office, and at the fifth little cubicle an officer finally filled out the forms in two copies, and gave us a pile of papers to take with us. We left the falls area and headed northeast along the main highway. The signs were in a different language, but not so much different from Spanish. It wasn't until the locals started to speak that we realized that for the first time on this trip we were language handicapped.

The first hotel we stayed at in Brazil was an extremely pleasant surprise. At a price lower than we had paid in months we got a room which normally belongs in the star category. The included breakfast was beyond description, and when we stopped for lunch that day and paid a fraction of what we did in Argentina, but got a buffet with all you can imagine and a huge selection of meat, we started to realize this country would leave its mark on us in the form of added weight. The wanderlust comes and goes on a trip like this, and now all three of us regretted booking the flight to Europe. Brazil was enormous, and after this level of welcoming - the people seemed genuinely nice and curious too - we wanted more.

After an hours ride the next day, Gerald's front tyre was flat and we headed for the closest village to repair it. Both bikes were running poorly as well. In the morning we had read our e-mail and Henrique, a Brazilian we met in Costa Rica and would visit in a few days, had warned us about filling gas at small gas stations. That was exactly what we had done the day before, and now we paid for it. A big service station was selected, and the owner checked our gas while Gerald changed his valve, which luckily seemed to be the only problem with his tyre. The gas was crap, and we decided to replace it with the gas they offered us. A certificate showing how clean it was was good enough for us. While we were waiting I decided to do a closer check on a banging noise that came from below the bike each time I rode over a bump. I took of the top box and then lifted up the rear wheel while the bike was leaning on the side stand. Bente asked me if I was crazy lifting it up with all the luggage on, but I brushed it off and told her not to worry, to "trust me". I stood on my knees and lifted it up by pushing up the right aluminum pannier with my back, looking at how the suspension worked. Just when I saw that the suspension linkage touched the exhaust pipe that connects the left and right pipe, the load on my back disappeared as the side stand gave in. I could do nothing but watch as the bike fell over. Bente shook her head while we lifted it up again. The side stand was bent forward and couldn't be used, but the station owner came to our rescue again. Fifteen minutes later a motorcycle mechanic came from town and asked me to follow him to his workshop. In there we straightened the stand and welded a reinforcement on it to prevent it from giving in again. Bente's ironic comments about lifting up a bike fully loaded on a side stand we knew was too weak for the job made Gerald laugh and me flush.


Home on the beach on Praia do Rosa, Brazil. The rain fell for three long days, but at least we ate home made food, and a lot of it too.

Three hours after we arrived at the gas station we were on the road again. With that progress we knew we needed another day to reach the coast, so we slowed down and ate a long lunch. Later in the night we had a dinner in a town were the hotel was just as fantastic as the first night. The woman who served kept on talking about our trip and where we were from, but she was almost impossible to follow. I caught something about Germans, and when she left, Bente said with a smile, "Yippee, I finally understood what she said." "So did I," said Gerald. I looked at both of them and asked Bente what the woman had said.
"Well, she said that there was a lot of Germans living around here and that she liked them a lot."
I looked at Gerald, who was laughing.
"I understood that she had been in Germany and liked that a lot." This would be a confusing stay.

The rest of the road to the coast was nice and twisty, and in the afternoon on April 20th we arrived on Praia do Rosa, a beach recommended by Gonzalo. We planned to stay a few days and enjoy the sun, but when the first raindrops in a long time hit us, we feared it would be more like a beer drinking contest than a beach holiday.

Rocinante hiccups again

Three days later it still rained and we were about to leave. The stay had been relaxing, but not very beach oriented. We headed south, planning to cross the sierra and visit Henrique that day. Unfortunately the only roads crossing the sierra was dirt roads, and time was passing too quickly. The visit would mean a 260 km detour which we simply had no time for, so we decided to head on south. Late in the day, Rocinante decided to make progress difficult for us. She had been using abnormal amounts of oil lately, a problem I had no explanation for since the compression was fine, the spark plugs showed no signs of burning oil, and the engine looked dry and non-leaking. On a long straight I suddenly noticed that my right boot slipped of the foot peg. A look down stopped my heart for a second. From above my knee to the tip of the shoe my pants were covered in a thick, slick layer of oil. I stopped the engine and rolled over to the side of the road. "This looks like disaster," I thought. The whole bike was covered in oil from the engine and back. But I smiled when I saw the source of the problem. A bolt securing the cam shaft cover to the cam U-bolt had burst open and oil had been blown out under pressure. The bolt had been weak last time I checked the valves. I had secured the partly stripped threads with lock tite and made a gasket of heat resistant silicon. It was a mistake and now I paid for it. The bolt was impossible to secure again, so we made another temporary solution. A piece of aluminum was shaped into a bar we secured between the bolt head and the frame, then locked the bar to the frame with downwards pressure, packed the bolt with silicon and hoped it would stay there the five hundred kilometers we had left on this continent.

The oil had soaked the electrical system and made the bike hard to start. For the next couple of days we had to push start it in the morning. We passed quickly through Uruguay and took the ferry from Colonia to Buenos Aires on the morning of Thursday April 26th. We had six days before going back to Europe, but only three working days to sort out the transport of the bikes.

Old ladies protesting

As in Santiago, Chile, old ladies from the organization Madres de Plaza de Mayo are marching on the main plaza in Buenos Aires once a week to protest against the injustice made to their disappearing relatives during the dark years in Argentina, around 1976-1977.

It felt strange and sad to be back in the Argentinean capital. The last kilometer on the continent was done. Our America adventure was in truth over, done with, finished. Even though we would go to Madrid and use four weeks to crawl our way through Europe and to Norway, a trip long enough to be called a good size holiday under normal conditions, we felt the trip was very much over. A fantastic continent lay behind us, a continent that had left impressions that would stay with us the rest of our lives, a continent far safer and friendlier than many books and people want it to be. We can truly say we love this part of the world and will definitely come back one day. I felt sad but knew that in reality I was ready to go now. Bente was ready too. It would be good to see Europe again, and the slow ride up north would adjust us gradually to "normal" life again.

We will come back with more chapters, so don't hang up on us yet. Next chapter will be called "Going home" or something like that and tell about our trip up from Spain. This will be followed by one or more articles where we draw our conclusions, discuss the trip and the ups and downs, where we did wrong, what could have been done better and so on. An equipment review will be in there, and also I will try to make a separate section where the use of digital camera and a laptop is evaluated. It is too early to draw conclusion here and now, because we are still on the trip, but one piece of advise we can give you already; If you have gotten as far as wondering if you could do something similar, then you are ready to do it. Go ahead, it is more worth it than I can express in words.

An armadillo on Peninsula Valdéz

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls, seen from the Brazilian side. This picture shows only a small fraction of the falls.

A spider does not care about all the fuzz around Iguazu Falls.

A lazy penguin hangs around on the beach on Peninsula Valdéz

Old ladies
Two old ladies in the Thursday afternoon march on Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires.

Iguazu Falls
Iguazu Falls, impossible to catch fully on a photo, but impossible to not try.

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