30th, Rivadavia, Arg. Stop: April 27th, Buenos Aires, Arg.
Distance: 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.
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
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
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
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
Gerald's emptying his gas tank to get rid of the first gas we bought
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
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.
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"
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
An armadillo on Peninsula Valdéz
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
Two old ladies in the Thursday afternoon
march on Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires.
Iguazu Falls, impossible to catch
fully on a photo, but impossible to not try.