Monday, 17 December 2012

Day 162: Buenos Aires, Argentina to Wellington, NZ via Sydney, Australia

Well everybody! I guess the Ice to Ice Tour is now officially over. All that is left to do is to tie up some loose ends, write some summaries that might help others thinking of doing similar things and get our girls out of Argentina and back home.

I am beginning writing this on the plane in the way from Buenos Aires to Sydney. I will finish it, all going well, from home in Wellington NZ. We are flying Aerolineas Argentinas and travelling in business class! That's a hoot! The fare for business class was $130 more than the standard fare. That might sound a lot but it is a 16 hour flight - so that's less than $10 per hour. :-) It means you get a lounge to sit in while the plane is delayed 90 minutes, priority boarding so you don't have to stand in huge queues and a reasonable seat so you have a chance to get some sleep. It made sense to me.

So we were up this morning not long after 5am, showered and packed and ready to go. The hotel ordered us a sizeable car (almost a limo) which was just as well because we had lots of luggage. It also meant that we had a driver who was only slightly insane instead of being stark raving bonkers as all other BA taxi drivers seem to be.

Check in was straightforward enough although the flight had already been delayed an hour from the original ETD of 8.30. I sat in the lounge and did some posting of blogs while we waited. It would seem that the days of lavish airline lounges might be over. It was most certainly not like the Koru Lounge that I enjoyed while working at the Teachers Council. Still a coffee and some fruit and a quiet place to wait was ok.

Kiwi checked it out. Seemed ok.

We eventually boarded at around 9.15 and were then held at the taxiway for a further 20 minutes so the rubber bands could be retensioned. Finally we were up up and away and into some bumpy turbuturbuturbulence as we cruised down the east coast towards the South Pole. Apparently we are to fly over some southern islands of NZ. Not that we are likely to see anything. And will arrive in Sydney just a little late at 3.15pm local time. Well, we'll see.

Kiwi thought the seats were ok.

And then found himself a snug little possie. He wasn't so sure about the feet though!

More to come. :-)

Sydney was ok - good to see that relaxed Aussie humour. Because our plane was late Dick had a bit of a scramble to get clear and then catch his flight to Auckland. I had a bit of time to kill and then left at 7pm.

Shirley was waiting for me at the airport when we arrived just after midnight. Goodie! What else can we say.

That's going to be it for a while. Summaries and comments later. I'm going for a nap. :-)

Location:Wellington, NZ

Day 161: another not very restful day in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Hi folks
Well I wrote this blog in the airport lounge yesterday and posted it but it has disappeared. Bother!

So .... here we go.

Basically Dick and I went out to Eddie's at about 10.30 to sort out the bikes. I had been a bit apprehensive about the traffic but it was fine. The bikes are now stored in an underground carpark that needs a lift for access. We stripped the mirrors and windscreens off the bikes in the hope that we may be able to arrange for them to be picked up from here by truck to go out to the shipping company. We arranged for them to be cleaned by the building manager and left him the keys.

After that we went to be tourists for a while. We went to see Eva's tomb at Recoleta and then to La Boca to see some of the art and stalls.

And that was about our day. A big pack and then off to the airport early in the morning.

Today's run: 6kms
Cumulative: 41,852kms

Location:Buenos Aires, Argentina

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Day 160: a not so restful day in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Hello everyone
Our first day in BA and some good, some not so good. Breakfast was included in our first night's room rate so we dealt to that first and then went off to International Cargo for our meeting with Natalia. She was available as she was dealing to a personal crisis (?) so we met with the Managing Director and Martin. They confirmed to us the bad news.

Apparently Argentine regulations for the export of personal items (like motorbikes) require that the owner is physically present at time at which the property is loaded into the container. This is supposedly to control drug smuggling. Because it is so close to Xmas there is only one chance that we might be able to have this done on Tuesday. (Today is Friday) There is then a chance that we might be able to change our flight to Sydney from Sunday to the Wednesday. And then a chance that I might be able to change my flight from Sydney to Welly. It all sounded pretty chancy to us.

So we either stay in Argentina now until mid-January so the bikes can be cleared and then fly home, or fly home now for Xmas with family and then fly back in January. Not too much doubt I think about which one we will choose.
We then went to meet with Octavio of Hub who is the customs broker. He confirmed all of this information and collected our documents for copying. They had to be signed in front of a notary public. He also advised that because the permit for the temporary import of the bikes runs till August 2013 there is no problem with us coming home for Xmas. We just have to arrange to have the bikes stored and advise the broker of the location. Just in case there is a one in a million chance that Customs may choose to inspect. All of this I think is to ensure that we don't sell the bikes illegally and cheat the government out of their sales tax.

Dick has an old friend here in BA called Eddie who used to own and manage a cereal factory in Tres Arroyos. He had an accident some five years ago and is now in a wheelchair, living in an apartment in BA. He was a great contact! Not only was he very pleased to see us but he also has a neighbour who doesn't use his carpark. An arrangement was made to park the girls there until we can get back to watch them being loaded into a container.

Back at the hotel Dick and I split up to do our own things for a while and then went to the famous Tango Porteno show. It was a hoot. Not only did they serve nice food on a massive scale - getting most people's orders right - serving nice wine, the show itself was great. It had a storyline there somewhere; not far from Eliza Dolittle and My Fair Lady but not quite. Towards the end the storyline got sacrificed I think for more tango varieties. My mum would have absolutely adored it!

So, tomorrow we will take the bikes out to Eddie's apartment, strip mirrors and windscreens, disconnect batteries and leave them. :-( Hopefully we will be able to arrange for them to be picked up by truck in the New .year. Otherwise we will refit the windscreens and mirrors, reconnect the batteries and ride them to the wharf.

More to come. Obviously!

Today's run: 0kms
Cumulative: 41,486kms

Location:Buenos Aires, Argentina

Friday, 14 December 2012

Day 159: Tres Arroyos to Buenos Aires, Argentina

Good morning!

No blog last night - I was just too tired.

Things went pretty well yesterday. We got away at a good time and headed NE with not too much wind. Karen had us worried because she told us it was 650kms to BA but we thought only about 530. We could see on the map that Ruta 3 went to BA so we ignored her directions to go west and kept to the map. Eventually she came right - maybe there was a bit of Ruta 3 she didn't know about.

It was pleasant enough riding but I was still pretty tired from the hammering we got yesterday. Fine and sunny with not much wind and good farming scenery. A lot of traffic to negotiate with huge convoys of trucks on quite a narrow two-way road. We met this gentleman from Brazil on a little Yamaha. He had also been to Ushuaia.

He told us not to go to BA because of the student riots. It rather reminded me of the Peter Seller's line - "the students are revolting""yes ..... aren't they."

We eventually got on the motorway into BA and could speed up a bit. Some of the driving we saw was a bit hairy - the speed limit was 130kph but the trucks were still doing 80. A lot of tailgating and, of course, lots of cars doing 160 or so. A number of toll gates to go through too where bikes were charged 150 pesos. I really wondered why they bothered.

Off the motorway and into seven-lane city traffic. Around the huge obelisk and then across all the lanes to our hotel. Karen did a great job and Dick was very good too having been here before and spent time studying the maps. At about 4pm we were parked outside the Hotel Bristol. In a bus stop.

We parked the girls in a parking lot down the street and found our rooms. We then tried to,find the closest BMW motorcycle dealer. We have this idea that we could have them service, clean, store and maybe even, crate the bikes for shipping back to NZ. Instead we wound up in a BMW car dealership and they were very uninterested and unhelpful. The expression "tits on a bull!" Sprang to my mind.

We had dinner in a huge pedestrian mall (the meal was too really - what is it with vegetables?) and then were back for bed by 11pm. Everything runs very late here and my system is not used to it.

Not sure yet what I think of BA. It's a big city with huge contrasts. I'll write more later.

At 10am this morning we meet our shipping agent to see whether or not we can come home before our bikes are "shipped." And find out exactly what "shipped" means - actually placed on a ship or placed in bond? More later.

Today's run: 542kms
Cumulative: 41,846kms
Tipovers: Who cares?

Location:Buenos Aires, Argentina

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Day 158: Sierra Grande to Tres Arroyos, Argentina

Hi folks
Well today was one of the hardest days of the tour. Right up there with Ruta 40. Gale force winds, huge dust storms, narrow roads and very hot. Oh, and 750kms - a record for the trip. Phew.

We had breakfast at the hotel at Sierra Grande and were on the road by 745am determined to have a big bite at the distance still to go to BA. There was a mild zephyr as we left Sierra Grande but it quickly turned into a really good Wellington westerly gale as we headed north towards Cinco Chanares. It was brutal. The road was narrow and the seal was poor and we got hammered as we rode.

At Cinco Chanares we turned east and had the wind behind us for a while so sat at around 120kph for a while, but we could see the dust beginning to build. As we turned north again at Viedma (go and get a map!) we hit the first serious dust cloud. I have tried to take a photo but it doesn't come near to the reality.

Visibility was down to about 100metres and we were forced to sit on about 80kph with the wind whalloping us from the left. One good thing was that the trucks disappeared, or most of them anyway. Still lots of buses to push us around. And the traffic here moves fast!

At one point we dropped into a gully and the visibility dropped too. I could see maybe 10metres in front. I knew that Dick was behind me somewhere but I was concerned about oncoming vehicles. I tried slowing down but the wind made me too unstable; I just had to keep going, visor down and hope. It lasted for about 150metres. I was pleased that I was wearing my Ulysses club (brown) underdaks.

Obviously, because I am sitting here writing this, I made it! :-) I hope youse are too!

No point in going on about it. We stopped when we could find some shelter and rested and drank water. From Bahia Blanca we turned east again and the riding became a little easier. At about 6.30pm we arrived in Tres Arroyos and found a hotel. We are knackered! Totally exhausted.

There were some good points too. Gradually the terrain turned from scrub to farmland and we began to see bales of hay and crops of wheat being harvested. Everywhere we stopped we met people interested in what we have done and where we are going. The expression "mucho loco" was heard from time to time. I relate to that.

We have now had dinner, a beer and are headed for bed. There appear to be some problems with our bike exports. Our agent is apparently saying that we must remain in Argentina until the bikes are loaded onto a ship. Which is likely to be in mid-January. So we are a trifle worried. Especially with all of our flights already booked.

More details to come. :-(

Today's run: 750kms (a record?)
Cumulative: 41,304kms
Tipovers: 5

Location:Tres Arroyos, Argentina

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Day 157: Caleta Olivia to Sierra Grande, Argentina.

Hi everyone
Getting close now! It was another tough day in the wind today. We left Caleta Olivia with no regrets and headed north along a very poorly maintained road (a new one coming!) with a buckety rumpity westerly bashing us around. The air dam from the trucks as they rocket past in the opposite direction is physically punishing. We must have been in mad rush hour because we were sitting on 110-120kph and still being aggressively passed all the way.

We stopped in Comodoro Rivadavia for breakfast at a petrol station. We thought we were getting a toasted sandwich with ham, cheese and egg but we didn't. Something was lost in the translation because we got cold stale bread with a slice of ham and a slice of cheese. I could only manage half of mine it was so stodgy.

Not much else to do but head on up the road. Our petrol consumption is through the roof with the wind so we found ourselves stopping quite often for gas. The road was long and straight. The vegetation was pretty sparse and the wind was relentless.

We stopped for lunch at Trelaw which is supposedly a touristy sort of town with a Welsh heritage but we were in go-mode and just stopped for lunch. Just before we stopped I had a problem with my Nolan helmet. I tried to raise the chin piece as i rode along and as I lifted the lever it broke off and disappeared. As a result I can't get my flipface helmet to open. It is a real struggle to get it off and on. My poor ears! :-) so I am battling on with it and when I get to Buenos Aires it will go in the bin.

Ebony clocked over 50,000kms this afternoon and right on cue the headlight bulb blew. I should be grumpy with Mr BMW but to be fair the bike has gone brilliantly so far. Fingers (and other appendages) crossed.

So here we are at Sierra Grande, in a hotel and have just been out for a meal and a beer. I did my washing before we went out and it is now on the dryer. Whaddya reckon?

Got to us a ceiling fan for something! It looks quite nice up there slowly turning around.

So that's it folks. Hopefully a more gentle day tomorrow as we turn East and the wind is more behind us. 750kms tomorrow and then we should be in a good position to make Buenos Aires on Thursday. Bikes cleaned and with the shippers on Friday. A day of being a tourist in BA and then off to Orstralia early in Sunday. Arrive back in Welly at some terrible hour on the Monday. Goodie.

Today's run: 650kms
Cumulative: 40,554kms
Tipovers: 5

Location:Sierra Grande, Argentina

Day 156: Rio Gallegos to Caleta Olivia, Argentina

Hi all
Another tough day today. The wind! Man the wind!

We had breakfast at our hotel in Rio Gallegos and were on the road by 8am. Almost immediately the wind began to punch us around. A strong wind from the west with lots of trucks and buses on the road buffeting us around. The road was ok and we tried to stay around 120kph but it was hard work.
Also I was still tired from a rather unsatisfactory nights sleep and I kept dozing off. On one occasion I went completely to sleep and woke up in the opposite lane at 120kph. That woke me up!
Also the other traffic on the road was hoofing it. Most cars overtaking us were doing 140kph with some doing at least 160. On such a narrow two way road with such a strong wind, it was a trifle scary. My petrol consumption went up to 6.4 litres/100kms which is very high. This meant I was keeping a close eye on petrol stations too.
We had lunch at Tres Cerros and I buggered around for ages getting some money out of the bank. We then soldiered on through Fitz Roy to Caleta Olivia. Man, what a dump. The wind whistles through here pretty constantly I think so the rubbish and plastic is everywhere. Like i mean .... everywhere. Yuck. We found a hostel but it looked a bit rumpity so we went looking for something better. They were all full. So we ended up back where we began. The proprietor is "interesting!" He insisted on having a photo taken with me. We are his first official guests since 5 December?

At least he was ok about parking the girls in the hotel foyer.

I think.

We'll be on the road early again in the morning. Up the road to the next town (Comodoro Rivadavi) for breakfast.
That's it. Hopefully we will get some sleep tonight but I am beginning to have my doubts.

Today's run: 710kms (that is huge considering the conditions!)
Cumulative: 39,904kms
Tipovers: 5

Location:Caleta Olivia, Argentina