Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day 100 to 102 - Last few days in South America

RobC:  After a Dakar-filled weekend and a cooling rain storm on Sunday afternoon, we eagerly looked forward to picking up the bikes from the shop on Monday morning and taking them for a trial run. We got to the shop around 10 am and my bike had already been taken out for a test. Everything was fine. The new clutch was working great, which will take a little getting used to, as it is quite "grabby" and sensitive. The only problem with the bike is that the electronic gear indicator on the dashboard is not working properly. Somewhere in the inner workings of the clutch and gear box there is a little round box with little pins and springs. The lid had come off the box in the process of taking it out of its housing and the little pins and springs dropped out. When putting it back together, the mechanic must have made an error and did not test it, and now it is too late now to do anything about it. So now when I am in first gear the indicator says second, and when I am in second the indicator says neutral and the green light goes on. This can be confusing of course, but if I just ignore the indicator and go by the sound of the motor and the transmission I will be fine...I hope.

We mounted the panniers on our bikes and everything else that would go in the air shipment to South Africa. We paid the bill at the Dakar Motos shop, said good bye to the people we had gotten to know quite well, and took off before noon to go to the Egyptian consulate to pick up our passports with visas for Egypt. It was GREAT to be on the bikes again, driving the beautiful streets and avenues of Buenos Aires, guided by our trusty GPSs. Having a rest in the big city has been good, but we are both looking forward to continuing our two-wheeled journey on another continent.

When I stepped into the busy waiting room at the Egyptian consulate, the nice Egyptian clerk sought me out and excitedly notified me that my Canadian companion owed another USD 15, because Canada is one of the countries (besides the US and others) that charge Egyptians more to travel to their countries. No problem, I had another $15 in my pocket and the clerk apologetically took the money. So, we had a little foretaste of Egypt, which is going to be fun, and I am glad I went through the lengthy process of regaining my Dutch passport for events like these.

We stopped for a nice outdoor lunch on a beautiful tree-lined avenue, Swiss chard quiche for me and a fancy hamburger for RobT. Another minor celebration. Then it was off to the Ezeiza International airport to deliver our bikes for air shipment to Cape Town.

Wow, ezeiza air freight is well-organized. Everything worked like a fine Swiss watch. We called Franco the shipping broker at the gate, who came promptly with a couple of papers to get us through the gate, we drove into the packingsection of a big warehouse, weighed the bikes (mine was 324 kg with gear and Rob's was 294 kg). A couple of special pallets (nice and narrow, as you pay by volume: length x width x height) were waiting for us. We were asked to drive the bikes onto the pallets, they were strapped down, and we were asked to disconnect the battery, deflate the tires, take off the windshield and mirrors and drain the access fuel. The fuel was already on reserve, so we were ready to go. A customs official came to inspect the contents of the panniers and everything else that could be inspected. After that, the workers wrapped everything in several layers of plastic and made the bikes look like Christmas presents. We were told that both bikes would be strapped together onto a large aluminum airline "pallet" and covered once more by a large sheet of plastic. Well, we are quite sure that if the airplane does not do down over the ocean, the bikes will be delivered safe and sound in Cape Town on January 20, as planned.

 RobT's 800GS on the pallet, without windshield and mirrors

My 1150GS, all wrapped up

As an added bonus, one of the warehouse worker took us over to an area where the top Dakar Rally cars were strapped to aluminum airline pallets. There were 3 VW Tuaregs: including No. 304 of Prince Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar who finished first, another one of DeVilliers of South Africa who finished second and No. 300 of Carlos Sainz of Spain who finished third. Since a drug-sniffing dog was going through the cars, we were able to have a very good look at the inside of the cars and all the gear. Incredible pieces of machinery, driven for more than 9,000 km, through mud, sand, dust and streams. Sorry, no pictures of the strapped-down cars, which was not allowed.

Since I had not seen the famous and colorful barrio of La Boca yet, RobT showed me the way there and we strolled the streets in the evening, when things are very quiet. We found out that tourists go to La Boca during the day, not in the evening, even though the place is famous for tango dancing. The contrasting colorful houses were striking, but I was surprised that this famous Italian immigrant neighborhood only consists of about three short streets.

Colorful La Boca

 The words to the  "Caminito" tango on a wall plaque

We had a delightful chat with Señor Guillermo Alio, tango dancer and instructor, as well as an accomplished watercolor painter. His art has taken him to many parts of the world.

Another shot of Sr. Alio and friends in La Boca

RobT:  Rob beat me to writing this blog entry.  Nice job too, Rob.  I should add two things to the post.  One, the adventure continued yesterday in a somber sort of way.  We got back to our apartment from paying our motorcycle air freight with Navicom, only to find the entrance to the building congested with paramedics and police officers.  There was a 70-year old man lying on the floor between the front desk and the wall.  He had suffered a heart attack.  The paramedics did all they could but to no avail.  RobC decided to get a pedicure instead, since we could not get into the building, and I went next door for a Coke while the situation was being handled by the authorities.  About an hour later the paramedics left the scene with only one policeman standing guard over the covered body.  He was allowing residents to pass by to get to their apartments.  It was a strange feeling stepping past a body to get to the elevators.  Poor guy spent 4 hours on that cold marble floor before they finally took him to the morgue. That's life in the big city, I guess.

Second, we walked through Palermo Hollywood and Palermo Soho.  Palermo Hollywood derives its name from the movie production houses in the neighborhood and Palermo Soho was the upscale end with all the name-brand boutiques and very nice restaurants nestled in an area of cobblestone, tree-covered streets and old renovated buildings.  Nice place.

RobC:  As a point of interest to other world travelers, let me add that the air freight for each bike was about USD 1,800 from Buenos Aires to Cape Town, plus we paid about USD 1,150 for a round-trip ticket for ourselves on Malaysia Airlines. A one-way ticket would have been about USD 750, but non-residents of South Africa need to show a ticket out of the country to be able to get in. The other option would have been a through ticket to a neighboring country, such as Namibia, but that would have complicated matters and come down to about the same price as a round-trip ticket to South Africa.

So, tonight at 23:30 local time we leave Argentina. Good bye South America, good bye Spanish language, good bye Latino people - thank you for the great adventure!!!


  1. Too bad about the "goodbye Spanish language" part, but you should be fine in South Africa. Let us know when you've arrived. Goeie reis en veilig aankoms!!

  2. Great that your bike is working well and that you got everything else squared away, Dad. We'll be anxious to read all about Africa!

  3. Good job Dad, you made it this far with only a couple of scrapes and your bike is still in one riding piece. Do you think a KTM would have done any better? I don't think so...
    Love you