Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 93 to 99 - Buenos Aires

RobT:  So, the last week has been spent trying to get RobCs bike repaired, obtaining Egyptian visas (the more we could get done here during our down time the less work in Africa), looking for more suitable temporary living quarters in the center of Buenos Aires, obtaining our flight tickets to South Africa, organizing the air freight shipment of our bikes to South Africa, doing some preliminary review of our African route, continuing our sight seeing (including the final day of the Dakar Rally) and somewhere amongst all that, trying to enjoy our vacation.

We went to the Egyptian consulate, handed in our passports, photos, 35 USD, photocopies of the passports and a form that needed to be filled out and in four days we will get our visas.  Initially it was two days but due to summer hours, the turn-around time was a bit longer.  We had time.  Later we realized that we need our passports in the bike shipping process on the day we pick up the visas, next Monday.  Fortunately, we can pick up the visas at noon and still fit in the paperwork for the bikes in the afternoon.

We also looked for better living quarters via a web site that some fellow bikers suggested.  These were luxury apartments for 50 to 100 USD per night (split 2 ways, not so bad) depending on the location and the size of the place.  That fell through, but we did talk to some people at the Tourist Information booth in the center of Buenos Aires, who put us on to a place for 70 USD a night and located right across from the Obelisk on the 9 de Julio Boulevard.  What a place ... air conditioning, Wi-Fi, balcony, kitchen, clean ... amazing!  So now we are renting an apartment in Buenos Aires, centrally located, minutes from anything, including the very useful Metro.

The apartment we rented is in the beige building to the right of the black one, across the street from a huge McDonald's

Night view from our balcony.

A peek at the inside.  Not bad ... better than a hotel.

We met some fellow motorcycle enthusiasts from South Africa and after speaking with them, we feel good about the route we had chosen.  They confirmed that our route is very picturesque, with mostly good roads.  They also gave us some further tips on the places we should not miss, including the option of staying at their homes when we get there.

We obtained a couple of quotes for shipping our bikes, the first one through Dakar Motos came in around 2,100 USD and the second quote from another shipper using Malaysian Air was around $1,400 USD.  Further digging revealed 500 USD in extra costs and Dakar Motos was able to negotiate with their shipper, so we ended up going with Dakar Motos at around 1800 USD, everything including pallet, shrink wrapping and the pertinent document and customs process.  Aside from the flight tickets that Gaby, Rob's wife, so quickly and professionally obtained online, the bike shipping costs need to be paid in cash so I have been faithfully going to the ATM machines daily to get my maximum allowable batch of pesos (no dollars available here for non-residents) to come up with the necessary two thousand US dollars but in local currency.  In the process I was also given some counterfeit money, a 100 peso bill (about 25 USD), from the ATM.  I found this out when I tried to buy coffee at a McDonald's Café (not a typo, even McDonald's have cafés here (called McCafé)).  Not being deterred, I tried to unload the bill at a pharmacy while replenishing some toiletries.  The cashier there noticed the fake as well (and gave me a dirty look).

Lavalle, one of the pedestrian streets.

The famous Teatro Colón, opened in 1908.  The original, in 1857.

Another beautiful plaza

This guy was selling what looked like law books.

Our apartment, above the "diques" sign

We went to check out the final race day of the Dakar.  They were to end in Palermo, a section of Buenos Aires, and the closing ceremonies the following day.  Well, the adventure didn't stop just because we weren't on our bikes.  For some strange reason, I had decided to leave my wallet at the apartment today.  Only took cash with me.  The problem was the amount.  I had over 500 pesos (125 USD, oh, my counterfeit 100 peso bill was in there as well) all folded nicely and put the cash in a zippered pants pocket that I thought was secure. You could barely notice anything was even in the pocket.  I figured that if anyone was going to try anything, I would feel it.

We took the subway, Line D, to get to Palermo.  There were a lot of people waiting as the previous train was delayed.  The subway came and there was a big push of people to get on.  There seemed to be a temporary delay in boarding, like someone was having trouble getting on.  Maybe this was part of the ploy to divert my attention.  I was being pushed from behind and the side.  I did notice, but didn't think anything of it.   I felt someone go into my right zippered pocket, turned and forcibly pushed the guy away, thinking I had prevented the theft.  The zipper was undone but the only thing in that pocket was tissue paper and my pocket knife.  Both were still there.  As I entered the metro car, I noticed my left pocket had also been opened and my money was gone. Crap.  It's not the money, well, it is, but the bigger part is the feeling of being violated that makes me angry.  It was the typical crowded subway pushing, pick pocket scheme you read about in Lonely Planet and other travel publications.  Lesson learned.  Just glad my wallet was not there, otherwise I would have had big problems.

Not 10 minutes later we ran into a couple that just had their iPhone stolen.  It was odd because Rob had noticed a scruffy guy get on beside him with an open backpack and a jacket over the backpack.  Nobody carries a jacket in 35 degree (100F) weather or leaves their backpack unzipped.  He got on and then got off at the next stop.  I noticed this very same guy 10 minutes later when we ran into the couple with the stolen iPhone.

From the metro station we walked to the beautiful park-like Palermo region where the Dakar Rally motorcycles, Quads, cars and trucks were coming in. We took some pictures and RobC talked to a few of the many Dutch truck participants. We also bought some genuine Dakar T-shirts, hats and stickers for the motorcycles.

The names, nationality and even the blood types of the drivers and crew are painted on the door of the vehicle.

Dakar cars

2-wheel drive dune buggy

You get the idea of the size of these trucks

 The winner of the car category driven by Prince Al-Attiyah of Qatar

RobC was fascinated by the many Dutch trucks, easily recognized by the presence of orange colors.

This Dutch truck had apparently landed on its side at some time during the Rally.

RobC:  Motorcycle repair update. On Friday afternoon the rebuilt Öhlin shock finally arrived and was promptly put on the bike by the Dakar Motos mechanic. RobT and I worked together bending and shaping the beak, the console and the headlight light mounts that had all been severely bent during my crash. We were able to make it look quite decent and everything is working. The clutch and the motor are working fine again, although the electronic indicator showing the gear numbers on the console is out of whack and I will have to go by feel, rather than by the numbers.

On Monday morning we will go to the shop to make sure that all the final details are taken care of, after which we will take the bikes for a test ride.  That same afternoon we will be taking the bikes to Air Cargo and have them shipped to Cape Town, South Africa, ready for the second half of our adventure.

As I am writing this on Sunday afternoon, a big rain storm is blowing into Buenos Aires. This should cool things off a bit.

A view to the west from our balcony

Big storm brewing

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