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

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Day 155: Ushuaia to Rio Gallegos, Argentina (via Chile)

Hello everyone
We're whacked. What a day. Rain as we left Ushuaia and a huge queue at the petrol station. Then as we cleared the mountain pass we got smacked by the wind. It was tough. Especially with trucks passing you in the opposite direction pushing a huge wave of air before them. Hardest in the gravel where the wind gusts push you into the loose thick stuff. And we had 120kms of gravel today. Not a huge amount of fun.

Also we crossed from Argentina to Chile and then back into Argentina again, with all the paperwork that involves. And a ferry crossing to Punta Delgada. We rode from 8.30 this morning to just after 8pm tonight. We are in the Hotel Patagonia in Rio Gallegos.

We now have four days averaging 650kms to make Buenos Aires by Thursday night. Bikes into the shipping company on Friday and then heading for home on the Sunday. I think we're in for some short blogs. :-)

Today's run: 503kms
Cumulative: 39,194kms
Tipovers: 5

Location:Rio Gallegos, Argentina

Day 154: a rest day in Ushuaia, Argentina

Hi folks
The celebrations are over. Today was a day for replacing, sorting and biffing out! We had breakfast upstairs with Javier and he had a go (for the first time ever) at poaching some eggs. They were great. I then unpacked everything from my topbox, tankbag and panniers and had a huge sort out and chuck out. I repacked my tent and gave it to Javier which left a nice space in one pannier.

Everything else got given the once over - do I want it? Do I need it? Have I ever used it? Am I likely to use it? If the answer was no, no, no and no, it went in the bin. I am also thinking ahead to logistics as to how I will pack the bike for shipping and how I will pack for the trip home.

Deana kept an eye on proceedings.

I then went for a walk down to the waterfront. This is a major port for Antarctic cruises. It's a lovely harbour but cold.

Plenty of reminders here that the Malvinas are still an issue. This sign proclaims Ushuaia as the capital of the Malvinas.

I also walked past the place where Frances apparently keeps her dosh.

And a shop where everything is free? I suspect someone neglected duty.

They go big on barbecued meat here, especially lamb. This is the quirky shot.

And this is the serious one. Sort of.

And the sign was just lovely.

And that was really my day. I came home for a siesta so I will probably lie awake all night now. Soon we are gathering again upstairs for a beer and dinner.

Tomorrow Dick and I begin our dash for Buenos Aires. Blog postings might be a little sparse. I hope you'll understand. :-)

Today's run: 0kms
Cumulative: 38,691kms
Tipovers: 5

Location:Ushuaia, Argentina

Friday, 7 December 2012

Day 153: Ushuaia to Lapataia and return

Hello readers, lovely family and great friends.
Today we rode to The End of the World/ Fin del Mundo and back to Ushuaia. We're done.
First though I went for a walk while Dick put in a phonecall to Buckingham Palace. I kid you not. Apparently Prince Andrew is the patron of the Outward Bound movement and Dick had to make one of his regular reports on activities in NZ. He told Andi all about our trip and Andi promised to tell mummy later in the day. Good aye!
Just a few shots from my little explore. Outliers probably.

We are right on the edge of the mountains.

In a lovely bay.

where the English are still seen as pirates. No Union Jacks! I think this says that English pirates are prohibited from mooring here.

And this spells it out! Go the poms! Sort of.

And it's no far to NZ.

At 11am we rode out to Lapataia to get our photos of the famous sign, to paddle in the sea and to drop our pebbles from Prudhoe Bay onto the beach. First we had to get the girls out of this "driveway." Woohoo! It was great having Mark there to encourage and support. It was ok in the end although we then had to go the wrong way down the very steep oneway street. But that was cool. Sort of. I was heard to utter a naughty word.

It began to rain as we rode out of town and into the National Park and the clay road out to the sign was slippery and greasy. But we made it.

The four of us: me, Kiwi, Ebony and Mella.

Where I did a haka as celebration.

Dick was profoundly moved by the occasion.

And here we all are.

We then walked down to the sea to paddle just as we did at Prudhoe Bay.

Dick with his copy of the Clipboard.

Then my turn. Love those icebreaker daks! And the backdrop!

I have carried this little black stone from the Arctic Ocean to here.

I dropped it carefully into the Antarctic. Here it goes.

Can you see it?

We got quite a lot of attention too. She is from Spain.

Back in town we had some quiet time and then went out for a beer that turned into an expedition for dinner. Funnily enough, we went to the same restaurant as last night and had the lamb. It was great.

And now I am Mrs Wilson's very tired boy. We will have another rest day here in Ushuaia and then begin the sprint up to Buenos Aires and home. Our fares are booked: Buenos Aires - Sydney - Wellington. Goodie! :-)
Today's run: 53kms
Cumulative: 38,691kms
Tipovers: 5

Location:Ushuaia, Argentina

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Day 152: Cerro Sombrero, Chile to Ushuaia, Argentina

Well folks,
What can we say. We have now ridden from the very top of North America to the very bottom of South America. What a blast! An incredible and amazing adventure. And it's not over yet!
The weather forecast for today was for increasing westerly winds and rain so we didn't hang around too long this morning, knowing that our first 120kms would be gravel. During the afternoon two other groups came in. This one from Brazil heading for Ushuaia, one on a 1200 Suzuki Bandit!

And this group of Australians on a guided tour from Ushuaia to Santiago on BMW 800s and 650s. With a pickup and trailer to carry their gear. And a spare bike to allow for a breakdown.

The wind was picking up as we rode out at about 7.45am and once again it meant that photo opportunities were limited. We rode towards Onaisin and hit the gravel after about 20kms. Despite all the dire warnings we have had, it wasn't too bad. Certainly not after Ruta 40! We basically got on with it and the wind, while a nuisance, was ok. So were the trucks who treated us very well, one even stopping and pulling over to let us by. And another conveniently parked as a wind break so we could have a stretch.

The landscape was pretty barren.

After about two hours we arrived at the Chilean border post. It was pretty quick - I had mislaid one of my forms and the official told me not to worry and simply filled it out again on the spot. It was then a huge ride - 12kms? - to the Argentinian border where we went through the rigmarole once again of getting ourselves and then our bikes into the county. A little sour note here as Mrk had one of his gloves stolen off his bike. He had left his sunglasses inside the glove and on the handlebars and someone lifted it. We couldn't work it out at first. Who would want to steal one glove? And looked all around for where the wind might have blown it. Then he remembered about the sunglasses. So if you happen to see an Argentinian truck driver with only one hand and wearing flash sunnies, please give Mark a call.
We had a quick bite to eat here before rolling on south. The wind was picking up now and it was hard work. I loved this sign though.

And this one.

Gradually the landscape became less barren and the trees went from being wind blown shrubs to being respectable trees. We went up and through a mountain pass with the temperature sneaking down to around 5 degrees and a little flurry of snow. Then at last we were in Ushuaia. You need to enlarge this photo.

Diana is waving her arms in the air and I am echoing with my legs. Wait till you see the video! Down into the city (60,000 population?) and then up a steep street to the hostel which Mark had organised for us. Then one last challenge. Our parking space. This:

The street was very steep (think Baldwin Street in Dunedin) and we had to ride up, turn hard right to line up with the notch in the step and go for it.

Phew. All this from Prudhoe Bay to Ushuaia and then to fall over in the last two metres?

The girls look quite comfortable now though.

In here.

We all had a beer to celebrate. Kiwi behaved quite disgracefully.

And so we are here. We will have a day or two here, do the tourist thing and then turn back along the same road as far as Punta Delgada. We will then turn right to the east and head for Buenos Aires. It all feels a bit funny, not exactly an anticlimax but a sense of unreality in a way. It has been a huge trip.
I'll get out and about tomorrow - this looks like an interesting town.

Today's ride: 452k s
Cumulative: 38,638kms
Tipovers: 5

Location:Ushuaia, Argentina