Back onto the high plains where you can see forever! This is what we love the most.
More amazing rock formations
The markets in San Jullian selling Gaucho apparel.
Gauchismo has been a powerful influence on the culture of the people.
Sailing boats on the lake at San Martin, can you see the spot of blue? That's the direction we're going!
The road to Villa La Angostura is the Seven Lakes drive which passes beautiful unspoiled stretches of water with steep forested mountains on either side.
This is not put on for the tourists, San Jullian is a traditional rural area and this is the way they dress, horses are a part of their life.
Traveling alongside a river from San Jullian to Neuquen.
Tempting fruit stalls as we approach San Rafael.
Traveling alongside the peaks of the Andes Cordillas.
You win some and you loose some, it's harvest time in the vineyards of Mendoza but we miss the greatest event of the year here by just over a week – the La Vendima, a colourful festival celebrating the harvest.
A harvest of grapes drying in the sun. Soon to become currants.
Riding towards the Sierras de Cordoba with the pampas grass glistening in the foreground.
Crossing the magnificent granite plateau...
... and onto the highland plains of the Pampas de Achala before descending into the valley to Villa Carlos Paz.
Hundreds of fishermen, or at least their rods, line the lago San Roque in Villa Carlos Paz waiting for the concurso de pesca to bite.
The many stalls sell German breads ...
... cheese and dried sausages
Sorry, the bike seems to have a thing about riding alongside waterways that are 'worth a picture!'
The final leg
Our entry into Argentina back in late December was marred by ignorant border officials. We've since crossed back and forth between Chile and Argentina several times and I should say that at every other crossing the formalities have been handled promptly and courteously. This crossing though was the best yet with officials even coming outside to see the bike, wish us well and shake our hands. More of what we have now come to expect of the friendly Argentinean people.
Papers at the ready – our last border crossing into Argentina.
Our ride from the border post took us past some amazing rock formations and it was good to be back on the high plains where you can almost see for ever.
"Floating over a sea of undulating yellow grass where never ending distant blue peaks are waves that break over the horizon. Sensitised by the view and in high spirits life is good here on the road in the high plains." DD
Stopped for the night at Zapala and had an excellent Bife Chirozo and a bottle of wine for next to nothing. After the Chilean prices we're glad to be 'back home'.
At the hotel Dianne made some inquiries about accommodation in San Martin de los Andes a picturesque and popular Argentinean holiday destination. The prices were a bit of a shock and the hotel manager suggested we stay at San Jullian, only 30km away and a cheaper option by half.
A pleasant ride this morning on the famed Ruta 40. This section was good but some sections of this road are diabolical and there is a certain macho thing to be able to say you 'rode the whole of Ruta 40' (and survived)
Found a comfortable home stay in San Julian and when Dianne checked out the tourist office she was delighted to discover we'd arrived on the first day of the National Festival of Rural Traditions. There were vendors everywhere selling all sorts of gaucho wares and also events showcasing gaucho horsemanship, music and dance. What luck and we spent the rest of the day and evening just soaking in the very traditional atmosphere. This was not something put on for the tourist and the proud gauchos, so much a part of Argentine folklore, had gathered here for a good time. Also people from ''del Puestera'', isolated rural communities that live off the Patagonian plains. They wear distinctive clothing and at least part of the traditional gaucho costume which includes a wide-brimmed hat or derby; a poncho; loose trousers tucked into low boots; a wide colourful cotton sash or leather belt with a large decorative knife to complete the outfit. Although the working Gauchos seem to be a dying breed, there is a strong sentiment to maintain the Gaucho tradition through this traditional dress and music.
Up early and off to San Martin de los Andes. The early morning lighting gave Dianne plenty of photographic opportunities and she made the most of them. San Martin is very picturesque with Swiss chalet style buildings set amongst the mountains. Very touristy but enjoyable all the same. While having a coffee the skies closed in and bolts of lightening convinced us to stay a while and have an omlete for breakfast too. Once the worse of the wet stuff had passed we headed out under ominous skys towards Villa La Angostura on the famed Seven Lakes drive aiming for a bit of blue in the sky!
Quite spectacular, but the dark sky and occasional lightening did detract from the beauty of the valley.
We kept heading towards the bit of blue in the sky as we pass one lake after the other.
Somehow we missed getting wet, the rain was always in front of us or behind us and we managed to get back to San Jullian intact for more Gaucho field events.
With the weather improving rapidly, we watched gaucho riders break horses in a competition where the wildest ride scored the most points.
The gaucho in the blue shirt is apparently an Argentinean champion and he put on an excellent exhibition for the masses.(bareback)
An unexpected scenic ride early this morning alongside a river then a large lake as we left San Jullian for Neuquen and then on to the oil town of Catriel for the night. Catriel isn't much of a place but it did get us another 100 odd kays further north towards Mendoza and we should have realised that where there are oil fields the prices seem to go up.
It's getting hot as we head north and this morning we're away almost at sunrise for the 450km to San Rafael. A pretty boring ride really on straight roads with the scenery slowly changing form low scrub to lush orchards and grape vines as we leave the Pampas and approach the irrigated agricultural farmlands of the Mendoza province.
Mendoza, Mendoza. We just love it. Wandering the streets, taking in the sights and just relaxing with nothing to do and all the time in the world it seems to do it. (Apologies to those who have to work). Amazing how a long lunch with a bottle of wine can fill in an afternoon.
The Harley Club of Mendoza have organised an asado for a group of Brazilian riders coming from Chile and we are also invited. A fantastic evening with more wonderful meat than you could eat in a fortnight. Even though there was a language issue between the Spanish the Portuguese and the Australians, there was no barrier to having a good time and we all muddled in and conveyed our thoughts and feelings .
A quiet day today just strolling the streets of Mendoza, taking in a long lunch and soaking up the atmosphere.
At 5.00pm Enrique and Claudia picked us up for a very pleasant ride towards the Andes for a final farewell till next we return, then a late meal of ... you guessed it.
Enough of all this lazing around. After all we're not on holiday and it's time to get moving again so Enrique met us at the hostel early this morning and escorted us out of Mendoza on our way to the big smoke - Buenos Aires.
Farewell to Mendoza and our good friends of the Harley club there. Enrique made sure we find our way out of town! We're a bit sad to be leaving good friends and a beautiful city but feel sure we'll return sometime in the future.
It's now a long haul east to Buenos Aires over 1000km away and we've decided to take Enrique's advice and head a little north to Villa Carlos Paz near Cordova.
A fairly uneventful ride to San Luis before we head north and into the hills.
We started climbing up onto the scenic road through the Parque Nacional Quebrada del Condorita and into the Sierra Grande mountain range crossing the huge and impressive granite plateau at over 2,000 m.
The highland plains of the Pampa de Achala took us into the valley of Villa Carlos Paz where we were lucky to find a 'basic' room for the night. The Argentineans are still on holidays and accommodation is hard to find anywhere around here.
A walk into the town centre to find a restaurant and we're amazed how busy this place is. Hundreds of holiday makers are out and about and the streets are packed. The Argentineans also have a different idea of sprooking. Here there are vans and cars with huge speakers on them blasting their message to all and sundry. Talk about noise pollution. At one stage I was tempted to cut the cables just to get rid of the noise. Amazingly, the locals don't even seem to notice and are not in the slightest bit aggravated.
Sunday morning and we take a ride around the huge lake that dominates the town before leaving. Even though it's fairly early the banks are packed with fishermen and there is barely a metre between them. Not sure if this is a competition or a regular Sunday morning thing, but it's quite a spectacle.
Pleasant riding this morning, up and down and around the winding roads through the many fertile valleys to Alter Gracia and onto the completely German town of Villa General Belgrano. Amazing how people like to hang onto their traditional past and the buildings and names resemble those of southern Germany.
Is this a village in Germany, no Villa General Belgrano.
Continuing on we passed several lakes and roadside stalls selling smoked sausages and meats, local cheeses and German cakes. Did we stop to buy? What do you think?
However, the riding through the countryside was slow going and we now needed to make up time so that tomorrow wouldn't be too big a day. With straighter roads we were able to keep up a good pace and eventually found a comfortable clean roadside hotel for the night.
Up early to beat the heat and again a straight pretty uninteresting road through farmland going due east for the final leg into Buenos Aires. Remember this is a huge city but Dianne, map in hand, got us straight to the hotel we'd booked without any dramas. Amazing, especially when you consider that Buenos Aires is the largest city in the southern hemisphere and the largest Spanish speaking city in the world!
30 min. later with the bike unloaded we rode into the city for our appointment with Luis the freight man to sort out the arrangements for El Toro Miura. That all went pretty smoothly and we have decided to go with the sea freight option for around $1000.00.
With the business taken care of it's time to do some sightseeing. All we have to do now is pick up some forms from Luis on Monday morning and then get Customs clearance before putting the bike into a crate for the 6 week voyage to Australia.
Buenos Aires is a fascinating bustling city and we spent the rest of the evening just wandering around taking in some of the sights around Avenida 9 de Julio one of the worlds widest avenues. (About 18 car lanes) and Avenida Corriendes and also the mall on Florida street with its many buskers.
Got back to the hotel around 9.00pm and the phone rang almost immediately. It was Sandra inviting us to dinner and to meet Oz and Jes, a couple of Brits. also traveling the Americas. Although feeling a bit tired we went over and had an excellent home cooked meal eventually getting back to the hotel around 1.30am. That's early here in Argentina!
Some entertaining characters in the streets of
A typical street scene
...and getting up close to the Iguazu Falls.
The characters in the markets of B A...
...more interesting characters.
Tango dancing in this vibrant city, the dancers alternate long, slow steps with short, quick steps, sometimes making sudden turns and striking dramatic poses...
...with facial expressions that are all very much of a part of this sexy and sensual display.
Musical street entertainment enjoyed by all.
Colourful street stalls all part of the B A scene.
The last we will see of El Toro for quite a while.
El Toro Miura safe and secure for the long trip back home.
Colourful scenes from the markets in La Boca...
... while the locals watch over the activities coming out when most of the tourists have gone home.
A fitting sunset on a spectacular adventure.
For now though, this is the last update and Dianne and I would like to again thank our many followers who have offered encouragement and support to us over the past 10 months. In particular we would like to extend a special thankyou to Dave and Linda Stacy who made things happen and got us out of trouble on several occasions.
Maintenance day today. An oil change for El Toro in preparation for his big trip. Don't want that old sludge sitting in the sump for 6 weeks. I was going to replace the rear tyre but couldn't get the wider one we've been using so have decided to replace it when we get back home. We've done over 24000km on that rear tyre now which must be some kind of record especially with the load we're carrying, the speeds we've been doing and the roads we've been on. These are the tyres Dave Stacy air freighted to us in Costa Rica and they've certainly hung in there.
A day in town today just sight seeing and making the most of our last few days and this wonderful city. We're amazed how well the traffic flows for a city of this size despite the apparent chaos of the taxi drivers.
With just a couple of days to go before we fly out we have to decide how to maximise our time. We could take it easy and just enjoy Buenos Aires, we could take the ferry across the river to Montevideo in Uruguay and spend a day or two exploring another new country or we could and did take a bus 1200km north to the famous Iguazu Falls on the Argentinean/Brazilian border. These falls are a highlight of any visit to South America and we wanted to see how they compare with Niagara in the USA and Victoria in Zimbabwe. With our limited time we won't be able to ride, especially with that rear tyre so the bus seems like a good option. A 17 hour trip overnight in a luxury coach and at about $135.00 for the two of us return it's not too bad especially when you consider that we save two nights accommodation as we get to sleep on the cocha cama/semi bed on the bus and get two meals each way.
Before catching the Bus to Iguazu (map–9) at 6.00pm we tried hard to exhaust ourselves roaming the streets of B A, enjoying the people and street entertainment including more Tango dancing. We walked all the way across to the main Plaza de Mayo surrounded by the Cathedral and the Casa Rosada, seat of the National Government. Listed as an important place to visit, it's a historical place where the most important events in Argentina happen. The square seemed unimpressive to us though and had nothing but pigeons and a few dissapointed tourists who had read the same guide book as us so we left to go up the Av de Mayo and by the time we had walked back to the bus Station we felt exhausted enough to be able to have a good night's sleep in our comfortable chair come bed. We had to wait untill 10.00pm though for the evening meal which was very delicious and in no time at all we were in the land of nod.
18 - 19/02/05
The buses in both Central and South America are fantastic but these buses are the best yet. We had a comfortable and pleasant trip and were soon at our destination. The 17 hours had slipped away while we slept, stuffed our faces or watched movies. Outside the countryside was now very different and we floated past lush green crops then huge forests and tried to make excuses for enjoying the air conditioned bus and leaving the bike in BA.
Arrived Iguazu around 11.00am and when we stepped out the bus the heat and unity hit us, we knew we had definitely made the right decision to bus it. We checked into the hostel that Dianne had pre-booked, fortunately she had the foresight to make a booking as there was no other accommodation available in town.
With a half day available today and a full day available tomorrow before we catch the return bus, we decided to take in the falls from the Brazilian side today and the more extensive Argentinean side tomorrow.
A 45 minute ride on a local bus had us across the border and through Argentina customs into Brazil. The local bus does not stop at the Brazil customs so we did not have to get the Visa Australians normally need to visit Brazil, then we caught a shuttle bus that took us to the falls. From the Brazilian side you get more of an overall view of these extensive falls and we spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the walkways marveling at this wonderful spectacle and taking photos. Even from this side we believe that these falls are more impressive than either Niagara or Victoria.
It's really hot and humid up here and we've got a lot to see today so it's up early to catch the first bus to the Argentinean side of Iguazu Falls. We've been told it will take a full day to see all of the falls, hard to believe, but for us it was a full on full day and we barely stopped.
The entrance ticket into the National Park includes 3 circuits around the falls. An upper one where you wonder over walkways that cross the top of the thundering waters and a lower one that takes you to the edge of the falls where you gaze through the mist into the falling waters and includes a boat ride to visit Isla San Martin, a small island where you can see part of the falls from a different perspective. The third circuit is a short train trip through the jungle, a reasonable walk over the Iguazu river and right up to the edge of the main falls where it was hard absorb the enormously of the flow of water. There are a claimed 275 individual falls that make up a frontage of 2,470 m – 4 times the width of Niagara and deeper than the Victoria falls.
Iguazu lived up to all our expectations and everything that has been written about it. The many kilometres of walkways enable visitors to see all of the falls both close up and in superb panoramic views. A fitting finalé to our trip.
We only just made it back from the falls to the town to catch our evening bus back to Buenos Aires and slept well as the overnight bus whisked us back to the big city.
Sunday morning and we arrive feeling reasonably refreshed. No time to go back to the hotel though and freshen up. We're in the city, it is Sunday and the flea markets and Tango dancing are happening around Dorrega Plaza in San Telma, so it's downtown to take in some more B.A atmosphere. (And I thought we were on holiday!)
Even though we've had a hectic couple of days we were still able to fire up and enjoy one of the traditional spectacles of Buenos Aires taking lots of photos of the colourful locals.
An important day today. We have to pick up some papers from Luis, the freight man and take El Toro firstly to the customs people and then the freight warehouse. Customs went smoothly and at the warehouse the crate builder quickly measured up El Toro and started building the crate that will take him back to Australia.
With the formalities quickly and easily sorted out, we could have left then but Dianne and I both felt a need to witness the crating of our precious bike. The crate builders did an excellent job of constructing a strong and secure box and we finally left about 5.00pm content that everything will be OK.
Today is our last day to make the most of Buenos Aires and we are quite confident now of catching the train and finding our way around. We have some business to do before the sightseeing though. Firstly I have to go to the bank. Yesterday when I went to get cash out the machine zapped my card and the bank could only get access to it today. This is the second time this has happened and is a real pain in the neck. Just as well we carry several cards or we could end up in a bit of bother. Anyway with the card retrieved, we needed to pay the freight people now that they had an exact measurement for the crate (3.9 cubic metres) then off to see the colourful buildings and markets of La Boco, the original harbour area.
We were told that this is a rough neighbourhood and we were going to go yesterday after leaving the bike at 5.00pm but the freight people warned us against going too late as it could be very dangerous. Anyway it's midday and the Tango dancers are out, artists are splashing paint on canvases and busker's are selling their wares. Definitely worth a visit.
When we were in Colombia, Marcella, a Horizonsunlimited community member, made us very welcome. She was planning to do a trip of South America and we joked that it would be great to catch up somewhere. Well we made contact and she was in Buenos Aires. Enrique from Mendoza has also emailed us with a list of 'must do's' in Buenos Aires and one of those was to have a steak at a particular restaurant Chiquelin, so we arranged to meet Marcella there.
It's always good to catch up with friends and we had a fantastic lunch and good time with Marcella. Quite an achievement for her to ride her Africa Twin from Colombia to Buenos Aires. She plans to go on to southern Chile before returning home to Bogota.
After lunch we all went to the National History Museum, how lucky are we to have our own personal translator! Thanks Marcella, we hope you enjoy the rest of your travels here and feel sure we will see you in Australia soon as we know the travel bug has got a hold of you.
'D' day and we need to prepare for our departure. I've had a shave to clean up and Dianne is at the hair dresser. We've washed all our dirty cloths and done the final packing of the few things we will take to South Africa. I've got a bit of time spare, that's why I'm doing the web site and some final backups of our images. Little things that need to be done. We have a lunch appointment at 1.00pm with Sandra and Javier then the plan is to go back to the hotel, have a bottle of Champagne then catch a taxi to the airport at 4.30pm.
Unfortunately, both Dianne and I seem to have come down with a severe bout of Asado-itis. Seems it is a very common condition for travelers to Argentina. At first the effects are barely noticeable but over a period of several weeks the condition becomes more acute. Then one day you can't do up your trousers and you realise too late that you have been stricken with the insidious Asado-itis caused by eating too much bife chorozo. To cure this condition while remaining in Argentina is futile. Visitors usually need a long recuperation period back home. Easier apparently for British visitors. We are leaving Argentina but South Africa has it's own version of Asado-itis – Braai-itis and we're just not sure how we will survive another month!! (without buying larger trousers). NB: a braai is a South African BBQ.
The day has gone as planned and it seems surreal to be going through these customs for the last time and to be stepping into a plane that will carry us away from the continent that we have traveled over and become just a little familiar with over the last 10 months.
Since we have parted company with El Toro we will not continue with this Web site but for those close to us back home who have followed our adventure and shared our dream with us, we thank you and will see you in Australia soon. For those good friends we have made along the way, thanks too for keeping up with our travels and remember we are looking forward to catching up with you again in Australia one day.
As for us, we must focus on landing in Africa and catching up, at long last, with friends and family there. We are already starting to talk about our next trip into Asia so our saga will continue then. Dianne has yet to complete the food section and we also intend to include a summary of the trip with tips and answers to commonly asked questions so look for the next update if you are interested, in a couple of weeks time.
To everyone, adios amigos, mucho gusto and hasta la vista.
Haydn and Dianne
|©Haydn and Dianne Durnell 200|