Monday 21st October 2014 was an auspicious day for us as we headed off in the dark and the pouring rain to take the bike to James Cargo in Slough for air freighting to Buenos Aires. It was the single thing that made this trip feel like a reality and marked the start of what we thought was going to be a quiet week following a round of goodbyes to family and friends. But between final vaccinations, sorting out monies (what do you mean, you can’t buy Argentine pesos outside of Argentina!), officially taking the car and bike off the road and generally closing down our UK lives and with a lack of help from BT who decided to cut off our broadband and home phone a day earlier than agreed – the week flew by! Buenos Aires beckoned.
Arriving in BA to bright sunshine at 8 a.m. made the heart sing. We had read up about transport from the airport and took the Tienda Leon bus service into the city and were soon ensconced into our first hostel where we’re probably about 30 years older than the rest of the back packers there. No double room available as booked but soon managed to spread ourselves around the 4 bunk beds in the dorm room instead. Did I read somewhere that people who sleep in single beds get a better night’s sleep! That first day of sunshine and heat was a record breaker for October in BA and was all over the news with temperatures of 40 being reported. This was in sharp contrast to 36 hours later when we caught the edge of a tornado and experienced a 12 hour thunderstorm. The news then reported all the flooding it had caused.
Our week in BA has flown by and has been a learning curve of where to change money (official rate 8.5 pesos to the dollar or the black market, 14.1 pesos to the dollar) and trying out all the cities transport options. Our favourite way of exploring is always on foot and BA is laid out in a grid where the traffic usually moves on a one way system for the most part which has helped us to avoid getting run over. Then there is Avenida 09 de Julio which you cross in several sections as we counted 10 vehicle lanes in each direction and 4 bus lanes and 2 pedestrian thoroughfares. Vladimir at the hostel made it all the way across in one change of the lights, we are still practicing!
On Wednesday we received the news we had been waiting for, that by the circuitous route of London to Toronto to Vancouver to Chile to BA, ‘Bertie’ had arrived complements of Air Canada and we could meet Sandra from Dakar Motos at the airport to retrieve him. Only Jim could go into the customs area so I settled myself into the café at the airport petrol station with a book, guessing it would take some time. 7 hours later we were all reunited and donning our riding kit we were able to take our first ride in Argentina back into the city. We waved goodbye to Istvan Marko who Jim met at the customs warehouse. Although Istvan is unable to hear or speak he has been travelling around the world on his Honda Africa Twin and Jim says he ‘can talk for England’ (lots of scraps of paper and sign language); we are looking forward to meeting up with him again on the road.
Giving ourselves a few days grace has enabled us to meet people who have, between their limited English and our limited Spanish given us the information we needed to ease us in to our trip and to enjoy what BA has to offer, both the tourist sites such as San Telmo and the Recoleta Cemetery, to our favourites, the side streets where the local people tend to hang out and where you get a truer feel for the place. Walking past a church to find a free concert being held that evening or walking into a square and a Christian rock group playing, finding Walrus Books, a second hand bookstore selling English books (thanks to Wayne (Gypsy) for that one), waiters who decide that you must try something typical even if you have no idea you wanted it, unexpected treats that make for a richer experience. It is a city of contrasts like all large cities and the people are warm and friendly and as keen to hear about the journey we have planned as we are to learn about them.
Today, Sunday 2nd November, the rain has continued and the weather reports are again about flooding in many areas with more rain and thunderstorms forecast for tomorrow, so we have made the decision to stay in BA another day. After all, there is always manana.