Weather….. Wet cold and windy…12c
14 November Sunday gps w/p number 701 S 38’ 42.202 / W 062’ 20.313
(Our Story starts from Bahia Blanca and reflects back to leaving Brazil and entering Peru ……On Maxxis tyres……. are they performing well?
Just a short note on the Bighorn Maxis tyres ….. Fitted to our Buggy kindly provided by Cesar Calor from n.v.Maxxis Automotive parts and service tyre service Paramaribo in Surinam, for the 2010 ECO CHALLENGE RALLY.
We have traveled 35,000km from Northern Brazil on the( BR 156) to Macapa, Across the Trans Amazonia ( BR 230) , Entering Peru, onto Bolivia( our highest mountain pass to –date 5,050mtrs) IUNI salt flats and the Altiplano some of the toughest roads and tracks yet found on our trip, Chile ‘’The Atacama Desert “” back into Bolivia …Laguna Verde….onto.…Paraguay The Paraguay river into the Chaco, crossing into Brazil the Pantanalls and Igauzu falls crossing into…… Uruguay, into Argentina….. Buenos Aires….RUTA 1-3-5- and RUTA 40…Tierra Del Fuego…….Chile into Argentina so many times we lost count.
FIN DEL MUNDO… Ushuaia……Then returning back along the East Coast RUTA 3 returning to….Buenos Aires…
Our rear Maxxis Mud Terrains are still in good usable condition wearing evenly on the rears and not chipping so badly, suffering only 3 punctures to the rear tyres in 35,000 klms ….BUT the MAGIC GREEN SLIM ……came to our rescue, one puncture high on the side wall from old fencing wire and still the green slime worked great! The front tyres (No punctures) are still going well but suffering a little edge wear due to our worn front end bushing. We will send some close up photos. We have run the rear tyre pressure’s down to .75 bar and our fronts down to .5 bar for many kilometers off road.
OUR GOOD WISHES to all the S.A.R.K. rally members in Suriname it was great meeting you all and a special thanks to Abrim, Pem, and Armond…
Have a great Echo Challenge Rally in 2011…………….
CURRENT POSITION ….ARGENTINA EAST ALANTIC COAST ……… …. Bahia Blanca 14/11/2010
It’s wet and its cold the rain has not stopped for 3 days, the wind is blowing in 30-50 klm gusts it is still has that Patagonia feeling. Elayne and I have that very DAMP feeling to in our new campsite at the rear of a fruit and vegetable Fumigation Plant…..YES …… A Fumigation Plant……We share a small paddock with 3 beautiful horses, the only trouble is the horses want to eat our tent, so Elayne and I have placed a ring of old fruit packing crates to form a barricade around the Tent. With all the rain we are now surrounded with water, just like our own private castle and a moat (check the photos)
THE WATER GETTING EVER DEEPER AND DEEPER………………
Our beautiful horse companions now stand at the edge of the crates looking at us intently …..IT WORKS……they are not eating our tent anymore. It’s feels like Australia Elayne exclaims Large Gum trees all around us the roaming horses and that unforgettable smell of wet gum leaves which instantly bring memory’s of home flooding back….. Flooding being quite the operative word as we struggle to keep dry, as squalling rain beats down and gusting cold wind shakes the tent. Elayne is hunched over in our Blue tent not our usual green tent (Our make do kitchen and dinning area in wet conditions we call the blue tent which is blue of coarse) which is our only protection in the rain whilst trying to prepare a cooked meals. The small blue tent hangs beneath our Australian made Dingo Doza roof top tent, and works very well in our current weather conditions, but we cannot stand upright which makes you back ache after a while, so we huddle together trying to set on our camp chairs. Elayne is trying to cook sitting down as the ground beneath our feet starts to turn to mud…..”Whats for supper?” I ask Elayne …the tent violently shaking in the strong gusts, the small tent pegs around the blue tent hanging on for dear life…….Elayne turns to me and replies…..”WHAT DO YOU THINK!” ……??? As I struggle to find a place to sit down amongst the Fruit and huge pile of donated Vegetables……
“Vegetable Soup??” I hazarded a guess
“You guest it in one!” Elayne replies..…. vegetable soup…… having an endless combinations from the now huge pile of fruit and vegetables. … We sit down squeezed into our damp muddy dinning area hardly room to breath the petrol cooker roaring away the billy ( kettle) boiling and enjoy our new combination vegetable soup as the wind and rain beats down even harder.
They gas the fruit to kill the fruit flies …. I explain to Elayne… Elayne is some what concerned some of the INVISIBLE ODORLESS Gas is leaking towards our tent, (I can’t smell anything …..I reply) BUT there is an upside camping next to a Fruit Fumigation Plant we have not seen any Mosquitoes, flies ,or cockroaches ….come to think of it we have not seen any bugs at all …..YIKES……. The people that work in the fruit Fumigation Plant are very kind and friendly towards us, and every night one young man brings us a wheelbarrow load of freshly fumigated fruit and vegetables we cannot refuse his kind offer but surly he can see we are struggling to eat them all as we unload the next wheelbarrow load !!!!!!!! Mmmmm…..Last night it was a case of peppers of every colour,
Elayne insisted I try each different pepper before they were allocated to be used for supper. I started munching away nodding my head this one taste great and this one will be fine …..BUT THEN SATANS FIRE LIGHTER FROM HELL…..explodes in my mouth!!… it was so hot it would have melted steel….Elayne was in fits of laughter as I exited the tent coughing and spluttering not to return until my vocal cords recovered from the third degree burns and speech slowly returned.
We are not complaining but poor old Victor is looking very much deflated from his usual machismo muddy off road look, and currently taken on the local persona of a fruit and vegetable shop.
We have enjoyed the last few days even with the bad weather the hospitality from the workers in the fumigation Plant have made up for any inconveniences we have had. We say our goodbyes to the Fruit Fumigation Plant employees they all give us a hug and invite us in for a Mate with them before we pull out and drive just a 100mts to a YPF gas station “Mate” ……if you have not tried this herbal tea drink, is a very, very, social experience…..We could not turn their kind offer down even as they pile more fruit and vegetables into the car, so we climbed out of the bug to join them for…………….
MATE…………..!!!!!….Yerba mate, Paraguayan tea consumed in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil.
It is without doubt the most …..mmmmh ………….sharing Drink experience we have partaken in…….something us Australians would not normally do back at home. Take this illustration below for example and you might understand our experience of Matte a little better……………A social drink……THE AUSTRALIAN WAY……For those who like beer…………
You take your favorite Australian cold beer from the fridge and that ice cold glass, you pour the beer slowly into that ice cold glass, you take in those fascinating bubbles and colour and raise it to your lips……. And enjoy the cold bubbles and that beer taste ….a truly personal taste bud experience …..STOP right there….My Mate taste bud experience is not ice cold….. The water is piping hot coming from the owner’s thermos….. in actual fact the whole Mate kit comes in a large leather bag swung over your shoulder ….Looks a bit like a Plumbing kit for repairing busted water pipes…not the best fashion statement when you see a beautiful young girl….Mate jug in hand sipping away in an addictive fashion, swinging this extra large bag around her neck dragging it like a small backpack strapped to her shoulder……
You then remove a small packet of green looking crushed herbs from your Mate shoulder bag and you tightly pack down the herbs with your fingers into that very old worn looking wooden pot, you then pour boiling hot water over the green herbs which soak the water up and the fusion of boiling water and herbs takes place…………….SOUNDS GOOD SO-FAR ………
You then dig out of your Mate Bag a well used straw made of silver plated brass with your own personal teeth pattern indented into the flattened mouth part of now the brass straw ,the silver plate is long worn off ………
THE MATE Experience begins……… you take a small sip…………….. Trying not to burn your lips ….
Which inevitable a novice like me would do……definitely not quite like the ice cold beer experience so far…..
It all sounds …..Normal???? …….just a little inexperience on my behalf not judging the water temperature …….but your Mate experience is not totally an individual one its really a social drink ….. Just like having a beer with your Australian mates back home????….…
BUT NOT QUITE………
Because your best friend here in Argentina standing right next to you has just come out of the toilet still pulling his trousers up, picks up your Mate straw and the Little wooden well used pot, with those boiling herbs in and he also takes a sip from your little Mate pot,……YIKES…..did he wash his hands Elayne whispers in my ear”…..NOT SURE I REPLY………. But one thing I do know we may have been joined millenniums ( Australia and Argentina land mass) ago you even have Merino Sheep good wine eucalyptus trees BUT…… horse stealing comes only second to your mate grabbing your ice cold beer and taking a gulp……That’s a criminal offence in Australia……..
But the Mate experience carries on ….
Your Argentina best friend then passes the little wooden pot, ( with that well used chewed brass plated straw) to his best friend sitting next to him ….and he has just finished coughing after taking a big draw on his cigarette and still chewing on some left over meat from last nights…. ASADO …( a little like an Australian BBQ) he also sips away….I quickly spin to my right and check the fiscal condition of the guy standing directly next to me….he smiles at me….YIKES ……he is an unwashed looking character a truck drive ( not the fruit fumigation factory workers a blow in) who has just driven the last two weeks and has changed several tyres on the road he smiles and coughs as he passes by….., I spot his teeth through his smile ….they do not look so good ….was that his breath or body odor my brain trying to make out the terrible smell emanating from him……..my head moves back uncontrollable from the odor….I close my mouth and nose at the same time steeping back a pace or two trying to return his smile….he’s short and scruffy engine grease and oil stains across his torn Che Guevara tee shirt….not quite the clean looking guy ….…he can fall a sleep in a public toilet standing up without any problems….. O ….NO……….He grabs the little wooden pot and takes along sip and ……walks towards me smiling SENUOR POR VAVOR……….then hands me the little wooden pot with the well chewed brass straw protruding from it…….Elayne starts laughing…….as she watches my face drop……how is Chris going to get out of that invitation to share that all social drink MATE…………..?????.
We are about 900klms South of Buenos Aires on the East coast of Argentina, its raining hard so we take shelter in the YPF gas station canteen, at Bahia Blanca, we sit down in a large canteen area a few truck drivers are sitting around drinking their Mate. Elayne spots a plug under our table …..I pull out my Leatherman knife and with the pliers readjust the North American pug which was an Australian plug now with its earth pin removed so it could fit the North American socket we have on our inverter in the Buggy back to an Australian plug …YES Argentina uses the Australian plug or we use there’s …. Crackle…pop…. blue sparks fly from the very loose over used wall socket…..GREAT… my fingers now look like small burnt sausages…..
But Elayne has a big smile on her face the computer fires up… and for a brief moment, our Wireless piggy back and loose wall socket connects us to the outside world. We carefully move the computer to center stage on the table the wall socket still crackling away….Hot chocolate’s are ordered ….submarines ….they are called (hot milk with chocolate pieces in it) ….They arrive tall glasses a serviette and a long spoon. WE stir and stir… and… stir…vigorously and the chocolate melts it’s the sweetest drink for a long time …. We sit amongst truck drivers sipping their Mate laughing and talking about the rain and their trucks watching the soccer beaming out from the insanely large loud flat LG TV Plasma screen just behind us…..everything is loud when it comes to entertainment in South America….!!
This is a huge YPF gas station some 60-70-80 trucks are parked near and around, you can have anything done to your truck here with Lavardo’s (washing centers) grease, oil changes, and even a new girl friend ….if you get my drift, BUT most truck drivers check out the toilet decor ‘it is very different with full size scantly dressed woman as wall murals’ looking into the urinals …one with a tape measure. One with a camera …. The other girl just laughing and staring at you????
The truck drivers are always helpful with big smiles and embraces as they hug and kiss each other ,some coming from the hot showers in there shorts and towels under their arms ( YPF gas stations provide showers for a small fee ). It’s funny to watch clean truck drivers still with their Mate drinks and hot water thermos in hand constantly sipping away at the national herbal drink, hug and kiss their friends on the cheeks, even us as total strangers …..A warm hug is mandatory in Argentina.
I leave Elayne sipping her hot chocolate submarine and wander out into the chaotic petrol station the rain is hammering down, I am surrounded by a gang of dogs, 10-15 very wet smelly animals chasing each other around and around………..
One dog which has 4 legs (o yes you say 4 legs???) but only three work, one rear leg is hanging like a loose sock…
He is the leader barking madly as a truck pulls off onto Ruta 3 heading South to Ushuaia some 2,000 klms away.
The three legged dog leads the pack …snarling and growling at everybody and everything nobody seems to mind as they all attack a bin and rubbish fly’s everywhere the rubbish taking flight blowing in the wind but the dogs are having fun chasing the airborne trash tearing away at plastic wrappers and biting empty beer cans. Snarling away a tug off war takes place and the three legged dog wins……Not bad I thought for three legs…… even I am entertained for a short while, as they run off to find something to terrorize
There is every shape, size, colour, make of truck parked in every possible gap available, some are new some are about to fall apart, I watch an old Mercedes 1114 pull alongside the buggy, Victor has a drawn a few admires even in the rain truck drivers stand and point to the various stickers on the bonnet, and are always pleased to see the Argentina flag as they pose alongside Victor having a picture taken with friends.
The very wet trash wielding dog gang also turns up and all of Victor’s wheels are baptized with 15 dogs peeing in sequence some even managing all four wheels they are so excited to have urinated on such a strange looking car. Nobody moves the dogs running in and out of the small group gathered by the Buggy. The truck driver of the old Mercedes approaches me and shakes my hand and a warm hug is exchanged. BEUENO….BEUENO….as he ushers me over to the buggy. My new friend I guess is in his seventies and has wonderful smiling eyes his whole face lights up as we walk around Victor. The rain is coming down and I can feel my back getting wetter but still the old man walks around and around touching everything with his hands like inspecting some historical work of art???
His Old Mercedes is worn out the cab is rusting you can see through it, .even the patch’s have holes. Balding tyres cling to the old steel rims, I see not a kilometer left in them, I cannot make out any of the brands of tyres the side walls are so perished and cracked ,the Bald spare tyre hangs by string and wire swinging from the chassis in the wind like a dead corpse.
The Mercedes has 8 Horses standing in the wooden crate , the crate creeks and groans as the horse’s shuffle around trying to get out of the wind and rain, they are soaking and cold I am sure ……..but they look happy chewing some wet oats and grain from the truck floor. I stroke their legs through the wooden slats the old wooden crate covered in peeling red paint the top wooden rail is nearly chewed through by some previously hauled hungry horses. I marvel at the Mercedes, the whole chassis is a banana shape deformed over the years hauling far too many heavy loads.
IT’S MORE RUST THAN METAL…………
The old man wanders around the Buggy for 30 minutes the rain only bothering me, his eyes have never seen such a vehicle, and my Spanish has run out….I tell him my Spanish is not so good ….he smiles and his eyes tell me not to worry….He strokes Victor like some alien goddess, peering into the cab laughing as he cannot understand shaking his head why the steering wheel is on the right as he points to his steering wheel on the left.
What a face I thought his beard was silver his moustache thick his skin a wonderful light brown and those big eyes always smiling. His shoes have holes like his tyres worn out, and you can see he has no socks, the holed shoes are tied together with what looks like electrical cord, his jacket is from the 1950’s an old Harris tweed pattern which has sewn on leather arm patches his berrie (hat) cocked to one side his old white shirt looking as bad as mine. Seventy and still on the road driving an old worn out truck, I shake my head in disbelief. I leave the old man for a few minutes and discreetly look into the Old Mercedes cab, too my amazement I find his wife knitting away she looks quite frail but she lifts her eyes and waves to me vigorously to step into the cab.
I climb in and shake her frail hand, her hand is cold …but she too has a wonderful warm smile and long whispery grey hair. The cabin floor is wet there is water dripping from the dashboard, hay on the floor the steering wheel worn the polished metal where a thousand hands have pushed and pulled. She offers me some bread and cheese from a small metal tin lying next to her, but I make the gesture I am too full from food ……..and politely as I could decline her gracious offer. It is a reoccurring theme throughout Argentina a warm welcome wherever we went; they are big hearted people that need to endure their often unfortunate lot in life we learnt a lot from their deep lust for life and immense history and culture.
I shake hands with the old truck driver once again he has a strong grip and we embrace each other once again ,he walks back to the Old red 1114 Mercedes turns to me those smiling eyes and beaming face calls out………..BUENA SUERTE (good luck) ……I reply in my best pronunciation BUENA SUERTE…..HASTA LUEGO…………..(good bye see you)
The Mercedes pulls off the blue smoke bellowing from the exhaust pipe, the horses shuffle around to keep from the wind and rain, the mad three legged dog and his gang make chase at first but the old Mercedes is no Ferrari the dogs drop to a fast walking pace barking and biting the bald tyres. The Mercedes has is first gear changed the cogs grind away the Mercedes lurches forward again, the dogs quickly retreat the Old Mercedes not providing much fun as the blue smoke from the exhaust pipe is now a huge smoke screen …….the dog gang retreat’s all of them gasping for air. I watch the old truck disappear over the horizon on its long trek south.
A few hours pass the rain stops blue sky appears briefly behind those low grey clouds steam lifts off the black bitumen as I roll up my plastic driver’s window /door and climb in …..Elayne hates this when it has rained the side tanks are like sitting in pools of water you bottom gets a cold bath as you sit first on the tank , raise your legs until your knees poke your eyes out ,spin on your bottom and then prize yourself into the chair sliding all the way down until your wet bottom hits the sheep skin covers which mop’s up excess dripping water ……..Elayne exclaims…….What idiot builds a car without doors, what idiot thinks this is a lady like position to enter a car ??????
And as for the wet knickers it feels just great……just what every women of my age wants ….wet knickers. …..Elayne reminds me daily about all those tragic design faults that I am sadly unable to rectify!!!!!!
I want to move the Buggy closer to the window where Elayne is busy typing away hoping to catch our boys in Australia, but the time difference is always against us in Argentina nearly 14hrs difference only gives us a short window either early mornings or very late nights is our only chance.
There are many young and old homeless people around their belongings in now very wet plastic bags their worldly possessions draped over their backs sitting in the lee of a truck out of the wind and rain hoping to find a truck driver willing to take them. Its a sad setting everybody’s wet and cold even the dogs have retreated to find a warmer place alongside a newly arrived truck its engine still warm.
One young man wanders over to me as I climb in……I can see he is handicapped and has a black dog as a companion. He sits on the wet fuel tank beside me the wet tank not bothering him, he is smiling he is happy I thought as I fire up the buggy and he rides through the petrol station like some ancient CONQUESTODOR waving to his friends his black dog running after us barking and waging his tail. I try and find a closer spot so we can keep an eye on Victor.
The young man riding on my fuel tank cannot control the syliver coming from his mouth I am covered in the dripping foam like I have met some huge St Bernard dog slobbering over me. I cannot be angry and he jumps off as I stop. I pull out a packet of my favorite biscuits and hand them over to him ,he smiles and runs off with his black dog jumping in puddles waving away to find a spot to eat his new biscuits.
Back in the YPF gas station canteen Elayne has made Skype contact with a few friends from Germany and England and an hour soon disappears as we exchange the travel stories from around the world.
Time fly’s when you are having fun talking to friends far awa ,but alas we need to head off the sun is poking its head out and we will soon become chocoholics if we hang around here much longer.
We never have any good city maps with us and its always a suck it and see hoping all the signs point us in some direction heading North to B/Aires. We pull out of the YPF waving good bye to our Petrol Station friends. The city center was not far off so we decided to head in to the center and check it out. Not more than 2klm’s up the road I spot lots of old cars alongside the road with an old beach bug catching my eye. It looks like an old scrap yard at first but I am not to sure. We pull over and Elayne decides to walk ahead to a small roadside stall selling fish.
I grab my camera and fresh battery knowing I could really put the S/d card to its limits. Nobody around….. it’s still a mystery lurking in the back of my thoughts, but undeterred I start to walk around endless cars just lying around. Click ,Click,…..where is that blue buggy I spotted a few moments ago.
Deep in thoughts my head peering in every old window and a few newer cars Click….Click my Canon in full flight ….I stop and admire an old 1955 Ford Station wagon faded green with a white flash along its side …THEN I HEARD CLICK …..CLICK….BUT THAT WAS NOT MY CAMERA……!!!!
I spin around only to find two scruffy looking guy’s staring at me , the one to the left was younger in his thirties unshaven ,the guy to my right was older and fatter but still as scruffy as the other guy. BUT……THAT CLICK WAS A HAND GUN………..POINTED STRAIGHT AT ME….…….
What are you doing here they asked in a shouting aggressive voice…..(I could understand even with my bad Spanish)…………..But before I replied I thought its best to hide my rudimentary Spanish comprehension ,and opted to tell them in English I do not understand.
Police we are the Police I understood …what are you doing……..I pointed to my camera and told them in English I was a tourist and I wanted to take some pictures of the old blue buggy….They were not having my explanation and started to push me with the gun to escort me back to the Police Station, which was a rough looking building they pointed to some 150mtrs away ….this I had not noticed!!! I could not believe they were Policeman and the building was a Police Station even when I did see the painted sign… Police… I refused to move and there frustration was clear as the young Policeman tried to grab my camera, but I was not having any of their antic’s , and told them in English I was deleting the pictures I had taken….But to my astonishment they told me in English NO……DELETE.
No delete….. They repeated …..I thought to myself was this the only evidence they were going to use to hold me for something I was unable to understand ….I deleted the pictures and told them so…….
I pushed the Young Policeman’s gun to one side and told him to keep it away from my face, and keep his hands off my camera ……In the corner of my eye I could see Elayne walking back to the bug, she arrived and her face clearly displaying utter astonishment …WHAT’S GOING ON……….I grabbed Elayne and pushed her and told her to get in the buggy quickly….I raised my voice and waved my hands …..YOU ARE the most corrupt Police we had meet in Argentina.
Elayne jumped in her side as I fiscally pushed the younger Police officer away ,jumped in the bug and started the engine …They shook their heads …not sure what to do…..They shouted and young Policeman waved the gun as they pointed at us ready to fire ……I pulled away hoping they would not open fire on us.
This was a sharp contrast to our new friend’s at the Fruit Fumigation Plant only 3 klm away.
They never did chase us or open fire ,but it was again a constant reminder that not all Policeman were willing to help you if you accidently stumbled into something which was not generally the done thing???? , photographing cars in clear view of passing motorists not fenced off …WAS THIS A crime ????
Into town we speed off checking the rear vision mirrors as we went …. still we were on our own and no signs of the two rough looking Policeman.
Arriving in the city center main square we parked, but were soon inundated with passers bye , 2 Police cars also stopped to check us out …BUT THEY WERE VERY FRIENDLY INDEED…….and asked if we need any help, which we thanked them and said all was fine.
One Police Car stayed and looked after our Bug while we spoke to the every growing passer’s bye…
….TO BE CONTINUED….. OUR JOURNEYS IN ARGENTINA……….
BRAZIL INTO PERU eight months earlier.
THE LAST THOUSAND KILOMETERS IN BRAZIL BR 364
We have left Porto Velho crossing the mighty Rio Madeira for the last time the BR 364 heading S/West driving a 1000 klms through Abuna heading towards Rio Branco where we join the BR 317. The road surface on the BR 364 and BR 317 was bitumen varied in condition but generally it was fare to good.