Monday, 24 October 2011

Almost a week

I have been here for almost a week and enjoying Dog Shit city much more than last time. I have a flat in a nicer area and my Spanish has improved a lot despite not doing any study. Perhaps I am still in holiday mode and so enjoying it here. I think that dogs only leave deposits in the winter since there are far fewer packages lying around. Here are just a few phots of where I am living. Sorry Silvana it is a bit untidy,

Monday, 17 October 2011

A very big gap in the blog.

Since I last wrote I have been back to the UK and I am now a day away from returning to Buenos Aires. In an attempt to find something adventurous to do whilst I am there I have taken up Kite Surfing. I am definitely an ATGNI person. Splashed out and bought the gear but no idea what I am supposed to be doing and now praying that the conditions in BA are as reported from my online research.
I hope to find the motivation to keep the BLOG up to date but also hoping that I will be doing so much kite surfing, mountain biking etc that I will not have time to Blog.
Toodle pip.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Family family everywhere and a bemused Englishman

I was invited to a Quince Anos Birthday Party by the godmother of the party's subject. In Latin America a girls 15th birthday is extremely important and marks her passing into womanhood. I would rather take the money and go snowboarding for a month or so. In fact the party was very much like a wedding reception with similar amounts of money spent on staging it and yet no groom. I even had instructions to wear a suit in order to blend in. To get a real impression of what this very formal gathering was like I will take you through the festivities step by step. On arrival guests of which there were 150 odd congregated in a room for 'nibbles'. This room was not on the small side and was topped with an ornate chandelier and appeared to me to be the location for the party. Thinking that the food was to last all night, I somewhat over indulged my belly. Little did I know that 30 minutes later we would make our way into the main room where we were seated at allocated tables for dinner. The 15 year old dressed in green then appeared on the balcony like Liz II to rapturous applause. But that was just a taster to whet the guests appetite since she then appeared through curtains in an arch on the stage and entered like a model on the catwalk. Between the courses of dinner there was a magician (see my impression of being a table), numerous powerpoint presentations of her life to date, dancers in ornate costumes, cake cutting, her thank you speech to people/groups that have been central in her life at which they lit one of the 15 candles and being Latin America considerable dancing at which my lambada and salsa skills were put to good use. The finale of this theatrical extravaganza was when she was lowered down on a swing/chair thing from the ceiling amongst costumed dancers. I thought that I was at the Rio Carnival. At 0630 the lights went on and I joined the revelers turning out from the local nightclubs to make my weary way home. I had had a great time and now appreciate how family, parties etc are very important to the Latin American culture.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Caca Perro!!!!!!!!!!!!

Having been back in Buenos Aires for more than 2 weeks I thought that I should give a short update.
Daisy had her 'make over' and is now ready for another trip, I have rented a flat in the Palermo Hollywood district of BA and I am studying Spanish.
BA is a fun and vibrant city which is friendly, cultural and quite exciting but there is one thing that I notice every day when I walk to school. Caca perro! Stick it into Google Translate|en|. This is one of the streets that I navigate on the way to school. You may think that it looks normal and typical for any BA street. Oh how wrong you are! This one is relatively free of deposits since there is only one every 20 metres or so. The average is every 10-15 and this drops to 2-5 in some sections. Negotiating these parts is very hazardous and I have heard that if your shoes are caca free after 1 week then you receive an automatic recommendation for The Caca Cross presented for bravery in the face of extreme caca.
On the ground floor of my fortified apartment building is a function room where they hold birthday parties, dinners etc. On returning from a night downtown my 2 Canadian friends, Emrah and Siniz and I gate crashed a 40th birthday party. We were made very welcome and had a good time until 0500ish when we headed skywards back to our flats. It was a good warm up for the following Saturday. More later! Emrah and Siniz are DJs travelling South America with their DJ kit strapped to the back of 2 KLRs.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Thought that it was about time I got a job!

Sorry for those of you who have just fallen off chairs or had your chin hit the floor. It had to happen one day. I have taken the first step and had some business cards made and the next step will be to shoot that pigging dog that, as I type, is trying to beat the record of 3 hours continuous barking. Anyway back to the job in hand. Apologies for the lame name but all the best e-mail addresses were already taken.
Though I am working hard at my Spanish I still have a long way to go before I can hold a conversation using normal words and talking at a normal speed. Consequently I have opted to target the Expat Community. In talking with other trainers there does not seem to be another instructor that is a fluent English speaker and so I feel that portion of the market is not best served. I am convinced, possibly mistakenly, that my grasp of the English Language practically makes me fluent.

The Algondonera

This is the place where I am renting an apartment. So what do I think of it 6 weeks into my stay? Generally I have enjoyed my time here since there is a gym in the building, on the roof there is a grassed area perfect for circuit training, 24hr gated security, stairs that are perfect for stair circuit training and there is even a restaurant on site. As always there is a BUT. (1) The flat is incredibly dark which is something I knew before signing the contract but I had no idea how depressing it is. This section of sky is the only patch that I see all day and the sun never passes through it. The buildings here are 3 floors and there are 30 flats around the central courtyard (2) A shod pony lives in the flat above. Well at least it sounds like it. In Argentina people where shoes in doors and this with high heels and wooden floors makes the ideal setting for the percussion section of an orchestra. The first door is hers but I have never managed to catch her to express my discontent (3) Of the 30 flats I mentioned 12 of them have netting to seal the balconies. This indicates that there is a dog in each flat. The one in flat next door to Miss Clippy Cloppy is a small ratty thing that barks whenever the owner is not home.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Pulteney Bridge and Wier

Bath Abbey

The Royal Crescent

That will be the Window Tax then!!!!!!

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

BA again

So back in BA looking for an apartment to rent. Amazingly Mick who I met in Rio de Janiero pulled up on his stupidly overloaded VFR. Daisy is in with the Triumph dealer for her 10,000 km service.

Peeling paint is the norm in Zarate

The closer I get towards Buenos Aires the poorer the quality of the hotels and the more you have to pay. Apparently this one is not as good as the ones at The Walt Disney Resort. I cannot think why?

Saturday, 28 May 2011

La Paz.. No not Bolivia or Mexico!!

Was feeling a bit tired so it was quite a short ride today. Hooray for short rides!!! Checked into a hotel in La Paz where I got them down to 100 pesos from 200. I am either getting really good at this bartering lark or the word has got round the hoteliers that there is a Brit on the way so they double the prices before I get there. Took myself out for a recce ran and went down by the River Parana which is linked, like most rivers, to the sea and is navigable for ocean going vessels for a lot further up stream than La Paz. Soon ran into a shanty town that lined the river.The people were very friendly and said hello as I passed but the guard pigs had me running in the opposite direction. Thankfully most were tied up but those that were not were climbing fences to get at me. La Paz looked 'run down' in parts but there were clues that it had a strong colonial influence and that there was a tourist industry here. My suspicions were confirmed when I learnt that it was an 'agua calientes' town. It is so famous that it is not even in the Lonely Planet!

Friday, 27 May 2011

a healthy place to stay

Had to get out of town sharpish this morning. Not because I had not paid my bill but because the buzz was that the protestors were going block the road again. In the afternoon the traffic miraculously disappeared and I was left riding fantastic tarmac through the area known as Esteros del Ibera an area of wetlands. On the ground that was high enough to be permanently above water there wooded areas and within these there was often a house. Some land had been drained and was being used for arable the rest was used for cattle and horse grazing all herded by mounted gauchos. I am sure that cows and horses are stood in a bath of creosote when they are born since otherwise they would have serious foot rot. I stopped at one place where I met Claudio and his son Manuel they now lived the in house that they had built when they escaped the Buenos Aires 'rat race' 2 years before.

I found a beautiful little town called Saladas for this evening's stop. Loads of old buildings and a beautiful town square. There was an interesting museum. Well it would have been if I could read about the exhibits. That is the great thing about riding a motorbike you still can do the tourist trail but you also get to the unvisited spots.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Take cover! Incoming!

I had not been woken so suddenly since we were bumped on the final exercise of the All Arms Course. It sounded like a couple of thunderflashes had been lobbed into the room with me. So armed with my camera I ran barefoot down the stairs and out onto the street to be greeted by the loudest and brightest fireworks that I have ever seen. Amazingly unlike the cowering dogs that we have at home the local strays were queing up to get a better view. I continued and passed easily through theBrasil/Argentina border and was heading for Bernardo del Irigoyen a smallish village on a little travelled path. Having spent 40 minutes trying to locate the road I sacked it as a bad idea and chose to head instead for Posada which had the advantage of reducing the riding mileage average over the next couple of days. I began to get worried when in the distance I saw a queue of lorries. Why? The freight traffic is tenth of what it is in Brasil so to see 30 or so trucks did not bode well. Remember throughout this trip I have always reached my destination unless I have opted for something different or simply did not have time to reach it. It now turns out that my record is to be broken in the land of workers protests. A group of employees who want more money have cut the road and are not letting anyone through. Reminds me of the French blockading the channel ports! No doubt I am now in trouble with my Argentinian friends. I am staying at an Automovile Clube of Argentino affiliated hotel. The ACA ElDorado Hotel costs £25 a night which is more than double what it was last night. The usual run followed and I stumbled upon another protest. NO it was a rally for one of the candidates for state governor Gregorio Grenobles. I did not hang around to meet Greg but left him my good wishes with a copper to pass on. Argentinians just seem to love to get together in groups. On the way to dinner I passed a group of kids being taught how to play basketball. Some of the 'buckets', 'nets', 'baskets' that they scored were quite amazing.
OK sat here typing my blog in an internet cafe and a young lad comes in begging for money. I only have a 100 pesos note so give him a handful of toothpicks instaed. Do not say that I am not generous. I thought that he was going to wet himself! The biggest smile I have seen for a long time.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

ripio or not ripio that is the question

Today I expected quite a bit of ripio on one road in particular. So imagine my surprise and gratitude when the road turns out to be perfect new tarmac. Unfortunately it ended in an unexpected T-junction and it turns out that I am on completely the wrong road though fortunately it was going in roughly the right direction but whether to turn right or left at this junction. Not only that but I came across a flock of suicidal vultures one of which became my 4th or is it my 5th near miss. I am sure they look at a motorbike and think that it is one of the numerous Honda 250s that ply the roads and so they think 'no probs' I have stacks of time and then they are shocked to find that I am chasing them down the road and gaining rapidly. Back to being geographically misplaced. My map is far to big a scale to be of any use but wait hallelujah a road sign that points the way to a place that is on the map. Saved and I made Santa Helena in OK time and quicky found a hotel. The owner has had a tracheotomy and breaths through the hole in his neck. No air passes over his vocal chords and so cannot speak and he converses with his wife through a series of clicks etc. It goes to show how people can have a disability like that and with a lot of hard work can overcome adversity to lead a fairly decent life. Santa Helena was celebrating its foundation and so I ate at one of the food stalls set up in the main square. Throughout the day I passed small communities situated 1 abode deep along the side of the road. The shelters are built from plastic sheet, wriggly tin and whatever else they can find. It begs the question are they forced to live this way on account of being poor or is it their choice? Perhaps they originate from nomadic people! Who knows?

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

perfect tarmac

Todays ride was nearly all on freshly laid tarmac and it was a real pleasure but it made the whine coming from the front of Daisy more pronounced. I have checked as best as I can the wheel bearings, the brakes, the spokes and all seem to be good so perhaps it is just the tyre noise from my TKC which was not present when it was fresh.

I arrived early at Rio Brilhante and decided to go for an 'orientation run'. In my best Spanish I asked a local if he could tell me where the river was since I wanted to take some briliant pictures. He answered in his best Portuguese so we had to resort to Google Translator. It turns out that the river is 7km out of town and so instead of Rio Brilhante this place should be called 'Proximo but not too Proximo to Rio Brilhante'. For those Portuguese speakers amongst you you will spot the missing accent on the first O for the rest of you I can recommend Google. The river is so far from town they have to pipe in the water and store it in this tower that is cleverly disguised as a sculpture with a prime spot in the town square.

Even though the footpaths are in need of repair and the town square could do with some remodelling at least the telephone booths are given the full birdworks and crocodile protection. I know lame but I was determined to try and get a joke out of it

Monday, 23 May 2011

yet another chill day

I had intended to ride on today but I was a little too tired so decided to have a rest day. So what did I do today. A lot of resting a bit more resting and I had a rest. Had a wander around the town and took a few snaps.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

the only time I have been grateful for a traffic jam!!

Today would be the first day that I actually started heading back to Buenos Aires though I was retracing my steps of a couple of days before and knew that the lorries were bad and some of the road conditions terrible. To top it all I hit a traffic jam about 5km into the ride and it was not moving at all. In fact people were out of their vehicles and the few cars that were there were parked beside the lorries just to get a bit of shade. It was roasting. Since there was absolutely NO opposing traffic I decided to ride up the other carriageway taking to the hard shoulder when I was approaching bends. 10km later I eventually came across the cause of the jam. A lorry had left the road and gone down a bank and was now being recovered by 2 cranes. But there was a car width gap. So I made an executive decision and decided to ride through it. Hidden behind a truck was a Policia Rodovaria Federal vehicle and they were indicating that I should stop but I would rather stop on the other side of the obstruction and so rode on pretending not to see them. They started up blues and twos and came after me so I pulled over and played the innocent gringo. They were really not pleased, at this stage I am conscious not to upset my American friends, they asked me rather gruffly if I was American. When I said no their demeanour changed completely and the one guy that could speak English very politely asked me for my papers and then started asking me about Daisy. Capacity, how fast, why only an off`road tyre on the front and not on the back etc etc. After 10 minutes they sent me on my way telling me I should be more careful:-) The traffic had been stationary for an hour so I now had a couple of hours of clear road in front of me. Hooray! I then passed 10km of oncoming stationary lorries. If we assume that the average truck is 25m long and that they stop 5m from the vehicle in front and that the number of cars in the queue was negligible. That means that in the 20km long queue of stopped traffic there were 666 lorries that had arrived in the space of an hour. So if you were to stand on the side of the road for an hour 666 lorries would pass you. I hope that puts into perspective what I have been saying over the last couple of days. The volume of freight traffic is enormous!!
I was right I did not overtake another truck until I turned off that road and start to head south down the eastern edge of the Pantanal. Farmland on one side and national park on the other. It was much closer to the Pantanal that I remember. The last time I was here I saw Armadillo, Caymen, Giant Anteaters but the only wildlife I saw was armadillo road kill and 2 wild kids on a motorbike who were determined to race me. I did not have time to scrape up their remeins so I politely declined. I did see a flock of Rhea grazing in a field and one of their distant cousins was determined to add itself as a trophy on the front of Daisy.
Tonights rest stop is Coxim. A small town with a great feel. The craze here seems to be to put as many speakers as possible in the boot of your car and to then park it on the high street and compete with similar vehicles to see who can be the loudest. I like it here!!

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Not a lot of sleep

What is the moto I always live by? Expect the unexpected. So why did I ignore it this time?

I woke at 0300 and where the was a clear sky there were now clouds from horizon to horizon. No flysheet on my tent, everything else unpacked and top of the bike away from the ants (I remembered that much) and it now blindingly obvious that in very heavy rain this area will flood and I would have to get Daisy up a steep, muddy and if it rained slippery slope. If I got up now I would be devoured by mosquitos and I had forgotten to take my last anti-malarial. I know I know no need to remind me how stupid I had been. What sealed it was what looked to be a line of darker clouds moving in accompanied by lightening. Either that or the thousands of fire flies were putting on a special show! An hour later I had shifted to higher ground, got Daisy out of danger and avoided getting sucked dry by mosquitos. The result was that I was very very tired and to top it all it did not rain. Though these poor crabs must be preying for rain as the puddles that they are crammed into are shrinking with every day. With the heat of the sun you could feast on this ready boiled delicacy.

The ride back to Cuiaba was uneventful . I have concluded that this must be a very religous city. Not only are all of the shops closed on a Sunday they are also closed from 1200 Saturday until Monday. To emphasise the point this ban stand had been taken over by a local preacher and his followers.