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.

Friday, 20 May 2011

red dust and fun!

My aim today was to use Google directions to get me to Pocone at the start of the Pantanal. Unbelievably I got there without a hitch and ate lunch in cafe situated in a supermarket. I now know where Tecos and Morrisons got the idea from. From just outside Pocone the road turned to red dust but it was easy riding and I was soon inside the park. The terrain was very different from that which I remember from further south in the Pantanal and the land was still very much under water. Boy it was really hot and I needed to find some shade to cool down. The thing is that all flat land lay about 2 feet below the water so when I did find a spot after 20km I decided I would make my camp there and since there was not a cloud in the sky I pitched the tent without the fly. How much was I going to regret that decision! As I looked up from my chores a local just appeared out of the bush and then disappeared in to the undergrowth about 10m from my tent and then reappeared with a bicycle. My observation skills are wearing off!! Anyway he agreed to pose with some of his fish before he started his 25km cycle home. In that heat!!! The fish were not piranah but they had bloody big teath.
This place is a mecca for 'twitchers'. Heron, egret, hornbill, vultures etc etc. The ground is just a maze of paw prints all from the cat family though there are some that are handlike possibly from a possum or something. I should have got a photo of one so those of you from Downunder could identify it for me.
The great thing about the inner of the tent is that it is just netting. Perfect for keeping out the muderous swarms of mosquitos and great for looking at the Southern Cross.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

trucks, lorrries, camiones, wagons, big smelly noisy things

Whatever you call them they had a starring roll today. This morning I passed through some stunning canyon scenery with bright red rocks you can see where the soil gets its colour from. It was marred by the quality of the roads and it was just like I had been transported back to Kazakhstan the land of terrible roads. The potholes were huge and so numerous they seemed to merge into one. All caused by the unbelievable volume of heavy trucks. It would be verging on the low side if I was to say that for evey car there were at least 30 lorries. They all tended to bunch up so that at times there would be a convoy of 10 wagons all dodging the potholes they were creating and tail gating the one in front so there was no room to pull in after an overtake. In the end I just gave up and travelled at their speed which was at least 100kmh going downhill and 30kmh going up. I eventually reached cuiaba around dusk and found a hotel quite quickly. I even had a chat with a tour guide who has told me how to get out of the city and to the Pantanal tomorrow so that I can try out my new tent. I have no idea ref the condition of the road so it might be a shorter trip than expected. Outside the hotel there is what looks like a greasy spoon cafe but the food was great and they even had live music.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

What no near death experiences!!!!!!

A really dull ride today that lacked the excitement of the last couple of days. That said I am sure this dog was thinking 'what would happen if I ran out in front of that motorcycle'. Fortunately I think he had more interest in sleeping.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

A Trying Day - trying not to get lost, trying not to ride after dark and trying not to get shot

Being Mister Organised I got a good early start because I am fed up with arriving at my destination with only an hour or so of daylight remaining leaving no time to look around. I was hoping to make Rio Verde 484km away and across country using Google directions. Even at the start the directions I had did not seem to tie in with the situation on the ground. It was 20km further than I had expected before I found the road I was looking for. As I turned onto it I am sure I heard Daisy squeal with delight. Her first Ripio. It was not the best introduction firm under wheel but very very bumpy. The road had been churned to a mire in the rainy season and now it was baked solid. I was so busy I forgot to take a picture of the roughest bit and only remembered 1km from the end of the road where it was now in good condition.
Riding cross country on minor roads with only Google directions was proving to be a nightmare. After many wrong turns I finally reached Pires de Rio, a place that I will not easily forget. It was here that I longed for a GPS and decided to take a detour north to Goiania but it would put me on decent roads again. The problem was that I could not even find my way out of town so I had to employ the services of a friendly local to lead the way. He left me on the outskirts and I decided to readjust some of my luggage. I was just finishing when I heard a vehicle pull up smartly behind me. It was a black SUV with blacked out windows and out jumped 4 combat wearing individuals modelling those stupid baggy black berets made popular by Rambo’s Commanding Officer. These guys were properly tooled up as well. Each carried a side arm and 2 had assault rifles and they knew what they were doing. They split into 2 groups and positioned themselves so that they were 90 degrees apart and out of each others field of fire. No need to worry it said Police Militaire on the side of the vehicle so imagine my surprise when Mr T a bbmf drew his weapon and pointed it at me. Naturally I began to back away since having been shot at once in my life I did not fancy trying it again. He just said ‘tranquilo’ (be calm) it was all very well for him to say ‘tranquilo’ but it was not him that had a 9mm pistol pointing at the centre of his body mass. It then occurred to them that perhaps they should try to communicate with me rather than try to scare me half to death. The boss man tried his very best Portuguese which I answered in my very best English so clearly we were not getting very far. But I did suss out that he wanted to know where I was going so I said Goiania they then got back in the vehicle a drove off. What the f**k was that all about? Clearly in this part of Brazil they must be overrun with terrorists/drugs dealers/arms smugglers and I bet they all have blonde hair, blue eyes, pasty white skin and all ride Triumph Tigers that have UK plates. This is a picture of me for those of you that cannot remember. Do I fit their description?
So with the SWAT team disappearing over the hill I continued on my way. I reached the G place and took 2 hours to find my way through it. I must have asked for directions from 20 different people and the number of maps that were drawn for me must have doubled the deforestation of the Amazon rain forest. There were also loads of road works with numerous muddy detours so Daisy got some beauty treatment. With all of the delays it was clear that I was not going to make Rio Verde so I stopped 70km short at a place called Acreuria where I found an OK hotel where I bartered him down from 80 to 55 Reals but no doubt I was still paying Gringo prices. In Brazil nearly every restaurant is a Lanchonetta which serves a buffet of really good salad and vegetables and a BBQ of various meats which they continuously bring round to your table to carve fresh meat onto your plate. It is very cheap and very healthy and seems to be keeping MacDonalds at bay. THANK GOD!!!!!!

Monday, 16 May 2011

So what to do on the way to Buenos Aires

I have decided to visit the Pantanal on the way south. It is the most bio diverse area in South America and floods in the rainy season. In this way it is a bit like the Okavango Delta and I visited it many years ago with my sister. So I continued to ride north and arrived at Cristolina. Carlos who we met in Buzios told us to look up a friend of his who works in the tyre shop at a local garage. He was very pleased to see me and called over all of his mates to have a look at Daisy. The hotel in Cristolina is very dirty, run down and expensive. On the ride here I had bird strike at 110kmh. The potential assassin was a crow and it nearly took my head off with a glancing blow above the peak. Thank goodness it did not hit me 6" lower otherwise it would have done me a lot of damage. As it is my neck has been aching since the event.

Sunday, 15 May 2011


Had a day off today. Not much to talk about but met Ral whilst having dinner. He is from Montreal and is working for the Canadian company that operates the big gold mine just down the road.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

So the 3 that had become 2 now became 1

Overnight I had a long hard think and decided that I would put the ride on hold and head for Buenos Aires. Trying to do the amount of km per day that Ian was looking at doing would have been no fun for me and my tiredness the previous day put me against doing a long, fast and tiring ride. That said I headed for and made Paracatu which was a 610km ride. I checked into a nice hotel and headed out for food which I had in a sort off static burger van. Not bad for a greasy spoon. Whilst munching on my Brazilian style MacDonalds I heard a lot of cheering and clapping coming from a nearby building. On investigation it was a 5 a-side football match between 2 teams of local 'older than kids' but 'younger than grown ups'. They are passionate in Brazil about football no matter who is playing or the quality of play. After matches all you can hear are car horns. That said it is better than the boy racers who drive around with music blaring on their massive sound systems. Boy racers at home are not nearly as anti social as these. I asked one of them if he had an ASBO and he just looked at me blankly. I think it is because he did not speak English!! or he had just gone deaf.

Friday, 13 May 2011

1 group becomes 2

Overnight Ian had decided that he wished to make Bogota asap so there would be more of a chance that he could ship his bike to New York to try and sell it. In order to do so he would take the shorter inland route to Belem. John opted to go on the longer route around the coast and since it was my intention to go back to Buenos Aires on reaching Bogota I decided to tag along with Ian. It was a long hard ride on roads made lethal by the quality of driving. At dusk we met another biker on a GS1150. Nelson a Brazilian who was also heading for Ouro Preto. So against the number 1 rule of Adventure Motorcycling we rode the last 40km after dark. The town is set on the side of a very steep hill and consists of a maze of narrow cobbled streets. Not the ideal situation for a very tired Londoner on a heavy Triumph Tiger. Consequently I was not surprised to find Daisy on her side after trying a rather too tight U-turn. We used a hotel finder to get us a hotel at a sensible rate but since this was a tourist detination many hotels were full and the others were asking silly money. We eventually found one and headed out to find some food to top up our very low energy levels.