2017-02-08 au 2017-03-01 – Day 123 to 143 – Buenos Aires, AR
After 29000 km on the road, I decided to spend 3 weeks in Buenos Aires, where my trip will end. My return home was initially planned for April 1st, but with my fast progress, the high prices in Argentina and a bit of homesickness that began being more and more present, I decided to fly back one month earlier.
The option to visit the north of Argentina, Chile and even Bolivia (which I had to skip because on my suspension issues in Peru) was still there, but died out during my drive back from Ushuaia. The heart was simply not there anymore and I had no more motivation, or mental strength, to drive another 4000 or 5000 km.
It’ll also give me time to get back in shape while I’m in Buenos Aires, and to take advantage of a few more summer days before heading back north to my Canadian climate, which, however strange this could seem, is starting to be missed!
I know this city well, having spent time there, on several occasions in the past 15 years, for several months at a time. I was therefore looking forward to the idea of getting reacquainted with this familiar place.
I had the chance to start my stay with a nice night out with Rachel and Paul, from the United Kingdom, and whom I met on Ruta 3, south of Bahia Blanca, some days ago. It was their last night in South America, after a trip on 2 wheels of more than 7 months that started in New York, and passed by Alaska. Bravo and thank you for the nice dinner in a classic Palermo restaurant Don Julio!
I also saw my local friends. What a greeting from Gabriela and her son Natalio!
I took advantage of still having La Gorda to go for a ride with Gabriela. We visited the city of Tigre. A classic day trip for the locals on weekends.
It is a bit difficult for me to describe Buenos Aires without being too negative. I suppose that although the city has not changed a lot in the past 15 years, the traveller that I am, did so, and even got a bit older! I found an email written to my friends Sonia B. and Sophie T. in 2006! It sums up my thoughts for this city and is still, to a certain extent, of actuality!
Buenos Aires is a vibrating city. My district (Palermo Soho or Palermo Viejo) is the trendiest. A bit like Le Plateau in Montréal, he provides big surprises with all the terraces, restaurants, bars and superb small specialized boutiques.
I eat very well, but always very late. Restaurants are usually almost empty until 10 – 11h00 pm! Even during the week. Restaurants are very nice, offer a good choice of food and especially fun, you can always make it out with a bill under 30$ for 2, including a good bottle of wine and tip!!!
Unfortunately, the city is tarnished by anarchy on the roads, pollution due to the many motorized vehicles (old buses, cars, lorries, motorcycles), and a very unequal distribution of wealth.
It is always necessary to look on both sides when crossing a street. Here, forget pedestrians’ signs and priority! It is rather a competition to find out who be the closest to hit a pedestrian! On my bicycle, it is simply as going to war! People will drive just a few centimetres from me and it is simply normal for them!
In regards to poverty, it is really difficult to watch even if it is not my first visit here. Whole families live on the street. It’s as if, for example, a family of 5 was literally established on the corner of Saint-Laurent and Prince-Arthur, downtown Montreal. Mattresses are set on the pavement and the children sleep there… And this, permanently.
People of Buenos Aires are a bit cold. It is a big city after all. People speak to each other only if it is necessary. Contrary to Montreal or Paris, people are very reserved and will not try to initiate contact with other people you, for example, and this, even, for example, you sit by their sides in a bar or a pub. Fortunately, it changes as soon as contact can be made, but this first contact remains difficult.
Reading this text, I realize I now have too much time here, as I begin focusing over negative things, like noise, coldness of people, traffic, cigarette smoke, the omnipresent dirtiness, lack of politeness, people, even whole families living in the streets, and now, prices which quadrupled since my last visit in 2014.
This year, having walked about 600 km in the city during the 3 weeks I was here, it’s as if it was just too much to take in.
Normally, I do not take pictures of this type, simply it’s not very nice and I prefer focusing on the positive, but I made an exception in this case, because, I do want to remember. These photos were taken in the most trendy district of the city (Palermo)! You can imagine how the situation gets worse by getting out of the centre, if only by a few kilometres.
The city makes a lot of efforts to clean the streets, but result is not simply there.
Many of these big garbage containers were installed everywhere in every neighborhood and a program called Ciudad Verde (the Green City) is very visible, but as you can see, it is not all citizens who make the necessary efforts.
The problem is that garbage cans are systematically emptied several times a day by the poorest to take out garbage which can be recycled. Unfortunately, the neighbours are not really respected and with temperatures exceeding 30 degrees, you can imagine the great smells around these installations.
Besides, when I discovered this city, one of its charms was that it was possible to live like a king for only a few pesos per day. It was for me, the city with the best steak in the world, with as a bonus, superb wine that cost almost nothing!
Now, to be frank, I am even more able to eat out in restaurants, apart from very special occasions.
All prices have quadrupled since the arrival of the last government. It is a disappointment, and a big disadvantage, but this remains for me, a disadvantage. I think of my friends who live here… Their wage did not quadruple, far from it!
Example. A 200 grams bag of chips costs around 2$ in Canada. In Argentina, you had to barely 1$ 3 years ago, but now, we’re talking about 8$ for the same bag!!! The good side is that it forced me to eat well, but this rule is also applied to all the others produced like meat, milk, electricity, transport, petrol… It is sad to see such a volatile economy, especially when the victims are the middle-class people and the poor.
I was discussing this subject with Javier, the owner of Dakar Motos. He explained that social classes are very visible here and that the rich were not very sensitive to the problems of the poorest, and were sometimes a bit (read: very) snobs, as though people who are successful absolutely had to show it.
It explains a bit why I feel less and less comfortable here. I had felt that people with bigger motorbikes, similar to mine, were completely uninterested when I drove by them on the highway, contrary all other countries which I visited (apart from Chile, where the attitude is similar). He also explained that a big BMW is an object of luxury in Argentina, and that the owners of such motorbike often looked at the other motorcyclists from a very high with standing and a condescending attitude.
A BMW is worth at the very least 50000$ in Argentina! A good monthly wage, for a person working in a steady job, is 1000$. Make the calculations yourselves… Not so obvious.
I am aware that all these things are also present in Montreal and in Canada, but I cannot explain why I feel them so strongly here.
Nonetheless, the city has lost nothing of its dynamism, if it is only that the stores are a little less crowded. It is understandable, everything is so expensive.
Bars and restaurants, for their part, are always full, often until very late in the evening (to read: very early in the morning!). The prices of beer and wine doubled, but this increase am small compared with other products. It is therefore easy to continue drinking copiously and it is case at almost every street corner, especially in the district of Palermo, where they are hundreds of bars and restaurants.
Bon, un peu plus de positif maintenant (je suis désolé pour m’être un peu défoulé). La ville réserve quand même de belles surprises et offre des quartiers vivants et une architecture variée et impressionnante. Voici quelques images de ma collection!
OK, positive stuff now (I am sorry to have let out a bit of steam). The city reserves nice surprises to the ones taking the time to discover it. If offers very lively districts and various and impressive architecture. Here are some pictures of my collection!
Dining room at hotel Faena in memory of a great dinner with Robert M. a few years ago!
I also share some videos made during a visit some years ago (when I had brought a much more imposing and complete photo equipment set!). They describe what I felt for each of the most popular districts of the city.
Caminito (La Boca)
Une Hora in Puerto Madero
Recoleta, la linda…
Palermo – A short day, a long night!
San Telmo – La Gente
Tigre – Green, blue… and brown!
La Feria de Mataderos
And a visit to Buenos Aires would not be complete without a day trip to Colonia, Uruguay.
One day in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
And, maybe a weekend in an estancia!
Finca Piedra – Estancia Turistíca- Uruguay
As many people have asked for me to document and share info on the process of returning the motorcycle to Canada, here are the details.
On Thursday, February 23rd, it was the day when I had to drive La Gorda to the international airport of Ezeiza, located about 30 kilometres from the centre of Bs. As. (abbreviation for Buenos Aires!).
I think that it would be possible to return the bike to Montreal without the assistance of Dakar Motos, but it would be a long and risky process. My decision to pay the extra 100$ so that Javier and Sandra take care of process was an easy one.
Here are the steps one by one.
- A few weeks before my arrival in Buenos Aires, I contacted Javier via Facebook. It is the easiest way to initially reach him.
- I receive a submission some days later for the transport of the bike to Montreal, Houston or Miami (2200$ in Canada or 1800$ in US)
- Javier gives me the document list necessary to prepare for him (2 copies of the page containing the details of my passport, 2 copies of the page with the migration stamps of my last entrance in Argentina, 2 copies of the temporary vehicle importation given by the aduana officers, 2 copies of the bike registration)
- I pay a visit to Javier and Sandra to give them the copies and to fill the last documents. This could easily have been done elsewhere, but I think that they prefer making it in their place, located in 30 minutes from the centre of Bs. As. They also explained how to get to the warehouse of the international freighter to prepare the motorbike. I pay the 100$ US fee
- I go to the airport on February 23rd at 10h30, making sure that the gaz tank is almost empty as only 1 or 2 litres must remain so that the motorbike can be allowed on the plane
- When I arrive, they ask me to disconnect the battery and to take the windscreen off
- The motorcycle is put on a palette and tied firmly by the warehouse’s employees
- Only items related to the motorbike are allowed (clothes, tools, equipment). I nevertheless left my tent, which became, for the sake of the cause, a protective cover! No question was asked.
- The motorcycle is scanned and returned to be “wrapped” and transported somewhere else (no idea where!)! It is the end of the day
- The following day, it is necessary to go to downtown and to pay for the transport. The payment mush be done in cash (US$ or Argentinian Pesos).
- A receipt is provided as well as a follow up number for Air Canada Cargo or United Cargo.
As mentioned before, the bike must arrive with the least possible petrol at the airport. Guess what happened on my way there…
Yes, of course, in spite of the fact that the on-board computer was showing a 50 km remaining autonomy, I ran out of gas. Why to make things easy when it’s possible to add a little of stress, and… Sweat! I stopped, luckily, about 2 kilometres from a service station. I took my 3 MSR bottles and started running, but I had to turn back when a police car pulled over. They told me that I couldn’t leave the bike, because it would get stolen. Hello!!! I am not here by choice guys!!! I ask them if it is possible that they give me a lift, but they refuse and tell me that a tow truck will come to help me. Great, thanks for nothing guys!
After waiting 15 minutes, I could see the time flying by and the risk of missing my appointment became a reality. I then decided to start running again to get a few litres of fuel to allow me to get to the airport.
Running 2 kilometres on a motorway with my motorbike gear (which I had filled up as much as possible to reduce the weight of my backpack) with a 35-degree temperature is far from being obvious. No need to say that I was completely wet as though I had just got out of the shower!
What a perfect place and moment to run out of gas, for the first time after 29000 km on the road! A huge thanks to the BMW engineers for such a pathetic fuel gauge. By he way, it was replaced before departure. For the 7th time in 6 years!
And there it is, our separation is now official. La Gorda leaves for her flight back home with United. For my part, I fly off on Wednesday, March 1st, also with United.
As I leave Argentina, here are my final thoughts for this country!
Coup de cœur: A bit difficult to say because I knew the Argentina quite a lot before this trip and because, during this visit, I was disappointed with this country in general. I was expecting too much. The El Chalten trek was splendid
Disappointment: Le coût de la vie maintenant astronomique
Most welcoming city: El Chalten, considering it as a lot to offer to tourists
Best atmosphere: Mendoza
Where I would spend a full month in winter: None of the places visited during this trip
Where I will not return: Unfortunately, Buenos Aires has made it to the “never again” list
The surprise: Prices have quadrupled since my last visit
The nicest road: Ruta 7, between Santiago and Mendoza
The ugliest roads: La Ruta 3, from south to north
If I had to do it again: I speeded things up a bit to try to spend more time in Argentina. This was an error
Next time: Going back north to explore this part of the country
What I missed me most: Cleanness, calmness, moderate prices, kindness of people. OK, I apparently spent too much time in Buenos Aires!
Number of days: 39
Distance: 4600 km
EXTRA: Distance walked or ran during my 3 weeks in Buenos Aires: 612 km (Impressive, isn’t it???)
2017-02-02 - Day 116 - El Calafate, AR to Punta Arenas, CL (565 km - 6,25 hrs) 2017-02-03 - Day 117 - Around Punta Arenas, CL (158 km - 2,5 hrs) 2017-02-04 - Day 118 - Punta Arenas, CL to Ushuaia, AR (565 km - 6,25 hrs) 2017-02-05 - Day 119 - Ushuaia, AR 2017-02-06 - Day 120 - Ushuaia, AR ... Read more