Thursday, July 29, 2010


After we left Charles we headed down the coast to the Uruguayan border, we rode for most of the day through flooded open plains dotted with the occasional town. The main roads through Brazil are excellent, though we did encounter the odd landslide and flood damage due to the recent rains. A couple of weeks after we came through this area of Brazil, it was hit by a cyclone which caused even more damage, luckily for Sue and I, we have always been just ahead or just behind a number of natural disasters during our journey.

This was the clear up operation after a landslip blocked the highway, only one lane was open and the traffic was backed up for miles, fortunately for us we were able to ride around the queue sometimes venturing off road to avoid being sat in a two hour traffic jam. 

This was the line of traffic heading in the other direction.

We didn't fancy stopping here for some reason!

English rose/Brazilian rose
The Brazilians are a friendly bunch, one toll booth attendant gave Sue a red rose which was really nice and made her day but what he expected her to do with it on the back a bike was beyond me!

After a hundred kilometers or so we hit capybara country, the capybara is the worlds largest rodent and looks like a cross between a guinea pig and a pig!. They grow to around four feet in length and can weigh up to two hundred pounds, sadly they tend to come of worst in collisions with vehicles and the roadside is littered with rotting carcasses and of course with us on the bike, if we didn't see a dead one we could certainly smell it.

Capybaras are expert swimmers and divers. They eat all kinds of vegetation and sometimes damage crops. Because of their size they are hunted for food, the hide is made into gloves, and the bristles are used in making brushes. 
The highlight of the day had to be the border crossing out of Brazil, no hassle, no time wasting and we spent that evening in the town of Chuy a duty free town in no mans land between Brazil and Uruguay. The town exists solely on its ability to sell duty free goods but the advantage for us was that the amount of traffic coming across both borders meant the border officials were on the ball when it came to processing tourists.

The following day we had a late start as we had a relatively short distance to travel, the border crossing into Uruguay was even better than the previous day, really friendly and efficient and a complete contrast to the incompetent turmoil we experienced in Central America. For the most part Uruguay looked pretty much like southern Brazil and north eastern Argentina, we were now on a mission to get back to Buenos Aires and stuck to the main roads which meant missing the more picturesque routes through the countryside. I had decided to avoid the capital, Montevideo but without a GPS map of Uruguay we ended up going through the city on our way to the final border crossing of our trip.

Montevideo, another city with the usual traffic headaches!

A roadside stop to remove some insect that had flown inside my jacket (it turned out to be a harmless butterfly).

We had two options available to get back to Buenos Aires, we could catch the ferry across the river Plate or ride the two hundred miles by road and cross into Argentina at Fray Bentos. We chose the cheaper option of riding, however, when we stopped for lunch at La Paloma an American couple we got talking to informed us that the border at Fray Bentos was closed and we would have to ride another sixty miles north to the crossing at Paysandu. It was unlikely that we would get to Paysandu that evening so we spent one more night in Uruguay at San Jose, a bit of a dead spot with few restaurants.
Today was our last day on the road, we made an early start as the intention was to get back to BA as early as possible. We rode through the fog for a couple of hours until mid morning when we reached the border on the Rio Negro river, the place was packed with trucks as there was now only one functioning border between the two countries for hundreds of miles and every vehicle was coming through here.

Of course on a bike you can get the best parking spots.

Leaving Uruguay proved to be as painless as entering, the border official made a good job of understanding me and it looked like the final border crossing was going to be a breeze.....then we got to the Argentinian side!
When I finally got someone to process the paperwork, the female border official gave a blank look when I handed over my documents "this doesn't look promising" I thought. She disappeared into the office and emerged ten minutes later and explained that my insurance for the bike was out of date and we would have to go back into Uruguay to buy a new policy!. I was gobsmacked, I had bought a months worth of insurance only two weeks earlier in Buenos Aires to make sure we were covered in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay but when I checked the policy I was horrified to see that the insurance agent in BA had typed in the same expiry date as the start date so in effect the policy was only valid for one day! Bollocks! 
OK time to regroup, clearly it was only a typing error, anyone would realise there's no sense in paying $50 for one days try telling that to 'Mrs Jobsworth' at the border. She was having none of it, I tried in vain to explain the situation but she refused to listen, part of the problem was the language barrier so in the end I went back to the nice guy at the Uruguayan side and asked him to help. This turned out to be a bad move, now she got seriously pissed off at someone from the other side coming over to explain that the whole international incident was caused by a typing error but she did end up pushing the paperwork through and allowed us to go on our way. Oh! but before you enter the country I want to go through your luggage and she then got us to start unloading the bike, I got stroppy and started chucking things about, which seemed to do the trick and she disappeared back into the office and left us to repack and go on our way. This was the first time in eighteen countries that our gear had been checked.

The wicked witch of the east!

Finally we were back in Argentina and looking forward to a stress free ride to Buenos Aires, the stress free part wouldn't last long.....
We started travelling down Ruta14 only to be pulled over by the traffic cops fifteen minutes later, as soon as I saw the road block I told Sue to start taking photos. 

Daylight robbery in progress (in the left of the photo you can see another motorist about to be fleeced)

If there's one thing the cops hate, it's being photographed!. One of them came across and went through the usual procedure of checking documents and then asked me to accompany him to the back of the police car, meanwhile Sue's still snapping away.
At the back of the police car he informs me that his colleague up the road had clocked me speeding using a radar device, I said he couldn't have because when we rode past the cop in question had his back to us and was talking to someone. I knew it was a scam and wasn't going to get ripped off and I was still seething over the cock up at the border, I put the ball back in his court and waited for the reply. He still maintained I had been speeding and would have to pay a fine and gave me two options: firstly, I could wait until I left the country and pay 1250 Argentinian pesos at customs (about US$250) or I could pay a local cash penalty to him of $38 and be on our way. The sensible option would have been to pay the $38 and call it a bad day but by this time was thoroughly pissed off and started to accuse him of being a thief. I called his bluff and told him to write out a ticket and I'd pay at customs when we left the country. It could have gone horribly wrong but as it was when I came to ship the bike a few days later guess what? no sign of a traffic ticket!!!! All the time this was going on Sue was taking photos but when we came to look at them later, in all the photos the cop had his cap pulled down to made sure you couldn't recognise him.

These cops are worse than thieves, they use their position to extort money from motorists. Unfortunately nothing ever gets done about it, if it's reported it only gets as far as their immediate superior who is probably getting a cut of the money. Further down the road we spoke to a group of eight Brazilian bikers who had all paid $38 each!

Three hours later we were back in Buenos Aires and booked back into the Hotel Munro just down the road from Dakar Motos. The next day we returned to see Sandra and got a new quote for shipping BOB home US$1500 which involved flying the bike to Madrid and then transporting it by truck back to the UK, this turned out to save us US$300 which would go some way to lessening the pain of paying for the air fares for us both.
So the day arrived when BOB and us would finally part company, after nine and a half months and over 35,000 miles I was now heading for the airport whilst Sue and Dave went into the city to the shipping agents (Navicon Argentina) to pay. When I arrived at the cargo terminal everything went smoothly until I handed over my documentation, whereupon the customs official pointed out that the Temporary Vehicle Import Permit I had for the bike was actually for Uruguay and not Argentina!!  It turned out that the woman who had given us such a hard time when we entered Argentina had also given us the the wrong paperwork, fortunately the girl dealing with me was able to sort out the problem but not before a few phone calls and panic on my part. Sue was waiting for confirmation of customs clearance before paying the money to the agents in BA and of course that brought its own problems but eventually the guys in the warehouse were given the OK and proceeded to shrink wrap BOB ready for shipping.

On a good note, it was around this point that I realised the threats of the bent cops on Ruta 14 to pay the speeding fine at customs were nothing more than hot air! and I've still got the paperwork to prove it.

We now had four days before flying home and decided to move hotels to downtown BA, we spent the rest of our time sightseeing and relaxing. Buenos Aires was for me one of the most beautiful cities we had visited on our journey, the place has a friendly feel to it and getting around is relatively painless. We spent one of our days taking an organised coach tour of the city which turned out to be a great way to see as much as possible in one day.
A Day in Buenos Aires

The Tower of the English, complete with a copy of the Big Ben clock presented by the city's British community in 1916.
Wash day for the city's homeless.
The Building of the Argentine National Congress, situated at one end of the Avenida de Mayo.
At the other end of the avenue is the Plaza de Mayo and the Casada Rosada (the pink house) this building is the seat of the Argentine government and the first floor balcony on the left of the building is where Eva Peron made her famous speeches to the masses.
In the main square, veterans of the Falklands war have set up camp to demand recognition for everyone involved in the campaign. Presently only those service personnel who fought against the British are given recognition.
The plaza, since 1977, the plaza is also where the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo have congregated with signs and pictures of desaparecidos, their children, who were subject to forced disappearance by the Argentine military in the Dirty War, during the National Reorganization Process
Every Thursday at 3:30pm, rain or shine, Las Madres gather in the center of the Plaza and continue their ongoing fight. Recognizable by their white kerchiefs, they gather and march with signs – patiently allowing tourists to photograph them and often talking about their lives, their missing children, and the future.

La Recoleta Cemetery.
The grave of Eva Peron.

La Boca
This Buenos Aires barrio (neighborhood) is best known for its football team, Boca Juniors, for whom the legendary Diego Maradona played, but also for its multi-colored wooden and corrugated-iron houses. The houses were built and painted by Italian immigrant families. They liberated materials and paint from the local docks where they worked.

La Boca architecture.
Boca Juniors Stadium.
The club's most famous player.....some claim the greatest player ever to grace the game, to me he'll always be a fat little drug taking cheat!  enough said.
Buenos Aires is the home of the tango, here's me showing how it's done!
Here's a couple doing it properly! (no difference really)
Florida Street market.
The Floralis Generica statue.
The shiny flower consists of 6 petals (each measuring 13 meters long and 7 meters wide) and 4 pistons. The petals close in the evening from sunset to sunup; a 20-minute process mimicking the actual movement of a flower.
The rejuvenated docks area.
Rib steak Argentinian style.

Dave left for the UK a couple of days before us and we agreed to meet up when we all got back home, the reality for us was that the trip of a lifetime was coming to an end.... 
On the 17th March Sue and I boarded a flight for London via San Paulo in Brazil, just before we left BA we received an email to say that BOB was holed up in a warehouse at Heathrow airport so at least we had transport when we got back. Nine and a half months after landing in Anchorage, Alaska we were finally on our way home, along with BOB we had travelled almost 36,000 miles through eighteen countries and gone through over 50 border crossings. The enormity of our achievement will take some time to sink in and the logistics of fuel, tyres, accommodation etc. may never be calculated or recorded. The cost of the trip is best left to the imagination but to try and do this kind of journey on US$10 a day was not what we wanted to achieve. We set out to see the Americas on two wheels and achieved that and more. Anyone with the time and money can board a plane and see virtually all the sights and places we visited on our trip. What you can't do is experience meeting all those people, local and travellers alike that have enriched our lives for the short time we were on the bike and those memories will remain with us forever.
To all those who travelled with us vicariously and followed our escapades through the blog, thank you for your patience, we appreciated your company and whilst the blog was originally intended as means of keeping friends and family updated it turned out to be something of a monster but one which I'm sure will be a constant reminder of our Pan American Adventure. 
A big thank you to everyone who offered friendship and assistance along the way, there are too many to mention here but rest assured their help, hospitality and generosity is mentioned somewhere in the pages of the blog.
Finally, to Sue, the one person who made all this possible. my love and admiration for the woman who supported me, tempered my enthusiasm and provided the constant reality checks is immeasurable. Through all the ups and downs Sue managed to remain firmly in the real world and how anyone can ride pillion for hours at a time, day after day, with no control over BOB is still beyond me. Sue drew admiration from everyone we met and rightly so, hopefully for Sue the trip from the back seat of the bike was as eventful as mine! Our journey  has not been without its low moments but we managed to work through them together, it could have all ended within a few days when we crashed in Alaska but we were lucky and got through it and in the end everything we achieved, we achieved together.
Thank you for everything.

Sue's Epilogue:
You are very welcome Graham.
It is now some time since we returned home and it's quite odd trying to adjust to life off the bike. Fortunately I wrote the following prior to leaving South America (I just wasn't expecting it to take so long to get to type it at the end of the blog!!!)
It's difficult to write a short summary about S.A. We've seen so many wonderful sights and done so much that it's going to take me some time to digest the experiences. Of the places we visited my personal favourites were the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia and Iguazu Falls in Argentina, both were stunningly beautiful in their own right, but you've seen the photos, there were many many fabulous places.
I've spent hours on the bike marvelling at the colour of the sky and the cloud formations, asking myself whether it is bluer here or have I just not noticed it before?  We've endured the extremes of heat and cold and then there's the wind. It really has to be experienced to be appreciated .
We've met like minded people from such diverse backgrounds who have become good friends and I hope we will meet up again. And through all of this Bob has just kept purring along.
On reaching Ushuaia I felt an enormous sense of achievement and relief.  I hadn't realised the amount of pressure I'd felt just to complete the original goal.
Graham has been an absolute brick. His stamina and determination are simply astounding and I thank him for the kind words above.  Thanks to all the friends and family who supported us from back home.  It was so important to receive e:mails to keep us in touch with reality.  Special thanks to Richard and Mathew for being so supportive when their parents who went AWOL.
Oh! and here's a message for you girls out there. Men can multi-task. Well my man can anyway.

And's me signing for the bike at Heathrow.

And here's the mileage reading on returning home, when we left BOB had 6,088 miles on the clock so door to door we travelled 35,927 miles!!

So there we are the end of DUE SOUTH, for Sue and I the adventure of a lifetime but not necessarily our last?

To all those who have followed us via the blog we would like to thank you all personally even if we've never met. About two months before we ended the trip I signed up to Google analytics which is a clever tool that allows us to see exactly where our readers are located, not individual addresses just countries, cities and towns. The list of countries is interesting and clearly we are being followed by people unknown from all over the globe, you know who you are but we don't. If you get the chance please drop us a line so we can thank you for your support.
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