Ekke Writes  (map at bottom of page)  

On Monday, March 6, we disembarked from the Ocean Endeavour at 8:30 AM, found our VW up! and drove over to the laundromat we had visited before departure.  Since we would be sending our beautiful, complimentary parkas back home and into storage we thought it would be a good idea to have them cleaned first.  We hoped that they could do that quickly since we planned to drive to Rio Grande in the afternoon.  We were a bit disappointed when the proprietor said that they would be ready by 7:30 PM.  After a bit of begging we managed to arrange a 5 PM pick up time, hopefully leaving enough time for the 200-kilometre drive over the mountains to Rio Grande.  Then we hit the Marco Polo Café to get caught up on a couple of weeks' worth of Internet and e-mail since Audrey needed to start looking for a school to apply for a teaching position.  After getting those processes going and doing a bit of planning for the rest of the trip we visited the Museo Maritimo y del Presidio de Ushuaia.  The Prison at the End of the World officially closed in 1947 and had restored prison facilities as well as a maritime museum.  Some of the prison cells had been set up as they were when the facility was still a prison but most of the cells had various displays on the maritime history of the region with an eclectic collection ranging from model boats to a fire suit.  Overall, it was a worthwhile visit just trying to imagine what it must have been like to be incarcerated here at the southern tip of South America.  Back in the centre of town we managed to stretch lunch at the Hard Rock Café until 5:00 o'clock (our lives not being nearly as rough as the prisoners) and then picked up our freshly laundered parkas.  After eight months of riding and driving south we started north.  While it was psychologically difficult going the opposite direction (now we're heading home!) the drive to Rio Grande itself was easy.

Museo Maritimo y del Presidio de Ushuaia

A mock-up of a tiny cell

A sharp eyed guard keeps track of all the prisoners

Ekke makes good his escape

That's it, after 8 months of going south we finally turn north, in the direction of home

With a couple of border crossings coming up we got an early start, driving on good pavement back to the Chilean border.  The border crossing was quick and easy and then we had about 30 kilometres of gravel road to the intersection where we had visited the King penguins.  This time we turned north and promptly drove onto a new concrete highway all the way to the ferry to cross the Straights of Magellan and off the island of Tierra del Fuego.  This means that it's possible to ride all the way from Colombia to Ushuaia with only the occasional construction zone to interrupt the pavement.  A few dozen kilometres after disembarking from the smooth, wind-free ferry crossing we came to our second border crossing to get back into Argentina.  The station on the Chilean side only seemed to have a southbound processing facility so we crossed over to Argentina and found that both in and out were in the same building so that we could get our VW properly stamped back into Argentina (important for returning the rental car).  After less than 100 kilometres we arrived at Río Gallegos and checked into the Amérian Rio Gallegos hotel.  We did a little planning that evening and decided that rather than heading straight up Highway 3 back to Comodoro Rivadavia, where our bikes were stored, we wanted to detour west to see the Cueva de las Manos along Ruta 40.  This was along a rather notorious stretch of gravel, known for its brutal cross winds and loose gravel.  Something we probably wouldn't have attempted on the motorbikes.  We found a ranch close to the cave in Gobernador Gregores and booked it online before turning in.

Entering Chile on Tierra del Fuego, just 30 km of construction

Brand new concrete highway

Taking the ferry off Tierra del Fuego

Rio Gallegos tonight and Capital Federal (Buenos Aires) after we pick up the motorbikes

As we had both come down with a terrible cold the previous night we had a rather late start under cloudy skies.  Soon the light rain became heavy and the wind picked up so we were rather appreciative of the heater in the car.  We appreciated it even more when we stopped in Esperanza for a stretch and met a group of Americans on rented motorbikes.  They had come from Gobernador Gregores, our destination, but the slick mud meant that each of them had taken a tumble at one time or another on the ride south.  They looked on rather enviously as we climbed back into our warm, dry car and drove north.  We got to Tres Lagos at lunch time but couldn't find a restaurant in town so backtracked to a gas station we had seen a few kilometres back.  While we had a sandwich the heavens opened up and it started lashing down with rain.  After the rain let up a little we got back into the car (still warm and dry) and drove back through Tres Lagos where the streets had turned into muddy brown rivers.  Our little expedition vehicle was really proving its mettle wading through the flash flood but little did we know that it would soon meet its match.  North on Ruta 40 we were pleasantly surprised by the beautiful new pavement.  That lasted about 25 kilometres and then the road turned to loose gravel, which wasn't too bad in the car but a few hundred metres further the gravel turned to slick mud.  A slight incline brought our up! to a wheel-spinning halt.  We tried to keep going but found it impossible and had to turn around, even that being a challenge without sliding off into the ditch.  Back in Tres Lagos at the gas station they had Wi-Fi and we were able to cancel our hotel and we booked a hotel in El Chaltén, 90 kilometres back south and west.  El Chaltén is a resort town famous for great hiking in the nearby mountains.  As we turned off Ruta 40 and drove directly west we were amazed at the beauty of the mountains laid out before us, the most stunning of which was Mount Fitzroy, shrouded in clouds.  We arrived late in the day so didn't have time to do any of the hiking trails but did walk around town.  Over pizza at a nearby restaurant we mulled our options for the next day.  We could take the chance that Ruta 40 had dried out and continue north and maybe have enough time to pop into the Cave of the Hands or we could turn around and head back to Río Gallegos.  We decided to see what the weather looked like in the morning.

Cold, wet and windy.  Nice to be in our little up!

Flash flooding in Tres Lagos turns the streets into muddy rivers

Our VW up! is stopped by a muddy Ruta 40 (click on the photo to go to the YouTube video)

Driving west towards El Chaltén

Mount Fitzroy wearing a crown of clouds

We woke up to rain.  Since the rental car had to be back in Comodoro Rivadavia in a couple of days we decided that we couldn't afford to wait and see if Ruta 40 was going to dry out.  The only thing to do was an enormous U-turn, going back 400 kilometres towards Río Gallegos and then north on Ruta 3 along the Atlantic Ocean.  As we left El Chaltén we could see that at elevations only a few hundred metres about the valley floor the rain had turned to snow.  Combined with the incessant Patagonian wind we could imagine how challenging it would have been to be on the motorbikes.  We had true respect for a couple of motorcycle travellers on small bikes with Bolivian licence plates that we passed.  After stopping in Esperanza (the fourth time on this trip!) for yummy empanadas and croissants we continued east on Ruta 5 (the third time on this particular stretch of road) and then turned north on Ruta 3, eventually stopping at Puerto San Julián.  It would have been 272 kilometres straight east from Tres Lagos but because of the gravel road we had gone 776 kilometres all the way around (now that's a detour).  Puerto San Julián was named by Ferdinand Magellan who spent the winter of 1520 in the harbour and so a small display was set up along the waterfront commemorating the landing with a replica of Magellan's ship.  Across from our hotel, the Hotel Costanera, was a plaza celebrating the Heroes de Malvinas with a fighter jet emblazoned with three "kills" and a plaque listing the names of the warriors who died fighting what we know as the Falklands War.

Fueling up the up! as we left El Chaltén

Fresh snow only a few hundred metres above the road

Must have been chilly for these Bolivian bikers

Guanacos enjoying a roadside snack

I think Audrey would rather be back in the car

Replica of Magellan's ship in Puerto San Julián

This fighter jet pilot recorded three "kills" in the Falklands War

Friday, March 10, Audrey had an appointment in Comodoro Rivadavia with the doctor who examined her broken foot those many weeks ago.  Since his shift was finished at Noon we had to hustle our little VW along the highway at a pretty good clip.  For a little "city" car it sure performed well on the wide open Patagonian prairie and we made it to the hospital with ten minutes to spare.  The examination didn't take long and when I walked back to the front door after parking the car Audrey was already leaving with good news.  She was cleared to ride!  With that we checked in at the hotel where the bikes were parked and found them to be OK except for the cover of Audrey's F650GS, which was missing.  It had blown off and the front desk had stored it for us.  Since we still had the car we thought we would gather up our souvenirs (and parkas) to mail home.  Unfortunately the customs office was closed on Friday afternoon and we couldn't get the packages inspected until Monday so we had a weekend in Comodoro Rivadavia.  When we returned our faithful VW up! there were three BMW motorcycles from Alberta parked in front of the hotel.  Cool!  Chatting with the riders we found out they were from Edmonton and they had done the ride south in segments.  This particular segment was from Cartagena, Colombia down to Ushuaia.  They had made it from Cartagena in 29 days.  It had taken us about 130 days (after subtracting 3 months spent in Calgary with a broken knee).  That day they had ridden from Bariloche, a distance of 840 kilometres.  To be honest, part of me longed to join them on the ride to Ushuaia, just for that sense of accomplishment of riding to the end of the world, but thinking of riding 800-kilometre days in wind and rain made for a good reality check.  We wished them well.

Driving north along Ruta 3 back to Comodoro Rivadavia

On the weekend with the gift of time, Audrey worked on her CBE application to return to work and I spent a bit of time on the motorbikes, making sure they were ready to continue the journey and repair any damage done by the mishap on Ruta 40.  The biggest damage was to the right side saddlebag but fortunately nothing was bent, the saddlebag had just been raised in its mount and that was blocking the opening of the gas cap.  An easy fix.  Late in the afternoon we walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner and found out that they weren't actually serving dinner, just "afternoon tea".  While enjoying our sandwiches and sweet treats I noticed something odd.  I was the only male in the restaurant.  There were thirty or forty women having afternoon tea in parties ranging in size from two to twenty but not a single man was here.  Odd.  Also, there were so many sweets and cakes that we couldn't finish it all.  I announce to Audrey that I'm never having sweets ever again.  On Sunday we went for a short ride around Comodoro Rivadavia and Audrey mentioned that the F650 felt odd, almost like it had a flat tire.  After checking the tires, I took it for a spin and thought it had bad steering head bearings.  We had seen a KTM motorcycle shop near the hospital so made plans to go there on Monday.

Back on the bikes!

On Monday we rode to the post office with the two parcels, one packed with souvenirs and the other with parkas, and had them checked out by Aduana.  They passed and we were allowed to send them home.  Though after getting the cost estimate of 5,141 pesos we were pretty much ready to carry them home ourselves.  $500!?!  Seriously?  Yes, seriously.  Of course the post office did not accept credit cards so we had to visit various banks until we found a Citibank that accepted our debit cards.  Lighter of wallet and motorbike we then rode over to the KTM dealer in the hopes that they could replace the steering head bearings on the F650.  Fortunately they had the parts available and were able to do the repair the same day.  I doubled Audrey back to the hotel and we returned at 7:00 to pick the bike up.  At 3,000 pesos it was a lot cheaper than sending the parcels home.

Taking the parcels to the post office (still smiling because we don't know the bill yet)

On Pi Day, Tuesday, March 14, we carted all of our stuff downstairs and figured out how to pack motorcycles again.  The month in the car was really convenient and easy travelling so it took a little while to get everything loaded up.  We rode through town for the last time, past the hospital and then north on Ruta 3.  Out on the highway the strong crosswind from the west made for tough riding, made even worse whenever an oncoming bus or truck would almost blow us off the road and then suck us into its wake.  After only half an hour we pulled off the road and removed the peaks from our helmets.  What a difference; it was much easier on the neck muscles with the steady wind and oncoming trucks weren't nearly as vicious.  Audrey had found that a town of Welsh settlers, just a few kilometres off our route, was famous for its afternoon teas.  When we walked into the Ty Gwyn restaurant in Gaiman it was like stepping into a restaurant in Wales.  Soon our table was groaning under the weight of sandwiches and cakes.  Every time our pot of steeped tea looked like it might be running low a fresh pot was brought over.  For someone who swore off sweets just a few days ago I ate like a man possessed.  Still, we barely made it halfway through and seriously contemplated getting a doggy bag.  Back on the bikes we stiffened up the suspension to handle our extra girth, wobbled over to a gas station for fuel and rode back to Ruta 3.  There we passed a gas station with a couple of motorcycle travellers in a line of 50 to 80 cars waiting for fuel.  I contemplated doing a U-turn and letting them know that there was a gas station in Gaiman only 20 kilometres away without a line but there was no safe opportunity to do so.  What's Argentina if you don't experience the occasional gas line up anyway?  In Puerto Madryn we checked into the Dazzler Hotel and because of our VIP+ status with Expedia (yeah, we've booked a lot of hotel rooms) were assigned a top floor room with fantastic ocean and beach views.

Stop half an hour out of Comodoro Rivadavia to remove the peaks from the helmets

A flock of rhea along the side of Ruta 3

Gas stations are far between in Patagonia, better stop

Ty Gwyn Casa de Te (yes, a Welsh tea house in Argentina)

Even though it is "pie day" (March 14) we're having cake and sandwhiches

View from the top floor of the Dazzler Hotel in Puerto Madryn

Wednesday we walked on the beach and worked on writing up the Chile chapter of our website.  We also went to a car rental office to make arrangements to pick up a car on Thursday.  We wanted to visit Península Valdés for what we hoped would be some awesome wildlife viewing and we still weren't terribly keen on riding hundreds of kilometres of unknown gravel road to get there.  The rental agent was really helpful and even checked the tide tables to determine what would be the best time to see the famous orcas.  While filling in the paperwork and noticing that we were from Alberta he mentioned that one of his all-time favourite videos was the Travel Alberta video, "Remember to breathe" and promptly played it on his computer.  Wow, we live in a pretty spectacular place!

Low tide in Puerto Madryn

Audrey outruns a whale

Península Valdés is a UNESCO world heritage site famous for its conservation of marine mammals.  While it has been set aside for conservation of the southern right whale, the southern sea elephant and southern sea lions, we were more interested in seeing how orcas had developed a unique hunting strategy to adapt to local coastal conditions.  At high tide orcas will sometimes ride up onto the beach to capture sea lion pups.  High tide was at 13:40 on March 16 and after picking up our rental Ford Fiesta drove for about three hours (on loose gravel, good choice to get a car) to get to Punta Norte at noon.  A small sea lion colony was visible from the viewpoint and some of the pups looked like the might be ripe for snacking.  We sat down and waited.  And waited.  For three hours.  Not a single orca cruised by, never mind one coming up on the beach for a meal.  Oh well, it was a relaxing time, hanging out by the sea watching the sea lions and a couple of scruffy Magellanic penguins.  Looping around the peninsula we stopped at a couple of locations to check out an elephant seal colony and truly unique burrowing Magellanic penguins.  How do they make their burrows?  Leaving the peninsula we spotted some movement in the grass and pulled over to have a closer look.  The creatures almost seemed like a cross between a small deer and a hare.  We had heard of jackalopes before but thought them to be mythical.  We stopped at the visitor centre, hoping to get some information on what we had seen.  Sure enough, it wasn't a figment of our imagination.  It was a mara or Patagonian cavy, a relative of the capybara we hoped to see in Brazil.  They also had some photos of orcas utilizing their unique hunting strategy.

Happy to be in a car again

Hmm, a sea lion colony

With sea lion pups

Oh, wouldn't that make a nice light snack for an orca?

The local guanacos aren't too bothered by the orcas

An armadillo tries to hide

Audrey and the burrowing Magellanic penguins

How do they dig their burrows?

What the heck?  Jackalopes?

Oh, this is one odd creature

Fortunately the visitor centre had a poster

And this is what an orca snacking on a sea lion pup would have looked like

On Saint Patrick's Day we continued riding north along the coast.  When we stopped in Sierra Grande for a bite to eat Audrey ordered something rather interesting.  Queso y dulce.  Yes, a sweet cheese as a kind of jelly.   It certainly had a unique flavour and actually was quite tasty.  In the afternoon the wind had picked up and I wished I had removed the peak from the helmet.  At least heading north it provided some shade and it helped to build nice strong neck muscles should I choose a career in football.  We arrived in Las Grutas early in the afternoon, giving us plenty of time to head down to the resort town's lovely beach.  

North across Patagonia with our invisible nemesis, the wind

Yummy Queso y dulce for lunch

Nice beach at Las Grutas

Leaving Las Grutas we stopped off at a Shell station to top off the gas tanks and found that Audrey's F650 was almost on reserve after only doing 250 kilometres.  Was there a leak in the tank?  No, just brutal cross and head winds.  Fortunately the wind wasn't as bad today and after lunch in Rio Colorado we noticed that the landscape had changed as well.  Gone were the scrub and sheep of Patagonia, replaced by the green grass, cattle and (shock!) trees of the pampas.  Traffic was a bit heavier too as we left that feeling of remoteness that was a common theme in Patagonia.  In Bahia Blanca we circled the plaza downtown, in search of the Hotel Austral, where Audrey was chased by a fierce dachshund.  After checking in we walked back to the plaza at supper time and found that there were many dachshunds leading their owners around the plaza.  Why would Bahia Blanca be a hotbed of dachshund activity?  

The last of the Patagonian countryside slips beneath our wheels

We enter the pampas with actual trees!

A BMW F800GS was in the parking lot of the hotel as we were packing up and the owner, from New Hampshire, came over to chat.  He had ridden down from the U.S. in about five months and had arranged to ship the bike home from Buenos Aires later in the week.  While he had some challenges with the arrangements through Dakar Motos in hindsight (as I write this at home in Canada) perhaps we should also have shipped from Buenos Aires.  Our new friend headed straight north for BA while we took the coastal route to Mar del Plata.  At our first gas stop we had another indication that we had left Patagonia.  We had heard that the gasoline prices were subsidized in that southern area and sure enough the prices were much higher now at 21.50 pesos per litre (about $1.85) but on the plus side there were no lineups.  We approached the Gran Hotel Provincial in Mar del Plata from a side street, taken aback at its grandeur.  How could we afford such a magnificent hotel?  The next day as we walked down by the beach of this expensive resort we determined that we were here during low season.  All the huts and parasols were empty.  Because Mar del Plata is but a short drive from Buenos Aires it is extremely popular with porteños, even having its own webcams showing the beaches.

Gran Hotel Provincial in Mar del Plata

How could we possibly afford this luxury hotel?

Off season rates means there is lots of room on the beach too

The next morning we rode through the resort town and then turned north towards Buenos Aires.  I was surprised to see that the highway was named for one of the most famous Grand Prix racing drivers of all time, Autopista Juan Manuel Fangio.  The famed Argentinian lent his name to a four lane divided highway that made for an easy ride into the megalopolis of Buenos Aires.

Riding out of Mar del Plata

A highway named after a world famous racing car driver?  This should be a quick trip.

Entering Buenos Aires

Audrey Writes

Riding into the city of Buenos Aires on March 21st, 2017, I was struck with the enormity of the place, the heavy traffic, horns honking, and so many pedestrians. But what stood out the most were the grey-stone historic buildings, lining every avenue, some elegantly crumbling, all of them decorated with intricately-carved details. What a thrill to look down one street and catch a glimpse of the iconic Obelisk, a famous Buenos Aires landmark, on our ride to the hotel, and Ekke and I just looked at each other, laughing out loud in delight. We had arrived in one of the world’s great cities. Having pre-booked a hotel on Expedia made life easy, and when we got there we were shown to the underground parking, accessed by a steep ramp with slippery, freshly painted yellow lines, making it an adventure to navigate. No one (ie, me) dropped a bike, however. It was the perfect place to park bikes for the unknown duration of our stay, unknown because we had a few errands to take care of here. Our hotel window afforded a view of of a beautiful city square, its loveliness only marred by the construction of a new underground parking lot below the square. The Obelisk Square, Plaza de la Republica, was within walking distance, and we arrived there right at dusk, crossing 8 of the 16 lanes to get to the huge statue. I'm pretty sure that this was the longest pedestrian crossing we’ve ever done in our world travels. The Obilesco was built in 1936 to commemorate 400 years since the city’s first foundations were built.

Plaza del Congreso from our Ibis hotel in Buenos Aires

Congreso de la Nacion Argentina

Instantly recognizable Obelisco in the middle of the 16-lane Avenida 9 de Julio

Avenida 9 de Julio made for some cool car watching

On our walk to downtown the next day there was a huge ruckus, a bunch of protesters walking down our street, carrying banners that had something to do with education, chanting and sounding air horns. The area of the city we were in was ground zero for protests as the Congreso building, the legislative seat of the government, was at one end of the park. Dodging angry protesting teachers, probably demanding smaller class sizes, we crossed the street through the crowd and we gingerly tiptoed on crumbling sidewalks. How did the stiletto-wearing locals navigate this? Our goal was to see a doctor at the private Hospital Britanico so that Ekke could book an MRI and I could get my foot x-rayed after crashing my bike a month earlier. Even though health care is free to all in Argentina, even tourists, we discovered that we could pay a bit for faster service.

We soon came to realize that Plaza del Congreso was the starting or ending point for a lot of marches

Audrey thinks about joining the march for public education

The local Rodi Bar was a great place for lunch, the seafood-stuffed tomato delicious, but it was our first experience with a cubierto or cover charge. The bill came with an extra 60 pesos tacked on, about $6.00, and when we asked the server what it was for, he pointed at the cutlery and napkins. Really? Were we supposed to eat it with our hands? After that we watched for restaurants with the “No Cubierto” signs. Cemeterio Recoleto was within walking distance, so we had a pleasant afternoon meandering around the impressive tombs. We only had to follow the crowds of tourists to find Eva Peron’s final resting place, and it was quite a modest tomb, considering the fame she had attained in her life, working her way up from a small-town waitress to a national icon and snappy dresser as the wife of President Juan Peron.

Cemeterio Recoleto

That's a familiar name

Managed to get a photo of Eva Peron's memorial through the crowds

A beautiful cemetary with incredibly ornate tombs

Museo de Bellas Artes was housed in a gorgeous, sienna coloured historic treasure of a building. What a thrill to gaze at paintings and statues, surprising ourselves by identifying a Van Gogh here or a Rodin there, before reading the info cards. Lovely Monet pastels, Degas’ ballerinas and Gaugin’s Tahitians rounded out the impressionists, and it felt like we were in Paris. A display by a local artist, Xul Solar was a riot of colour in an animation-like style, and we just sighed as we took in the beauty all around us.

The always helpful Audrey

Museo de Bellas Artes with a fantastic collection of world class art (like this Rembrandt)


Van Gogh

After a pleasant stroll up Alvear Street with its huge, ornately decorated mansions, past the Teatro Colon, we finally had a chance to check our email at dinner, at the Cafe Metro Bar, to see if the doctor had gotten Ekke an MRI appointment. It turns out that the appointment was for that afternoon, and we had missed it, floored that it would happen so soon, just hours after seeing the doctor. At home, one could wait weeks or even months for non-emergency MRIs. We emailed the doctor to rebook the appointment, and once again he said he’d contact us by email, the next day.

Teatro Colon

So, the next day we stayed close to places with wifi, starting at historic Cafe Negro with its wooden decor and fancy porcelain teacups, and then to Starbucks because we didn’t want to get charged for loitering at the tea place. Fortunately (or unfortunately), Starbucks had the most reliable internet and we could sit there for ages, as long as we kept buying our lattes and chais, so it became our go-to internet spot, especially for catching up on writing the website. For lunch we grabbed a couple of sandwiches and sat in a lovely park, the shady trees a brief respite from the hot, bustling downtown streets. In our third cafe, Havana, Ekke finally got the email to go for the MRI right away. There was some confusion at the clinic as no one there knew who had set up the appointment, but it's amazing what forking over $200 will do and they got him in, no problem. I heard a loud humming sound of the MRI machine while I waited just outside the door, and ten minutes later Ekke was out. For about $20 I did get my x-rays, as well, from a very friendly technician and I was quite taken aback when she kissed me affectionately on the cheek and told me I was a good girl after the procedure. I’m not sure if she was just practising her English or if it was just standard procedure. The broken bone in my foot, however, was healing nicely.

Wandering around the next day, Monday, March 24th, the streets seemed eerily empty and we noticed that stores were closed up tight with garage-type security doors pulled down. Even McDonalds was closed. After finding internet, we realized it was the Truth and Justice national holiday, a day of remembrance of victims of the Dirty War in 1976. Back at Congressional Plaza near our hotel, where we had seen regular protests almost every day, it was astonishing to see it absolutely chock-a-block with even more protesters carrying banners and cardboard cut-outs of missing loved ones.They were marching to Plaza de Mayo so we joined in. As we were walking I saw a man drop his wallet so I picked it up and gave it back to him, expecting him to be very thankful. He just threw it to the ground. I was flabbergasted but quickly realized that he was probably a pickpocket who had just taken out the cash and was throwing the wallet away on purpose. Sheesh. Ekke checked that he still had his wallet, and yes, he did. The march moved through Plaza Republica, along Ave. De Mayo and we wandered amidst groups of people blaring horns, throwing firecrackers, waving banners, singing and shouting. The streets were too crowded to walk on without getting jostled about, and at one point we could not move, like, literally not move in any direction. It was actually a bit scary. Ekke and I had to push our way to a side street, while getting shoved from the opposite direction, and we felt relieved to be out of the crush of protesters. Circumventing the crowd, we made our way to Plaza de Mayo, where there were some speeches in the same square where the Perons had given their speeches from the Casa Rosada building. I could just envision Madonna, as Eva Peron, singing, “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” from that pink balcony. Cue the “Evita” soundtrack.

Another day and another march on Plaza del Congreso

This march was in memory of the 30,000 people missing during the Dirty War of 1974 to 1983

Stopping traffic on Avenida 9 de Julio

Casa Rosada on Plaza de Mayo

The Kirchner Cultural Centre was nearby, housed in an old post office building, with a beautiful metallic floating concert hall. It was a relief to wander through at our own pace, away from the hordes of people on the streets below. A gaucho photographic display was so interesting to walk through, with the magnificent horses, cool-looking chaps and big hats reminiscent of our Alberta cowpokes. Modern art featuring Argentinian popular culture was housed in several different galleries, with some very thought-provoking pieces. This was definitely ranked among the most modernist modern art we’ve seen in our travels. Our day ended with a moonlit walk to Calatrava’s Puente de Mujer pedestrian bridge over the canal followed by some amazing empanadas.

A floating concert hall and art gallery in the Kirchner Cultural Centre

Some very modern art

The art gallery had a wonderful gaucho photographic exhibit

The Calatrava designed bridge, Puente de Mujer, makes for a nice moonlight stroll

After seeing her famous balcony the day before, we were curious about Eva Peron’s life, so we took the subway to the Palermo district and found Museo Evita. The converted mansion was once a refuge for homeless women and children, a cause close to Evita’s heart, and through videos, photographs, books and artefacts, the museum told the story of her life as a rising Argentinian heroine. Known for her sense of fashion, it was fun to gaze upon her elegant gowns, hats, shoes and jewellery on display, and ponder it all in the adjacent leafy garden cafe afterwards.

Outside Museo Evita

No photographs allowed past here

After a lazy day of just working on the website, we decided to plan the remaining five months of our trip, spreading out our big map on a wooden table at Starbucks. There were so many possibilities, like riding to Belem and boating up the Amazon or riding to Porto Velho and backtracking through Peru and a few other countries or doing a loop of Brazil and then flying the bikes home. One decision we did make was to try to include Paraguay in our plans, so we got the application forms from their consulate, not far from the MRI place. The visas would take a few days, so we did more sightseeing, taking a subway to the Casa Rosada museum. The museum was underground, utilizing the foundations of an old fort, and showcased the history of how the city grew with artefacts of past presidents, city councillor robes, desks, keys to the city, old carriages, and a portrait of Juan Peron and Evita. Cobbled streets took us past a quaint 15 block souvenir and street market. It felt so European here.

Changing of the guard at Casa Rosada

Inside the Casa Rosada museum

Lively street market off Plaza de Mayo

While still waiting for the visas, we visited La Boca, a neighbourhood with colourful buildings and sidewalk tango dancers. It was super touristy, but it did have historic roots in that the Italian dock workers who lived here were so poor that they used scraps like sheet metal to build their houses, painting them with leftover paint which gave them the patchwork coloured appearance. So, it was very interesting to wander among the colourful buildings and then pay way too much at a tourist shop for our Pope Francis fridge magnets. Bombanero Stadium was also in the area, where the futbol Boca Juniors play, but unfortunately there were no games scheduled in the near future. We'll have to come back sometime for a game. Sitting in the elegant London City Cafe back in San Telmo, we sipped tea and wrote postcards. We were more than a little surprised when the postmaster at a nearby post office told us they would cost $50 to mail. What is it with expensive postage in Argentina? There was nothing for it but to pay (Hope you enjoyed your postcards, you guys).

Tango in the Metro (click on the photo to watch the YouTube video)

Colourful La Boca neighbourhood

Writing postcards at the London City Cafe

After paying $150 US each for our Paraguay visas the next day, we were told to return before 3:00 p.m. to get them, which was perfect as were were planning to leave BA the next day. We wandered to the imaging centre to get Ekke's MRI scans which they’d put on a disk that he could take to the doctor and by the time that process was finished, realized it was 2:59 pm. I ran to the Paraguay visa office, a block away, and was so disappointed to find the door locked. A girl coming out of the building asked what I wanted and very kindly went back in and got Daniel, our visa guy, who said that the documents were not ready due to a consular emergency. I told him that we were leaving BA and going to Uruguay the next day, and I must have looked so disappointed that he said to come back in an hour. The visas were, thankfully, ready when we returned but mine had a letter attached saying the visa number didn’t match the receipt number because of the consular interruption, whatever that means. Hopefully this wouldn’t cause us problems at the Paraguayan border. Ekke took his MRI scan on the disk to Dr. German Garabano who examined him and gave ideas for physiotherapy that he could do himself. Our hotel was very close to the Revolucione Cafe so we went there for our last evening in Buenos Aires. There were photos of revolutionaries like Che and Gandhi and photos of women in white scarves, the mothers of some of the 30,000 missing of the Dirty War.

The ride out of town the next morning, March 30th, was fairly easy, mostly highway, and soon we were riding in the countryside, past stilt houses and parillas or steak shacks, wetlands, on a high bridge over the Rio Paraña, in the direction of Uruguay.

Leaving Buenos Aires

Lunch time!

About to cross the Rio Paraña into Uruguay

Map of our route from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires  
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