20.10.07 somewhere on the Rio Plata

It is saturday afternoon and we are on the boat the "Grande Buenos Aires" somewhere between Montevideo and Buenos Aires on the river Rio Plata. Tonight we´ll arrive at the port of Zarate and then, once the cargo is off-loaded, will head off for Buenos Aires. There we finally leave the GBA after an Atlantic crossing and 22 days at sea.

For my part I am quite happy to get off the boat. It was interesting and time passed quickly. Especially the "shore leave" at the ports of Dakar (Senegal), Salvador de Bahia, Rio and Santos (Brazil). We explored the boat, spent time on the bridge, got to know more about ship navigation, played endless hours of ping-pong (or watched endless hours of Bollywood in Rs case), read many books, improved the slack line walking, learned spanish and in my case spent some time setting up the website. But now it is time to get onto the motorbike again and move...

The plan, as far as you can call it a plan, is to spend a few days in Buenos Aires and then make our way south: Valdes, Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. There we´ll turn around and head north through Chile.

Here is a short account of the last few weeks:

On a cloudy saturday morning we left Liechtenstein and crossed some passes into France. Past Chamonix we rode to Gorge du Tarn and spent two days climbing there before rain drove us west towards Bordeaux to visit Nathalie and Bernard. Nathalie and Renee worked together in Israel and the Seychelles so it was a happy 10 year reunion for them! It was also an added bonus to spend a few days under a roof and be spoilt rotten with Nathalies french cooking. We left Douzillac dodging rain showers all the way to the basque country and from there to Bilbao. Because the boat was delayed (again) we had some time to spend in the city and make a trip to the extravagant and beautiful Guggenheim museum. Then on sunday the 30th of october we boarded the "Grande Buenos Aires". The first days on the ship passed quickly as there was a lot to see and explore. The other eight passengers also helped to pass time...austrian, swiss, german, french and vietnamese!! Our conversations with the Chief Engineer were very interesting (he was also the source of Renee´s Bollywood booty). He gave us a lot of information as to the ins and outs of the ship. It has an 8 cylinder engine which drives the propeller at 145rpm and uses 70 tonnes (!) of fuel a day. The fuel loading capacity is 2400 tonnes. The fresh water plant produces 20´000 litres of water per day. When we left Spain the cargo loaded was some 500 containers, 1400 cars, a couple of trucks and brand new harvesters and a train! The dimensions for navigation are on a different scale to what Renee is used to....

Knowing your size:

It happened in France in a small village in the Rhone valley. We decided to stop for a coffee. With the sidecar I pulled over into a parking lot and Renee followed me. But instead of turning into the parking bay, she aimed for the walkway next to it... All I heard was a big bang. When I turned around I saw that Renee had knocked over one of the concrete poles that fence off the walkway with her aluminium boxes on the BMW. She had tried to ride onto the walkway between the two poles but the bike was a tad wider than she thought (knowing your size!). To my surprise Renee was still standing but the pole was lying on the ground. Quickly, as nobody had seen us, we put the pole back and hid in the restaurant, drank coffee and managed to laugh about the first dent in the box.

A stroll along the dock:

It was evening when we arrived in Dakar and we were thirsty. So Renee, Sebastian (one of the other passengers) and myself got off the boat, out of the harbour and into the next bar - a typical african bar (a shebeen for the saffies): plastic chairs, loud jangly music from a cheap tape recorder, a corrugated iron roof and metal bars in front of the windows. But the beer was cold and cheap. When we had quenched our thirst the three of us went back to the harbour and decided to take a stroll along the dock before getting on. All of a sudden Renee grabbed my shoulder and shouted: "Sebastian is gone!" We then heard some frantic splashing and as we looked down the odd 2/3 meters to the water we saw Sebastian swimming the narrow gap between the boat and the dock. He had walked the wrong way round the bollard and slipped in to the murky waters of Dakars harbour.One of the crew pulled him out with a rope. The next morning at breakfast he complained that he still had the taste of the water in his mouth.

29.10.07 an internet cafe in Buenos Aires

Just a few words on why it took so long to get the website up and running... We haven't had much luck with our laptop. On the GBA the damn thing died on us all of a sudden due to a shortcircuit on the motherboard. A loose screw had been rattling around (probably while the laptop was riding crosscountry on the motorbike). I took the bastard apart but all my swearing and cursing couldn't bring it back to life, so I sent the thing off to computer heaven -no not to the bottom of the atlantic). I knew the laptop wasn't designed to be transported in a "coffin" on a sidecar but I had hoped it would at least survive the short trip to Buenos Aires. Nevertheless with the help of Peter, a fellow passenger on the GBA, I managed to set up the hard drive to work on the website again.

We arrived last Monday in Buenos Aires and settled down at Sandra and Javiers Workshop known as Dakar Motos. A workshop with a couple of beds and space for some tents, so its minimal luxury but maximum company and a good source of infos for the road. On our second evening in Argentina we got treated to an asado (braais/barbeques pale in comparison) which involves the biggest chunks of meat and sausages you've ever seen washed down with large quantities of argentinien wine. The ex-vegetarian managed surprisingly well!! A couple of days later we met up with Doug, an old friend from South Africa who is living in Montevideo for 6 months with his fiance. Together we explored the town and he introduced us a to the argentinian lifestyle which unfortunately didn't agree with me. We went out for some empanadas (pies) and beers in Palermo and hit the clubs afterwards. We got home at dawn and just after I had settled into our tent, my stomach started to grumble... I just made it to the toilet on time. The rest of saturday was spent either on the toilet or in bed. I felt like shit (literally ed.).

I feel a bit better now. Still can't face empanadas or beer but at least breakfast stays where it's supposed to! We will be spending a few more days in Buenos Aires to run a few errands and then we head off for the big South - yours aye Axel