Sunday, 22 September 2013

Buenos Aires

By Mark

We left for Heathrow airport with much trepidation. We did not know when we would see our motorbikes again and at what cost...

Our flight from London to Rome was on time and nothing really to report along with our connecting flight to Buenos Aires. What we did not realise was how bloody cold it would be when we landed, it was in the low numbers, around 5 degrees. Were we here too early? We thought we had planned it well but it soon had us thinking that we should hit the road as soon as we got the bikes and head for Rio and warmer skies!
All cold things aside, we were happy to know that we had a place to stay in the city centre of BA. It has been hit and miss lately with couchsurfing  for us, but the good people of Buenos Aires have come to the party for us. Our first host was Santiago, a fellow bike rider who hopes to do a big trip very soon throughout the Americas. He was a great host and told us the places of interest to go and visit. One of those places he took us to was a great bar/microbrewery called Antares and is well known for its beers and has won a few awards for them also. You would hope so considering we had to wait close to an hour to get in, yes you heard right, we had to wait to get into a bar! And it was only 8pm!

We were not our usual cheery selves those first few days as we were still feeling worried about the bikes and our finances. It did not help either that after we got our yellow fever shots (for free at a local clinic) we both ended up getting sick from it. Our main concern was that our bikes were still sitting in a warehouse in Heathrow and they were going nowhere until one more large sum of money had been paid. As I explained in our last blog we made the biggest mistake of this trip trusting Russell’s freight with our precious cargo. The latest cock up on their behalf was to have our bikes built into new crates at a mammoth size therefore giving up any chance of us having our bikes shipped cheaply. The price they initially quoted us was always going to be too good to be true. Boys and girls, if it seems too good to be true, it usually is! So we reluctantly paid the excessive amount of money, feeling majorly pissed off with our agents once again, but now at least we knew our bikes would be on their way. Or...not quite; just when we thought the bikes were on their way, another delay! At least only by a day. There was not enough space on the first flight out so it was bumped back one day, but hey what was one more day in the big scheme of things?!

With our time up with our first host we had another to go to in a new neighbourhood. The problem was how to get there as we still did not have our bikes. We had a go at the public transport which is cheap but does not link you to the outer greater parts of the city. Having been on it the previous night with Santiago we were sure not to get too lost. Just a little wet from the rain! Lugging our bags around was not much fun as we had loaded up with a bunch of motorbike spares before leaving the UK and they weighed a ton. After about an hour's travel on public transport and by foot we found Alan and Mariana's cool apartment in Saavedra. From the moment we met them we both found ourselves very comfortable in their home and they made us feel both very welcome. We hit it off quickly and enjoyed chatting to them about all sorts of things over a cup of Mate, a kind of grassy tea drank widely all over Argentina and when we visited the local park this came apparent as everyone sitting down in the grass were sharing their mate, usually from an unusual cup that comes in many different shapes and sizes along with a straw to sip it through. We had it with sugar to help it go down as it has a very strong flavour which I found to be quite bitter with a strong after taste. Needless to say, I only had it the once. 

We ended up spending the next 5 nights with Alan and Mariana, the original plan was we were going to spend 3 nights with them until we got our bikes, then we would head for La Plata, about 75 kms south of Buenos Aires where we would stay with our next couchsurfing host. But of course our bikes were delayed that extra day and Alan asked if we would like to stay longer and we jumped at the chance to do so. It was great to be able to stay with people we got along with so well on top of the fact it would make life easier for us to get our bikes from the airport.

That day finally came and what date was it? 9/11! An omen? We had been tracking the bike through the American Airlines website and knew the bike would be landing around 8am so we caught a remis cab to get out to the airport first thing in the morning. We had been looking into how easy/hard it could be to get the bikes out of customs and with our limited Spanish we decided we would give it a go and were sure that it could not be any worse than it was getting our bikes out in Kathmandu. We had been to a local motorcycle garage the previous day and they had made it sound like we would have troubles especially if we didn't have the correct paper work etc when it came to our airway bills. We did for a second consider using their services to get the bikes out but at a huge cost it was just not worth it, and they would charge for 2 bikes even though they were only in 1 crate.

We firstly had to go to the American Airlines office which we were directed to after wandering around the wrong office buildings. The first thing we picked up on was how friendly and helpful everyone seemed to be. After paying a considerable sum of money for the original airway bill we were set to go tackle customs. The moment we stepped in the door, the young man at reception put us at ease and went about helping us, even bringing in a woman, well at least we think it was a woman. She was extremely tall, no hips big hands and hairy arms like a man! But she/he was lovely and could speak English. She checked that we had the correct paper work including local insurance as without this the bikes would not be going anywhere. We had already organised this a few days prior so we took a number and sat and waited patiently for our number to come up. After waiting around a while, just watching the events of everybody else going through the same motions our number was called. Oh, got excited too quickly and we were ever so lucky to wait another half an hour to be served. We sat and smiled and just let it be, we would be getting our bikes no matter what today! Finally we entered office number 2 where we had to hand over our original documents and get many more others photocopied, then we were hand balled to office number 3, back to visit she-man, once again we were palmed off now to office number 3 where things hit a little snag when we walked into office of Mr Grumpy. The problem for him was we had 1 crate but 2 motorcycles inside with 2 different owners. In normal day to day life one would probably think nothing of it, however Mr Grumpy's day had turned for the worst when we walked in. One shipment, 2 sets of paperwork for him to drown under. What was one to do! We sat, we smiled, we played stupid and showed our documents that was meant to match the original from the airline. In the end, the poor old fella took it on the chin and realised he was stuck with us and set about getting our bikes out.

After ping ponging back and forth through the 3 offices we finally got to set our eyes on our crate. Our lovelies were back in our hands, well almost. First the guys from the storage area split open the crate and to our surprise we found our 2 original crates untouched inside! Yes, we were screwed well and proper by our agents paying for a new crate that was never needed and on top of that we paid for a crate that was bigger than what we had received! All things aside our bikes were there, our gear and luggage and we hastily set about putting them back together again so we could ride the hell out of there. This would only happen after we paid some more money and going in and out of the 3 offices a few more times. The last hurdle of the day would be when we were about to leave. Once again having 2 bikes in 1 crate presented a problem at the exit gate. 1 airway bill but 2 bikes was just too difficult to comprehend. She-man suggested we wait until we could get the 2 bikes put onto 1 pallet and take them to the exit! Seriously? We sat, we smiled and went along with it until 10 minutes later she said she will just make a phone call to the guys at the gate and explain to them the problem. We sat, we smiled and nodded and thought this was just the obvious thing to do in the first place. But not wanting to upset anyone we went along with the charade until finally we were rolling our bikes out of the gate. We were not allowed to ride them and we couldn't even if we wanted. We were told to empty all fuel from our tanks in London so we had to push them to the nearest fuel station which was luckily very close by which we already knew after landing at the same airport about 10 days previously.

It was a fantastic feeling to be reunited with the bikes, with full tanks of fuel all we had to deal with was navigating our way back to our new friends' home in the city. Usually I tend to crumble and get a bit funny navigating in such huge cities but loaded with my recently acquired 'stress protect' deodorant I was well prepared. All in all, the day went smoothly and all the worries and troubles of the past few weeks disappeared now we had our bikes between our legs again. So we celebrated with a few cold beers of Argentina's finest, Quilmes cerveza.

Sadly this would be our last evening with Alan and Mariana. We wish the guys all the best for their 12 months in Australia and we really hope that one day we can host them in our home.
We parted ways early the next morning with the weather turning for the worse. Our trip to La Plata was wet and cold and in peak hour traffic right through the centre of Buenos Aires. We made it to La Plata easy enough where we met Facundo and his cat Evita Morales! Another great host who showed us around his city all afternoon and ending at our favourite pub from Buenos Aires: Antares. We enjoyed a few beverages and a light meal with him and his girlfriend. Facundo was very kind and gave up his bed for us and he would stay with his girlfriend. It was great meeting him and spending time with him and his friends. I must say that we have been really enjoying couch surfing and hope for more of the same hospitality throughout the Americas.
The next few days were very low key as the weather had really turned and felt like it was the middle of winter! Our days were spent planing our route north to a warmer climate. We were looking very forward to getting out of the big smoke and meeting many more great people.
I would like to say a big thank you to our 3 couch surfing hosts, you are all wonderful great people and made a big impression on us and we hope to again meet you all.

An old building in San Thelmo, Buenos Aires

 San Thelmo

Many demonstrations and protests at Plaza De Mayo

Looking up the Av De Mayo


 Palacio del Congreso

Across the road from Palacio del Congreso were many homeless, in fact many homeless all over the city

A beautiful sunset from Santiago's home

Me and Santiago chilling out

Let the warm up begin before the skating takes place

Mariana and Alan

This is the view from the Av 9 de Julio, the widest street in the world.

That's one big phallic symbol, or Obelisk. As you like.

A clear message from the people (Las Malvinas = Falkland Islands)

Our bikes in their original crates as well as in the big crate

Someone was veeerrrry happy to be reunited with her bike

The cathedral in down town La Plata

Town hall, La Plata

Facundo doing his best Rambo impersonation

A drawing his friend did of us and Facundo one evening on the window

Evita Morales

1 comment:

  1. Just catching up on your blog! What a shambles that shipment must have been! Did the agent actually get anything right?

    I did actually laugh quite loudly (after staring aghast at what I just read) that they had put your original crates inside a bigger crate. It seems incompetence is rife within the freight industry, not just confined to Mumbai and Dubai!

    Good luck with the rest of the trip! Hopefully this shipment didn't wipe out too much money and you can still keep going as long as you want.