We made it! After 5 1/2 months, 12 countries, several bouts of illness, many long days and many fantastic adventures, we have arrived at our destination. Buenos Aires, inspiration for our trip in the first place, the eventual goal. Our last couple of weeks have been incredible, a bit strange knowing we were nearing the end and honestly not sure if we liked that or not. As we've become accustomed to living with very little, having our goals be a distance and our hours our own, I can only imagine that the transition back into life with apartments and bills may be a bit of a struggle. Someone suggested we get rid all of our things in storage and just start fresh. I must say that simple living, one pair of jeans and no thought needed about what to wear has been pretty nice.
Perhaps inevitably we feel ourselves pulled to do more trips and see more of the world. There is so much to see, and even with twelve countries under our belt (if one can even count our one day in Chile) the curiosity button has been activated.
After spending just one night in Chile, we headed towards the Argentinian border. There is nothing out between the border posts except for a few lonely border guards who seemed to take an especially long time on purpose just for the company. As we waited for them to do their thing, two young, bearded French guys came walking out of the wilderness wearing backpacks and using high tech walking sticks. They are apparently using their six months of vacation to walk their way around South America, --about 25-30 km a day- because (as we overheard them tell the border officials) "It's a much better way to travel."
At some point in the afternoon we finished up at the Frontera and entered Argentina. Excited, we headed toward the nearest town as the sun dropped ever lower in the sky and the air chilled. Adam tried to keep his hands warm-ish by holding them against the engine as we drove, but I'm pretty sure it didn't work well enough. After a few hours we ran out of gas in our main tank and Adam switched to the reserve. The furthest we've ever rode after switching to reserve was around 30 miles (50 km). Not knowing how much further it was to our destination we began driving slower and trying to conserve our fuel. Five minutes later we saw a sign marking the next town at 68 km. I groaned inside. The road turned from long and straight to switchbacks down a steep mountain. As the sun disappeared we strained our eyes to see as the headlight dimly flickered the way ahead. It was very cold. I was wearing two pair of wool socks but as I curled my toes in to try and warm them up a bit I could feel ice breaking between them. Sitting behind Adam I definitely enjoy some respite from the wind, so if ice was forming in my boots I can only imagine how cold he must have been. Luckily, Argentina has a stronger government infrastructure than many of the other countries we've visited, so every 5 miles or so there were SOS stations with phones to call for help. This didn't exactly make the situation any better, but at least there existed the potential for rescue. We were both sure we'd end up out in the frozen waste with no shelter, but luckily for us around 7pm we finally made it into town. Adam laid down on the bed and went to sleep immediately, as I took off his boots and socks and held them against the heater trying to get him warmed up a little. He then slept for 15 hours straight.
Our ride across Argentina was quick. After San Antonio de Los Cobres we headed toward Salta, the road winding out of the mountains on a beautiful stretch of asphalt and out onto the plains. Four days of grazing lands, cane fields, and cows. The land is amazingly flat and wide. We stayed one night in Salta which was a neat city with fun restaurants and pretty shops. We found ourselves at Hostal Tierra Oculta, which was cheap-ish, heated, and had wireless internet. It also had hot showers with gas heat! By cheap-ish I mean it was only $20 a night, but after Bolivia which was typically about $8/night for the two of us it seemed extravagantly priced, and even now we are trying to adjust.
The next night we stayed in Santiago de Estero where we had our first gas station sit-down cappuccino breakfast at an Esso station. They have wifi and espresso machines, fresh croissants and it is strange.
Our fourth night we arrived at Dakar Motos in Buenos Aires, which we've been hearing about since before our trip began. They offer a machine shop and expertise on motorcycles for travelers with a couple of bunkbeds in the back with a kitchen. We knocked at the unmarked grey door, heard keys in the latch, and when it opened, there was our friend Woody who we'd left in San Pedro de Atacama in Chile! He'd decided to save Southern Chile for another trip, and had arrived a few minutes before us. There was also an Australian couple there, Hannah and Owen, who had bought a KLR 650 from a friend we'd met on the Stahlratte from Panama to Colombia, and were gearing up for a 1 year trip around South America. It was fun to hear about their preparations and share a little of what we've learned along the way.
Two nights there, and then we got up early to get the keys for our little apartment! Woody came along to see it, and after moving our stuff in we met him down the street at a little cafe for cafe con leche (cappuccinos) and fresh pastries.
The next two days we filled the cupboards with food, I cooked three meals a day and we settled in. We also did laundry and wandered around the city learning our way around the neighborhood. We have a great place with a lovely view and easy access to the Subte (subway lines), the Train, and an amazing network of buses.
We spent two lazy evenings drinking Malbec and enjoying home cooked food. We turned the heater up and took long, hot showers. I enjoyed several containers of small, crunchy pickles and Adam made himself comfy on the couch taking naps and curling up with blankets. It was a good start to our stay.
Lily arrived on Wednesday, and we headed out to Recoleta Cemetery. We've filled the last couple of days with city walks, sitting at cafes, and cooking dinner while sipping wine and listening to music. Woody joined us last night, and I made chicken stroganoff with rice and apple crisp. A bottle of decent wine is about 5 pesos (less than $2) and that's fun.
There are street markets and tango shows on the weekends, and we're planning on taking some more Spanish classes. As for the hours in between, I'm sure we'll find something to do.