As we rolled out of Buenos Aires we noticed the ominous clouds following us, with a grey sky and a threat of severe downpour. We had kept a steady, slow pace and had stayed ahead… just. The storm caught up a bit when we stopped for petrol and coffee, which we needed badly. We were so tired, presumably from the big rush to leave, the multiple false starts and a nice early departure time of 3 o’clock in the afternoon. It’s very easy, once you have a hot coffee in one hand, a chocolate in the other, its cold, and you are looking at a storm behind you and a campsite in front of you, with 160km to go, to consider throwing in the towel for the day. And that was exactly what Meg suggested, I dreaded that suggestion, but I also knew that it was coming, and worst of all I knew it was probably a good one. Damn traveling with women! why do they have to be so responsible!? I wanted to ride dammit! Don’t ask me how, but I managed to convince Megan, without argument, that we should ride on to our destination. I am still amazed to this day that I managed to pull that one off, I wish I remembered how, I must have blacked out as my brain mustered all its energy to make such a compelling argument to a cold, tired woman. Man-power for the win!
We proceeded to batten down the hatches, put on the waterproof camera bag cover, buffs, earplugs etc etc. But when it can to the waterproof over pants, we realised that they were not, for love or money, going to fit over our boots. We decided to cut our losses and just try and outrun the storm, we left promptly, and in high spirits.
We had absolutely no idea where we we were going. Javier from Dakar Motos had given us advice to stay at a place called La Posta del Viajero en Moto, and to talk to a man named Jorge ‘Pollo’ (Chicken in English) – I hadn’t looked up the meaning yet and had no idea what to expect – was it a spares shop? Motorcycle service centre? Garage? A backpackers? I had no clue, but it sounded interesting.
So we pushed on with this goal in mind, the dark set in, breaking our no riding at night rule on the first day, what are rules if they cant be broken? We counted kilometers, which took really long, probably due to our anticipation to arrive.
On arriving the storm had slowly caught up with us. The drizzle started as we looked for the place along a mesh of dark dirt roads. The roads were becoming progressively more wet and slippery and Meg was starting to fret, getting more nervous the deeper we road into the dark town. Where would we land up? Was this the bad or good part of town? Did the town HAVE a good and bad part? And would we be able to stay at this place?
Just before we arrived, Megan suggested turning around as her pathological fear of mud took hold, but then we saw it – covered with painted messages and pictures from different motorcycle travelers: bike logos, greetings, thank-you’s, and flags. It looked madly interesting.
Out came the man Javier had told us about: Jorge “Pollo”. Immediately enthusiastic and friendly he asked me (not speaking a word of English) if we minded sleeping on the floor, not a problem! He stored our bikes in the room next to us, and we took up residence on the floor of the common room.
The common room walls were covered, with stickers, flags, pictures, business cards and pieces of kit and memorabilia, impossible to take in all in at once. We were ecstatic that we had made it to such a magnificent place. We took a shower and hit the hay. At last, the trip was starting, and we were finally on the road, seeing and experiencing places that anyone on a bus, plane or tour never will. The in-between places are the best kind.
We were woken by an unexpected knock on the door that opened up to the road. On answering, a small, neat man in a leather jacket with a motorcycle helmet in his hands said he was looking for Pollo. He politely didn’t mention the fact that I was still, quite obviously, half asleep and half dressed, with our stuff strewn all over the room, and Meg still in her sleeping bag on the floor. He invited himself inside, as if he was obviously meant to be there. Before I could leave to find Pollo, there was another visitor, and then another and another, until we were frantically packing away our sleeping stuff and clothes whilst trying to get dressed surrounded by a small crowd of people speaking rapid Spanish, happily, and without hesitation asking us questions about the trip and the bikes, and who we were also all in Spanish…
What we found ourselves in the middle of, was Jorge’s Sunday Morning Mate club, made up of local bikers and friends from Azul. They were great people, we sat around and shared some Mate and lots of laughter. This was Megan’s first taste of mate, and she really really enjoyed it. Jorge also raised the SA flag outside La Posta, which was a beautiful and unexpected site on this side of the world.
La Posta is a fairytale place that every adventure biker should see, and as a quote on the walls says “Every country should have a La Posta”. La Posta is part of Jorge’s home, and we only had to sleep on the floor because he is busy building a new bedroom for the travelers. There is the main room and kitchen (Where we slept) and a small garage with a workbench, tools and a fireplace for Asado (Braai or Barbeque to others). His garden is filled with fruit trees, ponds with fish, a real pink flamingo, seagull, plover, 3 ducks and 2 rabbits. Jorge lives with his wife Monica and daughter Peny, who was kind enough to translate for us. Jorge is also an adventure biker, and rides a Honda. He runs La Posta because he has a very obvious and genuine interest in people and a love of their stories. His greatest dream is to meet Ted Simon, and to have him as a guest at La Posta. We found many famous and well-known names on the walls, which made us feel like this place was something of a right of passage for motorcycle travelers in South America.
Jorge said to us that he wanted to hold an Asado for us with a bit of a party, it was Sunday at the time and he said he could only do it on Monday or Tuesday, obviously we made a plan to stay for the Asado, which then became Wednesday, and then became Thursday. But it was totally worth it- some of the best steak I have EVER eaten! It also gave us some time to explore and settle down a bit, getting us into the swing of things. It also gave us a chance to get used to driving on the right hand side of the road. I don’t think I have ever driven the wrong way down so many one-ways, gone the wrong way around so many circles or spent so much time on the wrong side of the road in my life as I did in Azul.
Apart from the terrifically bad driving on our (mostly my) behalf, it was a relaxing few days we spent at La Posta and we are truly to grateful to Pollo, his family, and his friends for hosting us so warmly and with such hospitality.
We were both given pins, stickers and a bottle opener from La Posta, all of which are displayed proudly on the bikes.
Our next stop was Carhue, next to the Ghost-town of Epecuen. Epecuen was a resort town, next to a salt-water lake, until heavy rains caused a dyke to break and the town was flooded. The town was submerged for over 20 years, before re-surfacing 2 years ago, so naturally we had to go, this was not to be missed.
After much stress packing the bikes and strapping our bloated over-sized load to our machines we set off… late… again… We just told ourselves and each other that the packing would become easier and our load more stream-lined. The family was out to work so Meg locked up and slid the key under the door, and we took off down the road, we had lingered once again, maybe a little too long for our trip and we needed to get a move on. And now for something that was becoming a theme for our trip: The false start. On hitting the open road, I realised I had left my shoes under the bench at La Posta. I found a stick to fish the key out from under the door, which was done with some difficulty with me lying on the floor looking like an absolute criminal. Luckily Meg had not pushed it in too deep, (maybe she anticipated us needing to get it out once again).
We hit the road yet again, now in much better spirits. The ride was blissful, the first dirt since we had started, the dirt was flat, wide, and hard, some drizzle here and there,but generally great, with amazing views, my mood was at an all time high. Meg was also becoming slowly accustomed to riding with packed panniers off-road, this was her first experience with panniers and she was coming along quickly.
And then there was the petrol problem: When you are really enjoying yourself on the bike, running low on petrol can become an interesting dilemma. You go through the five stages of empty-tank grief:
‘Nah, its not that bad, I’ll definitely make it, this ride is so cool!’
‘Dammit man! I am such an Idiot! Why the hell didn’t I plan for this!? Why doesn’t this stupid town have a petrol station!? Why do bikes run on petrol anyways!?!’
‘Please (insert motorcycle name here) – get me to the petrol station, Ill buy you new tyres, I’ll get you a high-pressure wash, Ill find you some 98 octane petrol, anything you want, just don’t fail me now, Please!’
‘Well now I’m well and truly f*#ked. Why go on, whats the point, I’m just going to run out of petrol on the side of this lonely road with no-one to help me anyway. I’m just going to ride into a muddy pond and get it over and done with.’
‘It’s OK. Everyone runs out of petrol sooner or later, every adventurer does it, “It’s all part of the adventure” – I’ll just have an interesting story to tell’
Eventually, whilst trying to ease myself into the acceptance stage, we came across a really small little town, which hardly had any business calling itself a town at all. It had one shop: In South Africa it would be called an Agrimark. With great relief we filled up the bikes, and ourselves. The people approached us like they had seen aliens, and we were riding space-ships. They all took photos and eventually apologised in bad English for their behaviour as ‘they don’t get many visitors around here’. Really friendly, genuine people, who were happy to see us and talk to us, this is exactly what you miss when you travel by bus or plane.
That evening we arrived in Carhue, happy to be in a new place, and on our own for the first time on the trip. We drove around the small town looking for a free municipal campsite we had heard about.
When we found it we were not pleasantly surprised… dodgy as sin, right next to a main road, no fence, really just basically camping on the pavement in town, it really didn’t seem like a good idea. So we rode around some more looking for another decent campsite, we only found one at the entrance to the town which was way too expensive. We decided to search around some more: had we had missed the proper municipal camping? It even had a website in which it looked amazing. Nope. There was only one. And it was shit. We headed a bit further out of town and found another place, it looked like it was under construction or repair, deserted, and dilapidated with a creepy old putt-putt course and jungle gyms, overgrown, and scary as hell. An over-sized Donald Duck with a cracked head and one good eye stared up at me from the undergrowth. I was not staying in that murder hole one more second. We ended up staying at the expensive place.
A great braai and one brilliant night’s sleep later and we headed off to Epecuen – That eery, salty Ghost town I will fill you in on in the next post