Camping illegally, free, and with no amenities, has its charms. One of them is watching Megan edit photos on a tiny stool under a lone streetlight, whilst pilfering electricity from its base. It never gets old.
We had really enjoyed our time in Puerto Piramides with Raoul and Kristal, they are great people and had become good friends, we had relaxed, laughed and celebrated, all in a beautiful setting, but it was time to get the hell out of dodge and get the show on the road again. On leaving, we decided to take the shorter tar route back to Puerto Madrin, where we would spend a night before moving on to Comodoro Rivadavia. We had also recommended to our Belgian friends to take the dirt road back to Puerto Madrin, a longer coastal road where we had managed to enjoy spectacular whale spotting on our way into the peninsula.
On arriving at the campsite in Puerto Madrin, we realised that our recommendation had resulted in Raoul coming off the bike along the dirt over a small rise, he had bruised / cracked a rib, hurt his elbow and had put a dent in the left pannier of his brand new 1200GS, along with a fair share of scratches. Apart from all of the physical damage to body and bike, an experience like this can be shattering for someone who is new to dirt, falling off the bike and hurting oneself can seriously ruin one’s confidence if not dealt with properly. We were mortified, and felt responsible for the ordeal. What was even worse was that the couple were now strongly considering calling off their trip, which was being done to celebrate a significant wedding anniversary, and going back to Belgium. The thought that we might have been responsible for all this was a horrible realisation.
Raoul and Kristal remained strong, and decided to finish the trip, although on a different route, missing out Ushuaia, which was to be their final destination. We were glad to hear that they had decided to continue the journey, but later heard that this came at a horrible cost. Kristal suffered a horrible accident in Brazil, smashing up her beautiful BMW along with her wrist. They are OK now, and managed to get back to Belgium safely along with the bikes.
It was difficult to try and convince ourselves that we had not been the cause of all of this, but through it all, we had learnt a very valuable lesson. What advice should one give and what advice should one take? It is actually a very common topic, and a very controversial one amongst motorcycle travellers, with no easy solution. We have heard numerous tales of travellers recommending routes that resulted in a bad outcome and others that have advised against certain routes, only to be met with disdain when the other bikers take it as a slight against their ability, scoffing at them when they manage to complete the route. If the advise is heeded and the road avoided, regret and anger can also be seen down the road when contradicting advise comes from a different biker: “What!? That route was easy! You definitely should have done it, it was beautiful. You would have been fine!”
We are now very hesitant when giving advise on routes, our recommendations come with disclaimers longer than Apple licensing agreement, and only after getting a good idea as to a riders experience, and the type of road they enjoy. Everyone is different, some like the tar, some like the dirt, and some just like sitting behind a keyboard and telling everyone else what to do.
And I’m off my soap-box…
The road to Comodoro Rivadavia was boring as hell. Flat, windy, dry and cold. Every 75km or so you are confronted with a sign warning you of a steep ascent or descent sort of like this:
What follows is the mildest change you could imagine. Maybe 3 degrees. We still think they just erect them to give you something to think about and prevent you from falling asleep and veering off the road and into the endless pampas that surround you. I’m not even sure that would wake you up. There aren’t any trees to hit for a good 300km in every direction.
The reason we so badly wanted to visit Comodoro Rivadavia is because of their history, or rather our history there. Over one hundred years ago the Afrikaners in South Africa responded to the English presence by starting what has become known as “Die Groot Trek” or “The Great Trek” (where our trip got it’s name). They migrated all the way from the Cape to the Transvaal in the North, so they could be free of English rule. It was done via Ox wagon into the great unknown. It took many years, and countless hardships were endured. It was truly a testament to the human spirit and more specifically, to the strength, resourcefulness and pride our Afrikaans ancestors. What does this have to do with Comodoro Rivadavia you say? Well some of the boers hated English rule so much that they decided the Transvaal wasn’t far enough, so they climbed on a boat and headed to Argentina to start over.
The “Colectividad Sudafricana en Argenina” are still proudly Afrikaans, the language remains, along with our customs, recipes, stories and the love of South Africa. Afrikaans and South African pride lives on in people who have never even set foot on its soil.
Martin Blackie was the head of Colectividad Sudafricana en Argenina, and the spokesperson for the Afrikaans community in Argentina. He is a second generation of Argentinian Afrikaners, his parents came over from South Africa themselves. We tried so hard to find him. We used the free wifi from petrol stations to search the internet, and read all the articles we could get our hands on. Eventually we found out he was in the smaller, neighbouring town of Rada Tilly, we were getting closer. We then started with the locals, referring us from person to person to people who knew more and more about Martin. We eventually heard he had a bakery and went searching for it. After a whole day of playing detective we found the bakery,and although it was closed, the neighbour managed to call Martin and tell him that there were two young Afrikaners who had come to see him.
A white car rolls up, with a South African Flag on the boot. An elderly man, that can only be Martin steps out of the car, takes one look at me and proclaims “Nou dit is ‘n regte Afrikaner gesig!” (Now that is a real Afrikaner face!), yup, that’s him alright.
Martin is a great guy, and helped us out constantly throughout our stay. Martin organised us a cheap campsite, brought us freshly baked bread, took us on a tour of the area and had us over for a fantastic dinner of homemade empanadas and flan. The best was hearing the amazing stories of those early Afrikaners and all that they went through to make life work in the harsh environment they found themselves in. All very inspiring stuff, enough to make any modern day adventurer feel like a bit of a softie.
While staying in Rada Tilly, we had another encounter with a wonderful group of people. Through pure chance we met the teachers and pupils of Dean Funes, an all-boys catholic school in Comodoro Rivadavia, while they were having a field trip to our campsite. Having gone to an all-boys catholic school myself, I found it easy to relate. Not only were they kind enough to invite us to share their “choripan”, the Argentinian equivalent of our “boerie rolls”, but they left all the excess for us too, enough to help me recover from playing touch rugby with boys half my age.
The next day we were invited to visit the school, go on a tour of their amazing grounds and facilities, and give the kids a little talk about what we were doing, who we were doing it for, and to throw in some inspiration. We were also surprised with a generous donation towards MSF from the boys and teachers, along with heartfelt prayers and words of encouragement.
The amazing hospitality didn’t even end there. Maria and Fabian, two of the teachers at Colegio Salesiano Dean Funes, took Meg and I out for a mouth-watering steak dinner, with a visit to a well-known ice-cream parlour in Comodoro Rivadavia for desert.
Meg and I were completely overwhelmed by the warm welcomes, friendliness, and hospitality we experienced in Rada Tilly and Comodoro Rivadavia. We met some genuinely good people that would put anyone’s faith back into humanity. If there is any reason to travel, this is it, the friendships and bonds that you will make with people along the way. A warm and sincere thank you from us to all that offered us their friendship, Rada Tilly will always be one of our favourite stops on this journey, a small town with a MASSIVE heart.