Chris' 1994  R100GS/PDChris' new bike, a 1996 F650ULTIMATE JOURNEY Erin's 1997  F650
Living a Dream . . . 2 Live-N-Ride

Dec 7th, 2001 -- our 62nd border crossing

Credit to back to Buenos Aires

-- Story by Chris --

Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil – Friday,Nov 30th:   We were supposed to leave today, but decided to hang out and relax instead. Glad we did as it turned out to be a gorgeous clear and cool day. Rare weather for us these days, as its usually too hot or raining. Managed to even get our souvenir shopping done.   Noticed today that the streets are being decorated for Christmas.  Seems strange (for the third year in a row) to see big candy canes and Santa with his sleigh adorning the place when the average daily temperature has been about 35 C (or about 95 F) and humid!

We changed our minds about going through Paraguay.  After reading the guidebook some more and talking to folks here, sounds like driving down through Missiones in Argentina is a better (more interesting) thing to do.  Want to see the Jesuit ruins and the waterfalls at Macona. 

Saturday, Dec 1st: After a short but glorious month in southern Brazil, it was time to turn south and cross the frontier (border) back into Argentina. We have nothing but praise for our 39th country. WAIT, " not so fast Señor Americano – where is your exit paper? No paper, no exit – you have to PAY tax! Your wife can go, but not you." " What?! I didn’t lose the paper, it was in my passport yesterday!" "I’m sorry Señor, you don’t have paper, and you must go to the Bank of Brasil and PAY! Oh, but it’s Saturday and the banks are closed – you señor have a big problem. What are you going to do?!?"

Well, that’s what HE thought! You see, when we entered Brazil we were each given a piece of paper in addition to the stamp in our passport. Upon exiting the country, you are required to return this piece of paper, and get your passport stamped out. Señor Immigration Officer was suddenly excited at the prospect of making a few extra dollars to help alleviate the dumb gringo (me) of his (my) most troublesome problem. Unfortunately, our friend here didn’t count on the seasoned traveller. As the immigration office is around the corner from where the bikes were parked, and without any windows or gate to pass, we simply climbed on the bikes and rode across the bridge to Argentina where we were duly stamped into Argentina without question. (Since we did not have to use our Carnet’s for the bikes to enter the country, we did not need to get them stamped out.) Admittedly, I was nervous the Argentine officer might request some slip of paper or even check for the exit stamp. Fortunately, with 60+ stamps in my passport, most immigration officers are just looking for a place to leave their own mark. Besides, we thought, so what if we don’t get stamped out? What’s the worst that could happen?

After getting stamped into Argentina we found the official Brazilian slip of paper for my passport. Erin urged me to go back and get officially stamped out so that we wouldn’t have any problems if we wanted to return in the near future (like maybe over the border from Bolivia.) When I returned the Immigration Officer grinned at me and welcomed me back, boasting to the other tourists on line about my current situation. Well, I grinned back and say I no longer had a problem. I had found the piece of paper and wanted to be stamped out. He grudgingly took the paper, examined it and stamped my passport. I strutted out the door like the "cock of the walk."

We arrived mid-day at San Ignacio, a small town about 180 kilometers from the border and known for it’s vast Jesuit ruins. We rode down a 3 mile sandy road in search of a campground recommended by a bicyclist from our hostel at the Falls. We found the beautiful place, called Playa del Sol (Beach of the Sun) on the banks of the Alta Paraná River. When we arrived there was only us and one other camper there, an Italian traveling Argentina by bicycle for 4 months. The friendly caretakers recommended that we visit the ruins at sunrise the next morning to get the best effect. After setting up camp in a choice spot we drove into town to check out where the ruins actually were and to get some groceries.

Well turns out the ruins are right on the edge of town surrounded by a fence and complete with a ticket booth and museum. The sun was getting lower in the sky and we checked to see what time they were open to. We decided the light was just right at that moment to go see the ruins (2 things we learned on this trip---1) always take advantage of good weather when you have it to go sightseeing, and 2) why see at sunrise that which you can see at sunset?) We must have hit it just right because we were the only one’s there, which made it a bit surreal to walk around the huge expanse of the place. The Jesuits were very successful at converting the local Guarani Indians to Christianity, creating highly efficient and prosperous communities where they grew their own crops, raised cattle, weaved cloth and built and painted their own churches. In 1696 the mission at San Ignacio was established. In 1767 Charles III of Spain expelled the Jesuits from Spanish territory and the missions floundered. By 1810 the mission was totally abandoned. By 1817 the dictator of Paraguay ordered all of the remaining settlements evacuated and San Ignacio was set afire. What remains is still an impressive example of what must have been a beautiful, thriving community. The sight is a 100-meter square plaza surrounded by 30 parallel blocks of stone buildings on 3 sides. In each block there were 10 one-room dwellings with meter-thick walls. Like Ankor Wat in Cambodia the forest was very aggressive in it’s takeover of this place once everyone had gone. Complete, mature trees now grow right up through the stone walls, reaching their roots through each crevice. A UNESCO national monument, some of the walls and walkways have been restored. In the center of the ruins is an immense church made with local sandstone held together with sandy mud. The birds now enthusiastically inhabit what remains of the church. There is a nice little museum that is also included in the price which displays life in the area both for the Indians before the Jesuits, how the Jesuits arrived and what life was like after the missions were established.

Sunday, Dec. 2nd: Since we didn’t have to wake at sunrise we decided to sleep in, and enjoy the day in peace and quiet. Except, other’s had plans that would interrupt our slumber. At 5:00 a.m. some young people arrived and started noisily unloading their gear and banging on one of their cars with a hammer. Being Sunday it was THE day of the week to get together with friends and family and have a "day out". Trouble is, as we have found out the hard way, that most of Latin America stay up late and get up early, and always surround themselves with loud music. This proved to be the case this day as we watched the arriving carloads of people disgorge themselves into every corner of the small park/beach on the banks of the river. About 10:00 a.m. the barbecues were fired up (burning a combination of charcoal and wood) and filling the air with a bluish haze. Before too long our mouths started to water as we smelled the cooking steaks, ribs and sausages. The park was crowded and noisy but everyone was friendly. Our desired quiet day in a natural setting turned out to be a day of people watching and napping in our hammock to the tunes of classic squeezebox folk music. By 6:00 p.m. almost everyone had packed up and left. Our caretaker was having a birthday party for himself with friends and family at the little shop down by the beach, but other than that the place became deserted. Thankfully we finally enjoyed some peace and quiet, watching the sunset and cooking our simple pasta meal on our lightweight gas-cooker.

Monday morning, Dec 3rd: We woke at 7am, broke down the tent, packed all our gear back on the bikes, had a bit of cereal, and were finally on the road at 9:15am. We shimmied and shaked on the dusty, rocky road for 5km back to the main road, then headed southeast towards the city of Posadas, on the border with Paraguay. We stopped in Posadas for gas, as the price was 1/3rd less than everywhere else in northern Argentina (we learned this from the border officials at the Falls). We saved US$1.20/gal, which adds up quickly on 2 bikes, each with a 7+ gal. capacity. We entered the state of Corrientes, which was pretty flat with little to see – probably what much of Patagonia will be like.

Way up in the distance was a police checkpoint. Immediately in front of me was an old heap of a truck, belching its acrid black diesel smoke into my face. I looked down at the line in the road, signaled, and passed the truck. About 300 meters later, the cop at the checkpoint flags me down. They do random checks (we must have been stopped 5 times since we reenter Argentina and left the boarder with Brazil), and I guess my maneuver gave him cause to pick me. He asked me for my passport and registration, so I gave him my international driver’s license instead (easier to replace/leave behind). Upon realizing we were Americans, we were told to pull off the road. The first cop called his "Jeffe" (boss), and all he said was "Americano". I was led into a small wooden hut, where it was obvious a shakedown was about to happen. El Jeffe sits down at his desk, and a chair is placed behind me to sit.

I keep my helmet on (front flipped up to talk), and remain standing – even left my earplugs in!  El Jeffe keeps his sunglasses on indoors, and opens the negotiations by telling me I crossed the yellow line when I passed the old truck. I said, NO!, I specifically checked before passing, and the line was white with dashes (= ok to pass). He grunted, reached under his desk, and pulled out a laminated piece of paper with a bunch of symbols on it. One of them was a fire extinguisher, and he motions down a list of vehicles to a motorbike, and tells me it is the law that I have one. I tell him I have one. (Garry Williams in NZ gave me one for the Safari ride, and told me to keep it – Thanks Garry!) El Jeffe grunts again, and again tells me I crossed the yellow line. Impossible I counter, there was only a single dashed (white) line.  He grunts.  I chuckle/smile at him, as if to say "you’re not getting my money today, pal". I reach across his desk, pick up my license, put it in my pocket, and tell him there is no problem.  I'm not really sure what I'm doing, as a wave of anger and fear churn inside me.  He repeats something about a yellow line, and I head out the door to Erin and my bike.  I tell her everything’s fine (she was outside the whole time, and didn’t know what happened), to hurry up and gear up, that we’re leaving. El Jeffe and the first cop (there were 2 others sitting under a shady tree drinking their mate) walk out. El Jeffe’s got his hand resting on his holstered pistol, and stands behind the bikes. I didn’t know what was going to happen next. But we started the bikes, checked our mirrors (to see them still standing nonchalantly behind us), and drove off. About 2km down the road, I pulled over and told Erin what happened, how the shakedown failed. I was proud of myself (especially for not ending up in jail somewhere), while Erin got angry and said she really didn’t like how the Argentinean police were treating us. This corruption thing is getting out of hand.

At about 5:30pm, after 600km of riding, we pulled into the small city of Federal. At the entrance to the town there was another checkpoint, this time staffed with the Gendarme (the federal or military police). They wear green uniforms and look very military. The provincial police (the one’s that keep trying to get our money) wear blue and look like rental cops. I was a bit nervous at first as we pulled in, thinking perhaps the police at our last stop radioed ahead to these police to nab us. But, as several others told us, the federal police and the provincial police don’t work together and there is no love lost between them. The green are the good guys and the blue, we are beginning to perceive, are the bad guys. After the cursory look at our passports and a quick inspection of our panniers they let us go. After 650 kilometers of riding, tired and with frazzled nerves we found the local Municipal campground with lush grass and plenty of shade. When we found the ideal spot and got off the bikes, the sky suddenly opened up. The rainstorm we had just driven through had followed us. It started as a light trickle at first, but after 15 minutes of unrelenting pelting downpour, we began to get frustrated and desperate. Town didn’t look so great before the storm, and we didn’t see any hotel signs – besides, our gear was now soaked on the outside, and would need to dry somehow, somewhere. We opted to push on 185kms to Paraná, with only 93 minutes before sunset according to our GPS. We jumped on the bikes, and slogged our way out of the now-muddy campground, onto the flooded highway, and out of town. About 15km later, the sky relented a bit, and as we road west chasing the sun, we began to dry out.

As the final strokes of orange sky gave way to evening blue, we pulled into the outskirts of Paraná, an unexpectedly large city. We went to the campground, but they wouldn’t let us in – the place appeared to be deserted and locked with a gate. We drove around town for another 45 minutes, looking for a cheap hotel with parking. We ended up in the Hotel Latino, where double (rooms) cost US$36/nt, but I got them down to $22 – a good price in this expensive town.

Tues., Dec 4th: Woke up to a gray but clear morning. Went for a walk through the Center/Old City – really quite pleasant with its flowered squares, water fountains and ornate cathedrals. It reminded us of a small European city. Back at the Hotel I struck up a conversation with Juan, an older gentleman who worked for the hotel. We talked for about a half an hour, during which I commented that it must be difficult in Argentina, as the pricing is so much higher than southern Brazil, while products/standards seem identical. I told him that gas prices and hotel prices are especially hard on us in Argentina. He replied, "not in Paraná! Here, you stay for a second night for Free!" It was a very surprising and generous offer, and I thanked him. I declined as we were due in Rosario in the evening. He said, at the very least, the price for our previous night’s stay would only be $15, and that we should stay (for free) for tonight anyway. WOW – what generosity!

We left Paraná shortly after lunch, and drove the 210kms to Rosario to meet Pablo Farres, a BMW rider we’ve been talking to on the internet for the past 15 months. Pablo had wanted to greet us on arrival at the airport in Buenos Aires (300km away) back in September, but we convinced him it wasn’t necessary. We decided to go to Rosario specifically to meet Pablo and his wife, Nora, as it was a bit out of our way. Once again, one evening just wasn’t enough. They were terrific! The house was new, in a lovely new sub division, with ample parking for his 3 motorcycles: BMW R60/5, R100GS, and Honda Transalp (for commuting). That evening we were joined by Pablo’s good friend’s Oscar and Niko, bike fanatics too, and Nora’s mother for a wonderful Assado (BBQ) dinner! As is typical in Argentina, a night with friends usually ends in the wee hours of the morning. We went to bed well past 1:00 a.m.

Weds, Dec 5th: We woke early, bid Pablo and Nora farewell as they headed off to work, and took our time leaving in the morning. Erin was in heaven reading Pablo’s current issues of Time and the Economist magazines. Nora’s mother and the housekeeper kept us company and fed us delicious fruit before we left just before lunch, and rode down to Buenos Aires.


A church in the city center

Yet another pleasant park

Chris, Oscar, Erin, and Pablo


  Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | Related Photos


TOP | About Us | Costs | FAQ | Journal Entries | Links | Motorcycles | Photo Gallery | Supporters | Guestbook | HOME

  Sure, send us an email E-mail Us

There are probably dozens of errors on this website (if not more).   
If you notice/have any problems, please send us an email: Webmaster

The goal is not the destination, it's the experiences along the way.