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

Dec 20th, 2001 -- 2 years and 7 months, crossing the 100,000km mark!

Credit to repairs in
Buenos Aires

-- Story by Erin --

The day we were crating the bikes in NZ, we discovered (what we thought was) a minor problem -- the piston rings on Chris’ bike had to be replaced.  Our friends from BMW NZ contacted BMW Argentina to give us an introduction, and make arrangements for the parts.  Nearly 10 weeks later, we arrived back in BA to see friends and make the repairs.

Thursday, Dec 6th: Used the morning to get caught up on emails and to make necessary contacts about getting the bikes worked on. In the afternoon we went to visit Mariano at Motorcare (   Our friends Frank and Rosa from New York will be coming to meet us for 2 weeks, and Motocare is renting them a Honda Africa Twin for US$90/day and shipping it down to Ushuaia. Mariano is a wonderful guy, eager to help and willing to make little changes here and there to accommodate Frank’s needs on the motorbike. While we were at his shop he offered to wash Chris’ bike while we chatted. Spent several hours there and took digital pictures to send to Frank. Agreed to return tomorrow to bring in Erin’s bike to have a look at the oil leak problem. Went to Eva’s for dinner with Andres and family.

Friday, Dec. 7th: Again, used the morning to do email and make phone calls. Chris and Mariano worked on my bike to try to find the cause of the fuel choking off. Put in an in-line filter to test out.

Saturday, Dec. 8th: Dropped off Chris’ bike at Cordasco Motorcycles, one of the BMW dealers in town. Nice guys---Raul Cordasco is the owner, Marcello is the nice salesman who speaks broken English, and Willy is the curly-haired hyper mechanic. We will return Monday to start the work. Hooked up with Anne and Jason at their hotel right in the center of town. Went to see the new Harry Potter movie and then a great buffet meal for only $7.

Sunday, Dec. 9th: Met up with A&J again to do some sightseeing. First to San Telmo and the market and then to La Boca and Caminito street to see the brightly colored buildings and more Tango. Went to Andres’ for Marcella’s birthday party.

Monday, Dec. 10th: Got to the m/c shop at 9am. Chris and Willy had the engine out of the bike before Marcello and I had finished our discussion of the best routes to take south. The engine was opened only to discover the rings were not worn, but that a piece had broken off and played trampoline on the piston crown, damaging it and the cylinder. Of course, no dealer stocks these parts, and frantic emails were sent around the world.  Our plans to depart BA and head south this weekend have been pushed back....

First to reply was Steve Howard from a plea we left on the Chain Gang Message Board -- His dealer verified the parts needed were available from BMW North America.   Parts would total about $500, but the cost of Express shipping would have added another $300-400!  We thought about having them air freighted with American Airlines (cheaper), but recent events made this cumbersome at best.  The US post had a great rate too, but delays in the States and bureaucracy in Argentina made that option unpredictable at best.

Introduce Sebastian, a m/c enthusiast from BA and an offer to help.  He operates which run m/c tours through Patagonia in southern Argentina.  When not on the road, though, he is a flight attendant for American Airlines.

Next, Frank Nalevaiko and David Park from NYC nail down the final details to have the parts arrive in Miami this weekend where Sebastian will arrive on Monday and bring back to BA next Wednesday.  There were many others who offered help/suggestions -- thanks to all!

Our plan was to be in Ushuaia (southernmost city in the world) for Xmas, where we would also meet Frank & Rosa Nalevaiko a few days later.  Now it looks like we'll meet in Rio Gallegos, 600km north of Ushuaia, at the end of December, then ride down to Ushuaia together for New Year's Eve.

Saturday, Dec 15th: Attended a BMW motorbike gathering with about 70 riders in attendance – great asado and again, really nice people!

Sunday, Dec 16th: Another asado, this time with a local group of riders who spend a lot of time riding in/around Patagonia. Sebastian had sent out an email to a local m/c chat group, and about 15 bikes turned up for the occasion.  A terrific afternoon, relaxing and pouring over maps in the grass. On the way home, crossed the 100,000km mark on this journey!

Tuesday, Dec 18th:  We're back at Cordasco to meet Simon Birinder, a friendly journalist for the Buenos Aires Herald, who has come to do an interview and take photos.  (see the article -- Buenos Aires Herald). 

Wednesday, Dec 19th: Pick up the parts from Sebastian, no problem. Get to the shop. There’s a problem finding shims for the new valve seats. Takes 4 hours and still no shims. Chris is getting anxious to get things moving. Another drama: Willy tries to put the engine block back together and accidentally shears off one of the engine bolts. The guys call around and find a guy to come over in the morning to get the end piece of the bolt out of the engine. Stop at Mariano’s place on the way home to tell him the situation. He invites us home for pizza. Great, dreamy discussion about going into business together renting bikes out of a m/c hotel in Bariloche.

Things are getting out of hand with social disruption and anarchy in BA and around the country. The government locked all Argentine back accounts last week and limited people to only taking out a maximum of $250/week. That means very little money to spend during the week. For those with credit cards (which only the wealthy have) it's not so much of a problem (you can buy groceries, gas, etc. with a credit care), but for the poor (which is most of the country) people are getting hit hard. 50% of the economy here is black market, which means they only deal in cash.  Lots of people have lost their jobs. 12 years ago the government defaulted on its loans to the IMF and other institutions. It froze all personal and commercial bank accounts to pay its loans and never gave the money back to the people. The government effectively stole money from its own people. At first I didn’t believe the story, but I heard it from several credible people. You can understand why people are edgy here.

Today, some poor and people out of work went on a bit of a rampage and stole food from a market. Unfortunately some other unsavory people took the opportunity and joined them to steal TV’s, VCR's, stereos, etc. Last night while we were driving home (around 11pm) it seemed like all the neighborhood was out on the main avenue (Maipu) marching, shouting and banging pots and pans. They were just ordinary people, not thieves, out protesting against the government in the only way they knew how.

Interesting situation but don't think it will get out of hand, at least not while we are here.


Thursday, Dec 20th: Chris gets to the "shim guy" early and gets special treatment. They do the work, give him a hat (why do people always give us hats?), and didn’t charge him for the work. That’s par for the course so far in Argentina (or at least BA). The guys at the shop get the engine bolt problem all sorted out. By the end of the afternoon they are putting the whole bike back together. Chris gives Marcelo a ride home and has problems with the fuel. It was a bit low on gas. They have to push the bike 10 blocks to find a petrol station. Bike runs well after that.

We have a final farewell dinner with Eva, Gyozo, Andres and family. Discussion at the table is whether it is safer for us to leave on Friday (today) or Saturday because there is a general strike on Friday. Trixie tells us the death toll is now 16 people killed in the rioting around the country. Apparently its really bad in Cordoba, Argentina’s second city further to the north.

Argentina is currently in a "state of siege" due to the recent bouts of civil unrest.  The economy is failing and the president just resigned, which all adds up to a lot of confusion as to what will happen next.  Rumor is that the peso, which is currently pegged to the US dollar (US$1=AR$1 peso), will be severely devalued any day now.  People are rushing to the banks to convert their pesos into dollars.  Although we are right in the middle of all of this, we have seen nothing but a few peaceful protests.  The news you see on TV at home tends to be worse than the real thing.  Don't get me wrong, several people have died in the recent events of the past few days, and that is a real shame.  But now people seem to think a corner has been turned and that there may be real changes made in the government and their policies.  I hope, for the sake of all of our friends here in Argentina, that that is true.

So many people have helped to make are time here in Buenos Aires so special:  the Kemeny family (our family away from home) who took special care of us, Gabriel and Claudia who we met from the Horizons Unlimited website, Sebastian Becu who carried our m/c parts from Miami and his friends who gave us loads of information on riding in Patagonia and Chile, Andrés Fuse of BMW Argentina and his wife Adriana (Andrés, go ride in New Zealand!!!!), Pablo and Nora Ferres in Rosario who we communicated with for over a year before we got here!, and of course the guys at Cordasco and Motocare.  In these troubled time we live in, it is comforting to know that the spirit of peace, generosity, and friendship is alive and well!

Until we write again from Ushuaia, happy holidays and felices fiestas!


Chris and Willy having successfully removed the engine!

While waiting for parts, Willy and Marcelo adjust the carbs on Erin's bike...

Want to rent a bike in Argentina?  Contact Mariano:

Mariano, Diego, Sergio, y Pedro

Sofia on her new ride, with her man Sebastian getting chauffeured around town

Checking out the maps of Patagonia

The streets of La Boca


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