Back to Base – Corrientes

The Corrientes YWAM base

It was a long-standing promise that I had made to my friends that one day I would return to my old original YWAM base in the north of Argentina. Even though it was my first contact with YWAM and a place where I still have many friends, Corrientes was not a place that I really wanted to return to. However my promise to return still remained, and I believe in keeping my word. So it was now a place that I needed to visit a some point in the near future. Little did I know that this visit would turn out much more pleasant than I first imagined.

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2 Days in Corrientes

Well, my two days here are up. It has been fantastic to catch up with all of my friends that I have not seen for 6 months, and I have made full use of the Internet while here with phone calls on Skype to my family all through the night.

There have been some big changes here since I left, with the whole place looking a lot more completed and neat and tidy. Here are some photos of the place as it looks now, with a couple of photos of how it looked when I first arrived.

Front of Building
The building as I first saw it when arriving in Corrientes.

Completed Building
The finished building, finished only recently.

More photos follow…
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Time is a Wastin’

Well, here it is at midday and I am still trying to get this motorbike working. It is rapidly changing from an object of joy to an object of trouble and woe. I just went into town today and bought another fuel tank. When I replaced it I discovered that it is losing more fuel than my original tank. Doh!
Not only that, but it seems that the generator for the lights is causing all sorts of problems and there is no power for the lights. So it is not just a cabling problem, but also a problem with finding the power too. Hmmm, that is not too good.

So, apart from all of this, is everything fine? Mostly. It seems a mess right now and there is still my packing to do, but most things are mostly done. So it is all coming together slowly.

Wait! Good news. My electrically oriented friend has been helping me out, and he has just fixed the lights. That adds a little more hope to the situation. Now I need to search out the fuel tank solution, but then I will be mobile.

Time it is a wastin’ but we are getting there too.

I’m Going – By Bike

Many have called me crazy. Many have called me brave. Others just shake their heads when they contemplate the 827km journey that I am about to embark upon on my Siambretta motorbike.

They say that it cannot be done. I say that it is only because few choose to do it. They say that there is rain along the way. I say that it will make the journey less hot, and reduce the dust and traffic. They say that I need more time. I say that the two days I am allowing is much more than I could possibly need. They ask if the bike will make it. I tell them to watch me and see.

My motorbike has caused me a lot of anguish over the last few weeks since I bought it, and has been in the repair shops almost as much as with me. This afternoon I finally replaced the rear shock absorber and the leaky fuel tank. Now all is done. Well mostly.

There is no time like the present, so they tell me, and there has to be a moment to go. So tomorrow morning at 8am I climb aboard my bike, point it in the direction of Salta (north-western corner of Argentina) and go.

It will be sad to leave so many amazing people and some very awesome friends in the YWAM base in Corrientes, but I know that it is time to move on, and so I go. First to Salta, then to Bolivia, and onward I continue the journey.

Although the bus would be easier. It would be faster. It would be more comfortable. It would be cheaper….

…it would not be the adventure. It would not be the challenge. It would not be with such expectation. It would not be the fun.

So after all of the fights, and despite the sensibility of going by bus, there is only one way to arrive in Salta.

I am going by bike.

Siambretta – Almost Ready

After the paperwork saga, Sergio and I visited my motorscooter to see how the repairs were going on it. When we arrived the bike was mostly together, and old Mr. Verdun told me that it was almost ready to start, but he wanted it for another day to make sure it was tuned and running well.

Some of the replaced parts
Some of the old worn and broken parts that were replaced.

Looking over the bike I could see that there were many new changes to it, and that it was almost ready for me to ride away. The gear-change system had been replaced, as had many other parts too. So now I need to return on the Thursday to pick up my bike.

Mr. Verdun's house
Mr. Verdun’s house and workshop with my bike on the left.

electronic ignition
The new electronic ignition black box that promises to be more reliable.

Mr. Verdun's motorbike
The Siambretta that Mr. Verdun uses, and the style that I first saw which drew me to them in the first place.

Old People – Photos While Waiting

Some more photos taken while waiting for the paperwork to be completed on my motorscooter. This time it is of old people that lived nearby or wandered past. The photos are taken in the same section of town, but in different areas.

Owner of house entering
Owner of the house of the previous photos entering his garage.

old man smoking
Old man biding his time watching traffic pass by.

old lady walking
Old lady with bag walking along briskly.

Siambretta Mobile Again

It looked like rain today, all around us. Even so, I needed to work through some more paperwork for my motorbike. So climbing onto one bus and then another, I arrive an hour later than suggested by Mr Verdun at his house to pick up my motorbike. There he was, seated on the side of the road by my bike, still working on it.

Mr Verdun working on my bike
Mr Verdun putting my bike back together after fixing the lights problem.

The problem had turned out to be a very old and stiff wire that broke on the inside of its casing. To prevent any further problems, Mr Verdun had taken special precautions to replace it and every other old wire that was inside at the same time. We were both glad this problem occurred now and not while I was in the middle of one of my long journeys.

While I was waiting for my bike, the rain started to fall. Only very lightly at first and most people ignored it while they walked along, but the longer I waited the bigger the drops grew. Lightning also started to flash around us and the thunder roared in only seconds later. I started wondering why I had not bought myself a car at this point.

the problem wires
The problem wire going into here was replaced with a new blue one.

When all was done and together, I once again thanked Mr Verdun for his work and then climbed aboard my throaty sounding bike and roared off down the road at a blinding 20km/h. The rings were new so the bike needed some gentle treatment until they were "settled in."

In my bag I had some important documents for Sergio’s house that needed to be delivered to the Escribana. They were tucked into the bag as best I could but their long length had them poking out the top still. So with my back tucked behind my back I raced along the roads, hoping that the rain would not sneak around my back and wet them.

Arriving at the Escribana, I dropped off Sergio’s documents, thankfully still completely dry, and picked up my second Authorisation to drive. This one gave me the authority to ride my bike in all of the countries that circled Argentina. I would need this if I wanted to make it down to Ushuaia as this trip required multiple crossings of the border into Chile.

the authorisation papers
The two different Authorisations, with the international one on the right.

Next stop was at the spare parts shop to pick up a new muffler. The throaty sound of my bike was great for a race track but to ride around with that sound too long would drive me crazy.

Finally I stopped back in at the governmental building to get our paperwork that we were told would be ready on Friday. It was there, ready to pick up, and after signing some documents I walked away with a very important piece of paper that had taken weeks to obtain. Another step in the paperwork saga of my bike completed.

The rain had not stopped yet, but neither had it become very heavy, and was basically a medium drizzle – enough to wet you if you stayed in it too long. It was now time to return home, as all tasks for the day had been done. So wiping dry the seat of my bike, I climb aboard and head off down the road.

Apart from the drops of rain stinging my eyes as I cruised down the main roads toward home, the ride over the sealed roads was just wet and a little cool. My bag sat behind me, its contents and my important papers and documentation now safely wrapped in plastic bags, and while it remained mostly dry the rest of me got very wet.

the alternative way home
This was the other way that I could have returned home, taken by the buses.

On reaching the last part of my journey over the muddy dirt roads, I tried to pick a safe track through the slippery goop. All had gone well for the first part of this section, and I passed a careful bicycle rider as I turned the corner for the last stretch. Suddenly before me was a stretch of tyre tracks sunk deep into some slippery mud.

Working the front wheel to remain in the tyre tracks, I fought with the writhing bike as its back end started to slip and slide around on the mud. The further I went the more it slithered around back and forth until I had no choice but to dab a foot down on the ground to try and keep upright.

That foot sunk into the mud and when I pulled it back again my flip-flop was almost sucked off my foot. The second time I was not so lucky and my foot returned bare. Not wanting to leave it behind, I tried to stop the bike, but it slid around even more and as I was fighting to keep it upright, the engine stalled.

the muddy road I chose
The muddy road I came down, bogging down near the kids.

Standing there on the bike, both feet deep in the mud, pointing sideways down the road with the engine stalled, I looked up and there rode the bicycle man safely on the other side of the road where it was still firm. Something that I had not seen. His hood covered the better part of his huge grin which was still clearly reflected in his smiling eyes as he rode quietly by without so much as a sideways glance. I could not help but smile with him in thinking about how the scene must have looked.

After retrieving my flip-flops and un-bogging my scooter, I moved over to the firmer side of the road and then proceeded to follow the bicycle man for the rest of the short stretch until we reached the paved road again. At that point I roared off down the road, once again on sure ground.

safely home with my bike
After fighting with the mud and rain, back home safely again.

I pulled into my home shortly after, wet, muddy, and cool, but very happy to have my bike back with me again. The next time I think I will use a raincoat.

To-Go Or Not-To-Go

That is the question that I am asking myself right now. Should I or should I not go to Salta on my newly acquired motorbike. Ideally the answer would be yes, but right now it is a big unknown.

You see, over the last few days, I have had a number of minor (or major, depending on your perspective) problems with the bike. I did however pray that all of the problems would occur now and not on the trip, so that may have a bearing on the fact too.

The other day the back wheel almost fell off. Fortunately the bike did not want to go forward anymore so I found the problem and fixed it – a loose wheel nut. Then I ran out of fuel again, a problem that made it look like the bike was using a lot of petrol. So I investigated a little and discovered that the fuel tank is cracked.

After changing over the ignition switch, I have lost my lights. Something that I hope to rectify very shortly. The clutch does not release completely still, which is only a problem in the city. And after putting on a switch to give me a brake light, it is still not yet wired.

So tomorrow, my theoretical last day, I need to wire the stop light, repair or replace the fuel tank, fix the lights, pack my gear and mount it on the bike. Ok, not too much work really.

So then my question becomes, should I go on the bike or not? I guess, looking at it logically, and at the rain storms predicted for the north-west of Argentina, perhaps I should not go. But then looking at the adventure side of things… a thunderstorm would be a lot of fun, and to ride this sort of bike so far would be a real challenge.

I have one day to decide. One day to get everything together. One day to come to a final conclusion about what I will do. Maybe I should play it safe and take the bus. But what fun would that be? If I take the bike, will it make it? Another consideration to keep in mind.

So “to-go” or “not-to-go.” That is the question that remains with me.

Watch the Air-conditioning Drops

On hot days like today, wherever you go in the city, there are big puddles of water on the footpaths, often running down into the gutters. Some of these puddles can be extremely slippery too, depending on the surface they are found.

The smart people are on the lookout for this sort of thing, just as they are for stray dog poo that lies along the footpaths. Apart from being slippery, or getting wet feet, there is the occasional heavy drop from the Air-conditioner above that has the very same feeling as being pooed on by a bird. A great big wet patch on your nice clothes does not look so great either.

So the best policy is to watch the air-conditioning drops.