When Sunday Became Monday

Something went wrong in my head today.

I rose at 8.30am with my alarm, dressed and drove to town to pick up my mail. Arriving, I discovered that the post office was shut – and everything else too. I was confused, so I checked my watch. It said 9am. I then wandered over to the post office door and checked their hours. The sign told me that they open from 8.30am. “Could it be that they are late today?”, I wondered, “But where are all of the people waiting outside?”

Still confused, I checked my watch again. One time recently it showed the wrong time, so maybe it had done it again and I was here are some unearthly hour of the morning such as 6am, thinking that it was really 9am. I grabbed my mobile phone and checked the time on that. It agreed with my watch. That made things really strange, because it received the time from the network and was never wrong.

Then slowly it dawned on me. This was not Monday at all. It was Sunday. My day to sleep in, and here I am, still half-asleep, the day after our big drive from Buenos Aires, totally confused about which day it was. Sunday had become Monday… just for a moment.

Doh!

Buying a Siambretta – Paperwork and More Paperwork

Today has been the third consecutive day of paperwork for both Sergio and I. Things were looking really good today, and I was sure that we would get very close to finishing everything. As we paced our way down the narrow sidewalks, avoiding other rushing people and searching for the shadows in this blistering hot day, I cheerfully chirped to Sergio that we have almost finished it all now. Without batting an eyelid nor even offering a glance my way, he shot back, “well we have less to do now than when we started.”


Sergio heading to the windows where we paid our licence plate fees.

After that we walked along in silence for a while, as I chewed over his words. Having been through many purchases in his life, Sergio was no stranger to all of the different forms and processes involved in the deal. Perhaps there was something that I was missing? I shot another glance at our list of paperwork to complete before we could finalize the transfer of the bike into Sergio’s name. It all seemed so simple and clear. We had done the tough parts and there were only two items left on our list. It was obvious that we were almost done.

It did not take long before we reached our destination, the Transport Office, where we would then complete the next item on our list. We had just been to the provincial government office and paid our fees on the number plates that were outstanding. A stamped paper in our hands proving our payment gave us access to this next step, and with the two offices being only five blocks apart it seemed like a good idea to walk here.

On entering the Transport Office we were greeted by a cool refreshing blast of air-conditioning, reminding us of just how hot it was outside. A brief enquiry at the main desk and we found our way through to the back of the building into an area of open planned office spaces. A group of people hovered around the one desk with people behind it coming and going and chatting quietly between themselves. This was our destination also.


The Transport Office and our destination desk at the very end.

Leaning over the desk and presenting our paper when it was our turn, we were not expecting what we heard next. The lady looked over the paper and exclaimed, “You have paid too much.” She checked the paper once again and told us that because the bike was built in 1962, we only had to pay the fees on the plates for the year 2000 and everything after that was free. Even though there were outstanding amounts listed, these would be wiped out when we finished the process.

But we could not finish the process just yet. The lady would not let us. Instead we were instructed to return to the government office and ask for them to refund us the difference. That was another five block walk back to where we had started, and time was starting to run short. The best part of this overpayment was that the fee dropped from around $136 pesos to only $34 pesos. A significant difference for anyone.


Finding our way through the mazes of government offices.

Normally we used Sergio’s car in our travels because it was generally easier and faster. It was also the only transport that we had. Now that we had the motorbike too, it had become an option, although today it was a necessity. Sergio’s car had broken down late yesterday and there was no other form of transport. So this time when we left the government office we climbed aboard my bike and rode over to the Transport Office.

We were now ready to strike off the next item on our list. The “Baja.” This removes all records of old bikes that do not have a complete paper-trail from the computers so it can be added again from the beginning. As Sergio handed over our amended receipt proving our payment of the licence plate fees, I expected that we would receive our “Baja” and be on our way. Instead, the lady reached into her folder and pulled out for us yet another list of items to complete.

The first item was yet another possible debt that had somehow managed to cling to the bike rather than the person. This was the unpaid traffic infractions associated with the bike. Now it is my prayer, desire, hope and wish that this old bike has no such a thing as an unpaid infraction upon it, but to find out we have to wait. It takes three working days to complete.


Waiting to be attended at the Office of Infractions and Fines.

Doing anything in Argentina takes longer than most other places that I know. So when we had to apply for a list of possible outstanding infractions, it did not surprise me that it used up the rest of our available time. On entering the building, through a small doorway in a huge steel grilled wall we were presented with two different branches of the pathway. From where we stood at the junction there were even more choices further along, so the only sure way of working out our destination was asking a guard. He cheerfully pointed us into the branch on the right.

When our turn arrived, we asked for the application and presented the necessary papers which had taken much of the week to get. Once they were satisfied with our status as the new owners of the motorbike we received a bill and told to come back when it was paid. So we headed back down the branch and out through the steel grated wall. Next door was the place that we paid this bill, and after waiting in line and receiving our stamp of payment on the bill, we were able to return once again into the depths of the neighboring building.

On presenting our proof of payment after yet another wait, we were registered for the application. It was done. Now we had to wait three days to receive the results. Monday it will be ready, but this is only the first of five items to complete for our “Baja.” The other items involve bouncing around the city from one place to the next to pick up a form in one place, have it filled out in another, and get it verified in yet another. Now I sympathize with Sergio and understand how he can say that we do not know if we are near the end or not, we can only say that we now have less to do than before.


Buying the official forms needed during our paperwork efforts.

It is obvious that I am very new to the paperwork requirements in Argentina. Until now it has been an amazing learning experience. Never did I expect that there would be so much time, money, and doors to move through before I could buy a simple motorbike. This much paperwork is not always required I am told. It is just that the motorbike I wanted to buy is so old that it has never been entered into the records database properly.

In working through all of these paperwork dilemmas and processes with Sergio, I have learned about yet another face of Argentina. My experience has taken me deeper into the workings and life of this country where I live. It has been a fascinating experience, fraught with mishaps and unexpected turns at every side, and still it continues.

Before this mammoth effort, I could not understand why so many bikes, cars and also houses here in Corrientes are sold without any paperwork. Now, even in the middle of the process, I can see why. Even the official government forms have to be purchased so you can continue the process.

Paperwork, paperwork, and even more paperwork. But we have less to do now than we did before.

Buying a Siambretta – Yet Another Visit

Today was an easy day. All I had to do was visit the Escribana and pick up some paperwork. Most of it seems to be signed now, although I am not holding my breath. The paperwork was all very important stuff. Things that I need to be legal on the roads here in Argentina. I now have two contracts of sale, one with the original owner on the paperwork, and the other with the seller, and an authorisation to drive Sergio’s bike. Now I am legal and if the police pull me over then I should be fine.

Of course there is always something yet to do, and with the bald front tire, no rear-vision mirrors, and a dodgy licence, there are still areas of concern to attend to. My plan is to get everything done as soon as possible so that I am truly legal here. It is proving to be a lot harder than I first expected. But after this visit, I am resting easier when I see a police blockade on the roads now.


The papers that I need to have on me at all times (Clockwise from left: Authorisation to drive, Certificate of sale from both parties, licence, passport, and Title Card of the motorbike).

Buying a Siambretta – Owner Missing

It was 8am and I was waiting out on the sidewalk for my friend to turn up in his car. We had made this arrangement a couple of nights ago and as the time grew later I became concerned that he had forgotten our appointment. For me this was really important. I was about to buy a motorbike and needed his help to complete the paperwork.

By the time we left, I had already sorted everything out in my head. We would go and check for any debts on the number plate first, then make sure the bike was not used as collateral for any loans. This should take less than an hour so we will be able to head over to the house of the owner and buy it off him, secure that all is well.

It didn’t happen like that.


A typical sight in Corrientes while moving around the city.

The Owner Not The Owner
Instead, we headed to the main council chambers and discovered that there was a debt outstanding on the bike. This was for four years of unpaid fees for the number plates. Since it was not a great deal of money, I was still happy to proceed with the purchase, but there was a complication. Our current owner was not the man listed on the official paperwork.

So before we could do anything else, we needed to track down the real owner to see if he was willing to sign the necessary papers. Without his signature, all would be worthless because the bike would never end up in my name legally. Even more interesting was that if the guy was married, even though she is not mentioned on the papers in any place, she must sign the paperwork too or it is still worthless.


Back at the home of the seller of my bike-to-be.

Our first attempt to find the guy started at the home of the guy selling the bike. He shows us an old tatty receipt and claims that the scrawled signature is that of the cousin of the owner and that it is enough to prove that it is his bike. He bought the thing back in 1988 of this cousin but never knew the owner. The cousin had since returned to Brazil and he had lost contact with him.

Our seller was happy for us to search out the owner and gave us as much information as he could remember. It was not a great deal, but when we checked on the debt for the number plates we also were given the last known address for our missing owner. The address did not make sense though, as it did not exist.

Detective Work
So with nothing left to lose, we drive to the last house on the street and ask if they know where we could find a house numbered 1000 more than their house. Being a very old lady, she kindly smiled and told us that even though the street on the other side of the big school was now known by a different name, it really was the same street and we would find our house down there. Its name was changed by a politician wanting to give fame to one of his friends (or something like that).

The house we were looking for turned up easily enough, but after knocking for a while we managed to stir only the dogs. Nobody answered the door for us so we assumed they were all out. My friend, Sergio, thought it wise to ask at a local house, and owing to the very strong social networks in this society, we struck gold.

Well, maybe it was fools gold, but it was the best we had to go on at the time. The neighbours told us that nobody lived in the house now except for the grandmother and she was not answering the door to strangers. The son, who was our missing owner, lived somewhere unknown, but they heard him every now and then on one of the local radio stations. That was all they knew.

Finding a Radio Station
So tuning into Radio Sudamericana, 100.5 we listened for something that would help us find out more. Sure enough, after a short time a phone number for the station was given out over the air and in a shot we had given them a call. They knew about this person we were searching for, and even were kind enough to give us his mobile phone number, but when we rang it there was no answer.


The Radio Sudamericana building.

Our options were turning slim, so with nothing left to lose, we headed to the radio station to see if they knew any more about this guy. After explaining our plight they inform us that we can catch up with him around midday, yet another hour away. Our morning was almost over and we had not even started the paperwork.

How to Spend an Hour
Rather than start the process of paperwork, which would be useless without the agreement of this guy to sign the papers we needed, we headed into town instead. Here Sergio started with some inquiries into distant education for his children for when they move to Africa in two months time. He had already determined that he needed to go to the forth floor of the second building for this information, but upon asking was directed to the sub-secretary of education. This office was found by first visiting the secretary’s office, and after a long wait he discovered that the information will probably be found in the secretary’s office.

Avoiding Profiteering
By then an hour had already passed, so we returned to the radio station. Sergio entered alone, so that there were no foreigners visible, as many people in Corrientes ask crazy prices for anyone that is not from here. For example, Lehman and I asked about a beat up little 50cc motorbike and were told it was for sale for $1200 pesos. These bikes sell for $1500 pesos new. Being a poorer area of town the bikes should have been sold for lower than average prices, but because we were foreigners their price immediately doubled. These are not isolated incidents either.


Radio 100.5’s antenna in the middle of the city.

When Sergio returned, everything was sorted and the guy was happy to sign our documents in the morning. So now we will return once again in the morning to get all of the important papers signed. With that sorted, I will be able to take possession of the bike and then start all of the paperwork. Even this is not very straight forward.

The 3 Year Delay
As a foreigner, if I want to put the bike into my name, it will probably take about 3 years to do the paperwork. Being such an old bike, there is a lot of records involved and all of these have to be brought together in one place and then processed. If a person from Corrientes buys the bike then all of this paperwork will still take around 3 months. After that, if I want to change the bike over into my name, it will take significantly less time. Something to do with having all of the papers together in one place.

So there seems to be no other logical choice than to ask somebody that I trust to place the bike into their name first, then wait out the paperwork. After that, this person can transfer the bike over to my name and I only need to wait a short time. How short this refers to, I am not yet sure, but I am assured that a short time could be literally only a day. Most of my experiences tell me that it will be likely to be a little more than that however.

Tomorrow we check out the remaining chances for debt on the bike, sign the paperwork to put the bike into a friends name, pay the money, collect a receipt from the guy selling it, and walk away with a motorbike.

Continuing The Purchase
The purchase process is not over yet. We still need to fill out form 5 and form 13A, complete a simple sworn declaration, complete the payment of the number plate debt and change over the bike records to my friend’s name, sign a purchase deed before a Justice of the Peace, go to the police center and get them to check the frame and engine numbers have not changed, change over the ownership document into my friend’s name, and get a document proving that he is Argentine. Only then has the bike been officially purchased and ownership transferred.

That means that tomorrow we start the process. Until now it has only been preparation for the main event. But the best part is that I will soon be able to travel around in my Siambretta, even though official it won’t be mine for several months yet.

Buying a Siambretta – Getting the Bike

It was in between meetings, we had just finished our staff meeting and now there was a worship time with the students, that I talked with Sergio about our need to head into town right now. We had arranged to meet the real owner today at 11 am yet still needed to check if the bike had been used as collateral on any loan before we could sign the documents. If we did not do it, we could be walking into a huge trap.


Sergio asking for directions

We left the meeting and rang the owner once more. He was fine with the arrangements. After grabbing one of our needed documents from the Internet, we jumped in the car and headed for our other debt check. We had no idea how to find the place, which turned out to be somebody’s home, but once again through the helpful use of older people we found our way through the city to the other side and finally to the house we needed to be in.


The house we were looking for.

Free of Debt, Check Number 2
The lady greeted us in a very friendly manner and then told us that we could not check if the bike was free from any loans until the 24th of this month. That was 10 days away, and we needed to sign the papers in a little over one hour. We explained our dilemma to the lady and she kindly agreed to go through the process for us now because of our unique situation. We were ever so grateful.


Sergio filling out the triplicate forms.

It took almost the entire hour to complete, and included a walk down to the local photocopier place for three copies of the application form which then all needed to be filled in by hand, waiting for a very slow computer, and then signing and checking a further two forms and a book for the records. The photocopying cost $0.30, the "Libre Prenda" that we were asking for, $7.00, and we were done.

Local Cemetery
We also found the local cemetery near the photocopier’s. It was filled with what looked like city multi-story parking lots but turned out to be multi-storied burial plots instead. The whole area that we were in had a dangerous feel to it, even though there were some very rich looking houses. Later, as we headed out, we saw an extremely poor section of town separated from here only by a football field.


Local cemetery burial plots in multi-stories.

Officially Changing Names
By the time we had finished our paperwork for the loan, and discovered that the bike was completely free of any debt in this area, it was time to meet the real owner. We arrived at the "Escribano" office with sufficient time to explain that even though I was buying the motorbike, it was all going to be in Sergio’s name. With that explained I left Sergio in the office to do the paperwork and went for a walk through the local area.

One of my main reasons for walking through the local area was to avoid any profiteering that the owner may have tried just because I was a foreigner. As it turned out he was an honest man and there was no problems at all, but this sort of thing tends to be a little too common here in Corrientes.

With the paperwork completed, it was time to pick up my motorbike, and when we arrived the man was surprised that we had been able to achieve so much within a couple of days. He let us into the house and prepared the bike to give to me, repeating again his side of the story.


Back at the seller’s home.

I Don’t Want To Sell
When he came by our property the other day, he had no intentions of selling the bike. Nor did he intend to be in our area so long either. In searching for a friend in the area, he could not find their house and so rode around and around the area looking for it. He even stopped and asked where a telephone may be but there did not seem to be any working at the time.

It was at this point that he pulled up alongside our property to ask directions from one of the guys working there. Oscar saw the bike and knew that this was what I wanted, so asked him if he wanted to sell. He said no. He had no intention of selling the bike. Oscar probed again, asking if he had any plans to sell the bike at some point. Again he replied that he had no intentions to sell it.

When Oscar asked him again, he thought about a project that he wanted to finish on his house and replied that if somebody would pay him a sufficient number of pesos for the bike then he would be happy to sell it. That sufficient number just happened to be the amount he needed to finish this project on his house. He told us, I accepted, and now here we were in his house, ready to receive the bike.

Sealing the Purchase
Before we took the bike however, we wanted to be sure that all of the paperwork would be sufficient to cover us under all circumstances. So rather than handwriting a receipt, all three of us piled into the car and headed over to the "Escribano" once more to get the paperwork sorted out. An "Escribano" is somewhere between a Justice of the Peace and a Solicitor, with the powers of both.


Finishing the paperwork and sealing the deal.

Once the paperwork was sorted and mostly signed with only a few more signatures to happen tomorrow, and the money had changed hands, it was time to head back to the man’s house and pick up my new second-hand antique motorbike scooter.

Receiving the Bike
We returned to his house and received a quick run-down on how to use the Siambretta and some of the intricacies of an old bike like that, and then shook hands and pushed the bike outside. Just before I took off, I remembered that he had promised me a helmet too.

He called me into the back area of his house once more, and showed me three "helmets" that I could choose from. One was a construction worker’s helmet. Another was something like a canoeist’s helmet. The last one was a red, full-face helmet just like the one I had seen when I was praying for the bike. The helmet was old but still workable, and was the only serious choice.


My new old bike and red helmet. Not as sexy as the other photo.

I had everything now. My bike was complete. Jumping on the old beast, I fired it up and was ready to go. After not driving nor riding for over two years, this was going to be my first real ride, and I was really looking forward to it too.

The rest was now only paperwork. The bike was now mine. Yippee.

Buying a Siambretta – Er, Siambroken

Blind Purchase
Proud as punch, I took off on my new motorbike. This was my very first ride on it. It did not occur to me until after the purchase that I had never actually looked at the bike or checked it out for any mechanical failures or problems that it may have. I had bought this bike on complete faith. Faith in the man who was selling it to me, and faith in God, that the picture and things that I saw about this bike were from Him so therefore this was the bike to buy.


My new proud possession, complete with red helmet.

My purchase was also somewhat blind because finding a bike like this for sale was extremely rare and I really wanted one, so I figured that if there were problems then I would fix them up. Little did I know what was about to happen to me only moments away.

With the paperwork signed and sealed, a watertight agreement had been made. I had purchased the bike as it stood, with all of its faults and benefits. It was time to find out what they were. Twisting the left grip I engaged first gear, let out the clutch… and was on my way.

My First Ride
The first part of the journey took a little getting used to this new style of bike. Having riden many dirt bikes before, and a few road bikes, riding a scooter like this was different yet again. That, and the couple of years of not driving made my first few turns a little less than comfortable, but it did not take too long before I was back into the swing of things and starting to enjoy my new ride.

As our journey continued, Sergio started to stretch out ahead of me on the road, having seen how well the bike was going, and it was going pretty good too. With four gears, I was able to go more than fast enough to keep up with all of the traffic. The small wheels noticed the bumps and lumps in the road, and I quickly discovered that there was no more damping in the shock absorbers neither front nor back.

The steering head was twisted off center which caused me to worry that the chassis of the bike was twisted or damaged, but then I realised it was the same as a bicycle and I would be able to fix it later. My brakes were less than impressive, and at one set of traffic lights I almost passed through to the other side before stopping. Once I knew about them it was easy to allow more stopping distance in the future.

The key did not stay in the hole and fell down at my feet, making me glad that I was riding a scooter with a floor to catch it. It stayed on the floor where it fell, rattling around but not going anywhere. The whole bike rattled a fair bit actually, with some unusual vibrations coming from the front wheel. But then, with the front tire completely bald, it did not cause me any wonder that it may be doing that. New tires were high on my to-do list now that I had the bike.


Looking over the bald front tire and dented fender.

The Unthinkable
As I cruised along with the traffic, admiring all that the bike was and how wonderful it was to cruise along on a motorbike, free once again to venture and roam, the unthinkable happened. Suddenly the engine spluttered and coughed and after a short and feeble attempt to keep running under increasingly miserable conditions, it died.

The bike and I cruised to a stop along the side of the road. Sergio had disappeared around the corner and was nowhere to be seen. The way the engine stopped, I knew that there was no chance of kick starting it where I was. Something had to be changed or fixed first. I was stranded.

The Bike That Bit
On the off chance that Sergio noticed that I was not behind him and stopped, I started to push my bike along next to the edge of the footpath. On one of the first push-offs with my foot, as I pushed backwards hard, a searing pain coursed through the heel of my foot. In looking down I saw a deep gouge out of the side of my heel.

The culprit was the kickstand that protrudes out the side. After years of kicking it until it hits the ground, the forward edge had been sharpened into a nasty weapon. This weapon bit several other chunks out of my leg until I finally learned how to stay well clear of it.


The damage done by the kick starter (next to my leg).

With blood oozing out of my heel, I managed to catch up with Sergio. He is just as surprised as I am, but when I tell him that the fuel appears really low, he guides me to a nearby service station where I fill up with 2-stroke fuel. I kick the bike over many times but get no signs of life. What I do get however, is lots of attention.

Pushing Me Around
The service attendant that serves the fuel suggested to me that the bike was flooded and offered to push me around the station if I put it into second gear and jumped on. It seemed a great idea to me, and we raced out and about the station until he tired. The motorbike showed no signs of life. He left to attend another customer, and I started kicking the bike over again.

Before I could kick it over too many times, another guy came up and started offering suggestions. He told me some other positions to put the gears, throttle, and my head and then proceeded to push me around the station again. He had a lot more energy than the first guy, but even after several rounds of the station, the bike was not showing signs of life. It seemed very dead indeed.

We had not a single tool between us, so Sergio suggested that we take the bike back home and work on it there. I was trying to work out how we could do something like that when he told me. It was simple. Simply move the motorbike over to the passenger side door, reach in and grab a hold of the car, and don’t let go. So I did it.

Getting A Tow
As the car took off, I had to use my handhold and the strength of my arm to force my bike to accelerate with it. At the same time I also needed to ensure that my bike stayed well away from and never touched the edge of Sergio’s car. There was also watching out for potholes and obstacles on the road, riding with one hand and trying to brake at the same speed as the car.

This sort of thing was something that I had seen a fair bit of here in Argentina, and always caused me a little bit of incredulity and amazement that somebody would do something so dangerous and, I presumed, illegal. Now here I was doing the very same thing, except I was a foreigner that was doing it. I think I am adapting well to this culture now.

Each time we took off, the weight of the bike was so heavy that it felt like my arm elongated momentarily before both bike and car reached the same speed. There were too many stops along the way where I had to hang on hard until we were moving along again, but thankfully Corrientes is very flat and there were no hills to worry about.

At the service station I had put my helmet inside the car, and after all of the pushing and kick starting attempts it never occurred to me to put it back on again when I hung onto the car. So here I was with on hand hanging onto Sergio’s car and no helmet, cruising along some of the main roads of Corrientes and taking up a lot of the road.

Watch Out, Police!
In some parts of the journey the cars were trapped behind us until the road widened sufficiently for them to squeeze past. While concentrating on being towed along I noticed a police car passing us with the rest of the traffic. "Oh no," I thought, "now we are done for!" and wondered what Sergio’s reaction would be.

He simply continued on without blinking. In fact the police did not even look my way. Only a short way ahead the police had to stop at the traffic lights. We drove up next to them and stopped also. Not even a glance was exchanged. I was amazed. Even though I was relieved that we were able to continue without harassment or worse, it also shocked me at how the police turn a blind eye to many things that happen all the time.


The motorbike workshop checking out my sparkplug.

Along the road we found a motorcycle workshop and I pulled the bike into it. They checked the spark plug and told us that there was no spark, so it would take a fair while to fix. We had already made it over half way home, so it seemed easier to take it home and fix it ourselves. So we did.

Arriving Home
The further we went, the sorer my arms became, and the more the sun burned my skin. By the time we reached home, I was pretty red, with burning muscles. But we made it. I laughed as I told Sergio when we got closer, "What a way to arrive and present my new motorbike to everyone!"

On arrival I parked the bike and pacified the crowds that poured around me. Um, well, actually on arrival I simply parked the bike and went and did some work. Later on I tried to find out what was wrong with it. Oscar, and Rocky who are also mechanics, helped me in my search.

If It’s Not Broke, Don’t Fix It
A new spark plug, adjust the points, clean the carburetor check the ignition switch. Nothing seemed to work. Then in the middle of all of our playing one of the gearshift cables snapped, so I fixed that up and adjusted the clutch at the same time. A little later on the throttle stopped working, so I pulled the thing apart and found the simply fault and fixed it within a couple of minutes too. But it still wasn’t going.

We had found problems in every area that we looked, but there was still no idea as to why the bike did not run. Finally we checked the fuel tap for the third or fourth time. It worked. We already knew that. But I did something else. I turned it from one stop to the other stop, and it was here that I discovered our dastardly fault.

In turning on the fuel, we had actually turned it back off again. To turn on the fuel, we had to turn the tap to the middle position. The tap was not marked like this, being a remote handle protruding through the cowling of the engine. On knowing this, we turned it to the right angle and suddenly the motor fired into life. It was fixed.

As I thought back over my journey home, I vaguely remember reaching down to turn the fuel tap on a little more. Little did I know that I was actually turning the thing off instead. So when the motor spluttered and coughed and gave its last, it was all because I had simply turned off the fuel.

To find that out took almost half a day of work. But in so doing I have learned a lot more about my new old bike. Even though the bike would have gone with a little knowledge about the fuel tap, we found many other things that were just about to break and managed to fix them before they left me stranded in the street. I was very happy about that.

The True Test
After fixing my bike I now wanted to take it for a decent test run, but it was already night time. Everyone on staff was going out to eat tonight, so it seemed perfect to ride my bike into town to where we were going to eat. A quick check revealed that the lights worked fine, so I was right to go.

Oscar also has a motorbike, so I arranged to travel together with him to the restaurant, just in case something went wrong. Everyone else left in the city bus, and I returned to my house to get ready. We were all meeting at 9pm, and by the time I was out at my bike ready to go, it was already 8.45pm.

We took off, down the sandy dirt roads, choking on the dust of cars and bikes that had gone before us. I could now see one disadvantage to a motorbike. At the highway we rev up the bikes and cruise down to our next turn off at a reasonable 60km/h. My bike handles the speed well, and I cannot even use 4th gear yet because we were going so slow.

Around the corners, through the traffic, over the bumps. All was going well. It was amazing to be autonomous once again after two years of using buses. We zipped and raced and cruised along until finally reaching out destination. It took all of 15 minutes. The bus journey takes at least 40 minutes to arrive at the right bus stop, and then the walk here is another 20 minutes. What an amazing difference.


The rider’s view of my new old motorbike.

The Joy Of It All
I was really excited about having both a bike to ride and my bike working again after it died. There was a real buzz about travelling around on bike. In some ways it seemed just like re-living getting my licence for the very first time, and the first moments of being able to drive alone on the roads.

Liberating. Exhilarating. Exciting. Fun.

On the return home, I took my friend Lehman on the back. Oscar had his wife and two kids on his bike with him. Together we rode side by side where possible, yahooing, yehaawing, and gallivanting as we went. Horns beeping, short spurts of pretend racing (Oscar always won with his new bike), and waving our arms around having a great old time.

And the best part of it all is that my Siambroken is once again a Siambretta!

Buying a Siambretta

Well, it has been over two years now that I have been here in Argentina and only recently have I decided that it was time to look at getting some form of transport. There are many options here, from the latest models of bikes and cars to antiques that are still used everyday. I wanted a motorbike.


One of the small Honda DAX bikes that are so plentiful here.

Being the sort of person that likes to be different to the next fella, I decided to look for something a little different when I began looking. There was the Honda DAX which is pretty common around here, and I liked its small size too, but for a bike to ride all over the country it just did not seem enough. The main issue for me was that it would be hard to carry my gear with me if I used something like that.

So after looking around a little, there were some serious sized motorbikes too. Old things made in Brazil or some other country but poorly supported in parts. So this did not seem like a great option either. Besides, I was not sure that I wanted something so ordinary in how it looked. This took me further afield in my searching.


The early B version Siambretta for sale for $2500 USD in Buenos Aires.

Every now and then I caught a glimpse of people riding on a motorbike with two seats that looked like bicycle seats. It was a very unusual looking bike, and not seen often, so I did not know what it was. Then one day I was in Buenos Aires with my friends and discovered this very bike in a fancy showroom. It looked pretty much like what I would want, but finding one was not going to be so easy.

The first thing I did was ask my friends to look out for a bike for me. It was Oscar that came back with news on a Siambretta that I could buy from an old guy in the city. It was similar to this first bike that I had seen in the showroom, except older and unfinished. My visit to the guy’s place revealed a graveyard of old bike frames and an old man with an avid interest in fixing and repairing these old bikes. He was the official mechanic for them when they were new and has continued to work on them ever since. This bike however was not the sort of thing that I had in mind, but I learned a lot of valuable information from that meeting.


The Siambretta man that helped me out with lots of information.

The next thing I did was search it out on the web. I had learned that it was a Siambretta, and after a lot of looking, the best website I found was the Lambretta Club of Great Britain. This then led me on a series of studies, which finally took me to read about the TV series 2 bikes. These were by far one of the best of the Siambretta bikes that existed, and with their bigger 175cc motor it was sure it would be fine for some serious travelling.

Now being a religious man, I prayed and asked God to help me find one. I finished that prayer believing that I would not need to look for the bike, but that it would find me. I had seen in my mind a cream Siambretta drive into our property with two helmets.


A Siambretta 125cc for sale but still under repair by the Siambretta man.

It was many days later, near the end of the week that this happened. I had already looked in the papers and asked many people but all to no avail. These bikes were hard to find. Then my friend Oscar came to my window and called me. His behaviour was unusual, as he simply walked away quickly. This was very different to how he normally behaved, so I followed him.

Outside was a cream Siambretta motorbike with blue trim. The man had stopped outside our property to ask directions, and when Oscar saw him, he discovered that it was for sale. The price is agreeable and it is the Series 2, 175cc engine that I was wanting. There is even a helmet thrown in with it. I was amazed, and agreed to buy the bike.


The Siambretta that arrived on my doorstep (slightly darker blues and much more used looking).

Now I am in the middle of the paperwork required for purchasing a motorbike here in Argentina. Apart from the normal precautions of checking for incumbrences and ownership, there are a further 9 processes to go through, adding up to a total of $153 pesos, before it is mine. Today we were able to start the process, but because the official offices are only open to the public in the morning, it will be Monday before we can continue with the rest of it.

So I am hoping that sometime before the end of next week I will be the proud owner of a Siambretta scooter.

Catching Up

Finally I have caught up. After two and a half weeks absent from my computer and a massive build up of emails, I can finally say that I am there. I have arrived. My inbox is empty. Yeeha.

It is such a good feeling, and so many other things had been suffering until I had done this, that I thought it significant enough to announce to the world.

Right. Now that I have done this, it is time to go and do some significant things with my time.

Future Shock – Depicting Life Today

I have been reading a classic novel called Future Shock by Alvin Toffler. Written back in 1970, it is amazing how much of it applies so well to today. This writer had an uncanny ability to see what was happening around him back then, and these days it is only more obvious. There are a number of very interesting quotes from the book that describe many of the things that I have seen happening throughout my life. They all are surrounded in a much deeper explanation and exploration of the topic which has helped me to understand more about who I am in this day and age.

One of the more interesting side effects of reading this book has been that it has shown me that what happens today was not a normal experience for everyone. Not only this, but I have begun to see how much change has happened over just my lifetime and how only in the last 60 to 80 years has there been such a radical speeding up of change and events around us. This of course, is the topic of the book.

So before I ramble on, let me quote a few things from the book:

On Life With Friends…

Each time a family moves it tends to slough off a certain number of just plain friends and acquaintances. Left behind, they are eventually all but forgotten. Separation does not end all relationships. We maintain contact with, perhaps, one or two friends from the old location, and we tend to keep in sporadic touch with relatives. But with each move there is a deadly attrition. At first there is an eager flurry of letters back and forth. There may be occasional visits or telephone calls. But gradually these decrease in frequency. Finally, they stop coming.

The current today [talking of 1970] is picking up speed. Friendship increasingly resembles a canoe shooting the rapids of change. “Pretty soon… we’re all going to be metropolitan-type people in this country without ties or commitments to long time friends and neighbors.”

Continue reading “Future Shock – Depicting Life Today”

Bagel Virus Finally Arrives

It was only this morning when I received a strange looking email. It had an attachment and looked everything like a virus. My immediate reaction to something like this is to simply delete it as I don’t consider messing with viruses a very wise thing to do…

This time was a little different however, and I stopped, my finger poised above the delete key. There was something about this email that made me mad. It said that it was not only TO me, but also FROM me. I started to investigate a little more, and sure enough it appeared as though it was coming from me. Now that was bad. Not only that, but they had misspelled my email address.

Although it was sent to me at groovyguppy.com somehow they had mashed the from address to make it groovyboovy.com – I don’t like viruses, but I hate impersonation. And this was not only impersonation, but bad impersonation at that.

So now I was angry and started looking at any possible way to track down this offending sender. With a little basic research it became obvious that the email originated from an ISP in Brisbane, Australia. I have a lot of friends there, so it was likely that one of them was infected. But when I checked out what I thought was a misspelt domain name, I discovered to my surprise that the address really exists. And ironically we are both Robs. What are the chances of that? Probably a lot I guess, with so many domain names and people in this world. But it caught my attention.

So the end result was, after finding out that it could be genuine, I checked out the attachment. Sure enough, it was a virus. The Bagel Virus. The BBC News mentions how getting it from Australia is not too uncommon:

Many people in Australia look like they have been caught out by the virus as many of the copies of Bagle caught by MessageLabs have originated there.

The worst part of it all is that the virus makes your PC remote controlable:

As well stealing e-mail addresses Bagle also attempts to let its creator know when it has managed to infect a new victim. It also opens up a backdoor on infected machines that hands over control of that machine to the virus’ creator.

That was all news back in 2004. Once again however, in June this year it took to the headlines again. Not much has been heard about it since then, but obviously it is still circulating. So make sure that your antivirus software is up to date and functioning.

And finally, in the famous words of Roy Johnson, “If you receive something that says ‘Send this to everyone you know,’ pretend you don’t know me.”