Today is the day that I decide if I am going by motorbike or by bus. Much earlier in the week I had decided that today would be the day that I left, with or without my bike. Even so, when I did leave, it still seemed very sudden.
Right now I am in Salta, ready to continue my journey onward to Buenos Aires. I have not left yet because to travel on my motorbike I need to have papers to prove that it is mine. These papers which were from the previous owner, I sent over to Corrientes from Bolivia so that I could get the ones that prove I am the owner. They were sent to me here in Salta on Monday using the standard mail system. They have still not arrived yet.
One of the problems in Argentina is a very expensive and slow mail system, especially in the north. The documents were sent to a city only 800kms away. This should take only two or three days to arrive, but five days have already passed and no papers.
Bueno, parece que habia un poquito perdido de mis noticias. La de mi moto.
Empezando del final y volviendo al principio, mi moto queda en la casa de Isaac en Salta. Esta siendo arreglado para que puedo usarla a seguir en mis viajes a Buenos Aires.
Cuando salÃ de la base de JUCUM Corrientes todo parecÃa bien. Pero un poquito por la calle principal no anduvo. Era la reserva de nafta que estaba choqueado con polvo en el tanque. Lo arreglÃ© y seguÃ. FuÃ a despedir algunos amigos por la ciudad de Corrientes y crucÃ© el puente a seguir mi viaje.
Inicialmente mi moto anduvo rebien pero despuÃ©s de media hora empezaba a alentarse hasta podrÃa andar por un poca velocidad de 30 km/h. SeguÃ, pensando que era relacionado a la problemas con nafta que habÃa experimentado. No era. Lo encontrÃ© un poquito mÃ¡s tarde.
AsÃ era, que por uno de los pedazas largisimas de la ruta, kilometros de nada, rompio mi moto. La cojinete grande de la biela habÃa roto. Para ellos que no estan preocupado de conocer los intimos detalles de un motor, era algo tan grave que nunca andarÃ¡ mi moto de nuevo – sin muchos reparaciÃ³nes. Cuando parÃ³, sentÃ que era algo grave. Los ruidos como piedras adentro de mi motor me diÃ³ una pista.
Que haces en una situaciÃ³n asÃ? No hay para volver, ni siquera para seguir. Nadie paraba entonces buscando en mi mapa decidÃ que el pueblo adelante podrÃa ayudarme. Empezaba empujar mi moto. El calor me secÃ³ tan rapido que no tenÃa suficiente agua para seguir. Al final pedÃ dos guachos en sus caballos para llenar mi botella de agua para seguir.
AsÃ estaba, por tres horas en el sol calentisimo de la tarde de Chaco que empujaba mi moto hacÃa este pueblo. Nunca lleguÃ©. Cuando mis fuerzas estaban casi perdidas, cuando estaba desesperada aÃºn hasta la vida y preguntandome porque insistÃ© andar en moto. Cuando lo Ãºnico que podrÃa hacer fue mirar a mis pies y pensar que sÃ³lo tenÃa que poner un pie adelante el otro y no mÃ¡s. Cuando me daba cuenta que la plata, la ropa, las cosas que tenemos, nuestro conocimiento, y todos los demÃ¡s servÃa para nada sin salud. En ese momento Dios mandÃ³ sus angeles a ayudarme.
Al escuchar la bocina de un auto, piensaba que estaba demasiado cerca a la ruta otra vez. Pero cuando el auto parÃ³ de repente enfrente de mÃ sabÃa que no fue algo comÃºn. En mirar a ver mis queridos amigos de la familia Astarloa una ola de alivio me cayÃ³ hasta el punto que apenas cayÃ³ la moto.
Mis fuerzas agotado, tenÃa que parar la moto primero antes que podria saludar Sergio. Con piernas debiles y cubierto en sudor abrazÃ© mi amigo, llorando adentro por la gracia que Dios me habÃa mostrado. No podrÃa mostrarlo afuera por el orgullo, pero lo sentÃa muy fuerte. No era que un amigo me encontrÃ³ en la ruta. Era un mensaje de Dios. Si Sergio habÃa llegado aÃºn 3 minutos mÃ¡s tarde, no me hubiera encontrado. Estaba apenas entrar la entrada al pueblito.
Con una soga grande, atamos la moto al auto y me tirÃ³ hasta la ciudad de Saenz PeÃ±a donde tenÃa mejor posibilidades de arreglar el problema. El viento generado por el viaje me avivÃ³ algo y todo el viaje estaba asombrado de que maravillosa era andar con automaciÃ³n (y que horrible a no tenerla).
Al llegar en Saenz PeÃ±a, descubrimos que la moto tenÃa mÃ¡s problemas que algo minor y la dejÃ© con un taller a encontrar el problema biÃ©n. Me dejaron en un hotel y despedÃ mis amigos que me salvaron.
Todavia pensando que fue un problemita estuve decepcionado encontrar que el problema era mÃ¡s serio y aÃºn mÃ¡s que el taller no querÃa trabajar en una moto tan vieja. Entonces busquÃ© otro taller y descubrimos que el problema era severo, entonces intentaba seguir al casamiento de Isaac.
EncontrÃ© que no habÃa ningun colectivo, micro, ni nada que estaba andando a Salta para llegar por la boda. AÃºn esperÃ© a lo lado de la ruta intentando andar por dedo por 3 horas y nadie paraba. Cuando parÃ³ fue sÃ³lo porque no habÃa mÃ¡s tiempo disponible llegar a Salta antes que terminÃ³ la boda. Decepcionado, volvÃ a mi hotel.
Estaba en Saenz PeÃ±a 6 dÃas para arreglar mi moto. Cada dÃa piensÃ© que ibamos terminar el trabajo. En el final tenÃamos que fabricar algunos partes adentro el motor porque no podrÃamos encontrarlos. El dÃa que me arreglaron mi moto, salÃ de la ciudad.
Por esta la noche no podrÃa andar tan lejos entonces parÃ© en el pueblo de Pampa del Infierno, levantando muy temprano a seguir mi viaje. Ese proximo dÃa lleguÃ© en Salta, despuÃ©s de 15 horas de andando en moto.
Durante estas horas estaba picado por una avispa dentro de mi casco por no tener un visor, y tuve que hacer un stop emergencÃa enfrente de un camione que apenas habÃa sobrepasado. En la noche estaba andando por la autopista donde no hay salida y encontre en la atardecer que no tenÃa luz. Nada. A veces habÃa algo muy dÃ©bil que dejaba una luz naranja justo enfrente de la rueda delantero, pero nada mÃ¡s.
Andaba por mÃ¡s que dos horas, entre camiones y autos, sin luz, con mucho temor, y orando sin parar, preguntandome porque no decidÃ© ir a MetÃ¡n en lugar de esto. AsÃ que estaba con mucho alivio que lleguÃ© a las luces de la ciudad de Salta. HabÃa llegado por fin. No fue facil, pero lleguÃ©.
Entonces mi moto esta en la casa de Isaac siendo arreglado… el faro y algunos otras cosas. AsÃ que estarÃ¡ lista para viajar a Buenos Aires. Desafio numero dos. 🙂
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.
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.
After a day of complete and utter rest on Sunday, today is a complete contrast.
Sunday night in the park filled with people, bands, and crafts stalls.
The first task for the day is getting the missing and broken pieces on my bike replaced. So contracting a taxi driver to shuttle me around the town, I move from place to place searching for those elusive bits that seem to belong only to the bygone era when the bike was made. Although many parts come close, there is nothing that works.
The main bearings are easy to find, as the shops here are large and filled with every variety of item. Quite a contrast from the places that I have known in Corrientes. The other parts remain missing, but my taxi driver who also owns a couple of motorbikes makes a suggestion. He knows a guy whom he claims is the best guy in the entire city to solve my problem. IfÂ this guy cannot fix my problem then it cannot be solved in Saenz PeÃ±a.
Skeptical at first, when we arrive at Pipa’s workshop I start to believe the claims about the place. A motorbike workshop that specialises in racing bikes, it has all of the lathes and other specialised equipment needed to fabricate any broken or missing part. When presented with the broken bits of my bike, the guy suggests that it is possible to fix, if I leave them with him until the afternoon.
Some of the damaged parts from my bike.
It is still morning when I consider calling a shop I know in Resistencia to see if they have the parts. When I am assured that they do, I return to Pipa’s to inform him. His preference is to fix it here, and my presence sends him into action, looking for a solution. Half an hour later I discover that there is no solution for me in this town.
Searching for a Solution
My solution lies in Resistencia, or Corrientes where there are shops with the parts that I desperately need. Already into the fourth day of my saga, my search for a courier service that leaves today to take my parts ends up fruitless. It would now be tomorrow evening at the earliest that my parts would arrive here.
With desperation rising, there had to be another way. There was. The only other way to get the parts today was for me to go for them myself. That meant a bus ride to Resistencia.
The bus terminal in Saenz PeÃ±a.
At 5.30pm I arrived in Resistencia after a two and a half hour journey on the bus and went straight to Pirota, a shop I had known only through phone calls and recommendations. Well presented, and filled with plaques and paper clippings about the owner as a basketball champion, it was an old guy that served me.
The shop was busy and he was on his own, so it was a long wait between other customers for him to help me out. As the time wore on, it became obvious that he had no actual replacement parts for my bike. The parts that were appearing on the counter before me were assorted bits and pieces that may or may not work in solving my problem.
When it became more obvious that these parts were a gamble, there was only one place that I had left to go. AndÃ©rica, Corrientes. They have been the ones that have been able to supply me with genuine Siambretta parts when I have needed them.
Having made some good friends at this shop, the guys there were very surprised to see me again after my final farewells only a few days ago. They all wanted to hear the story of what happened and how far I got and so on. We chatted away as they searched out the missing parts. All genuine Siambretta parts. Almost all perfect for the job.
On the way home over the bridge to Resistencia.
Now that I had my parts gathered together, I needed to get back to Saenz PeÃ±a where my hotel room was still booked. Time was tight to get the 9pm bus, so a couple of taxis were needed to get me to the bus terminal in time where I grab one of the very last seats.
The journey back home was uneventful, and by midnight my day had finished. I now had the pieces. Tomorrow we begin to put them together, with some extra work required to get everything to fit.
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 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 and workshop with my bike on the left.
The new electronic ignition black box that promises to be more reliable.
The Siambretta that Mr. Verdun uses, and the style that I first saw which drew me to them in the first place.
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 the house of the previous photos entering his garage.
Old man biding his time watching traffic pass by.
Old lady with bag walking along briskly.
While Sergio and I were waiting for our Escribana during the paperwork saga on my motorscooter, I snapped off a number of photos. These were all in the same area of the one street.
Old house on Misiones Avenue.
The same house’s number as it is pegged to the wall.
The door of this same old house.
Doorway to a house on the other side of the road.
Adventure only becomes adventure when there are obstacles to overcome. Today I had the adventure of my life.
It all started after leaving the Corrientes YWAM base. My home for almost the past two years. Only ten minutes down the road I run out of fuel and the reserve tap does not work. Stranded in the middle of the avenue, I wait for the traffic to pass before pushing the bike to the side of the road and fixing the blockage.
The bridge leading to Resistencia.
Then, as I head out from Resistencia, just over the bridge from Corrientes, the bike slows down and loses power. It keeps going, so I persist as it is, but by now I am travelling at 40 to 50 km/h. It is slow, but I am still making progress.
55kms from Corrientes, I stop at Makalle, the first service station I find. It was worrying to not know when the next fuel stop would come. Here, I clean out the fuel tap and Carburettor and then fill up and continue on my way. By the time I leave it is almost midday, owing to leaving Corrientes later than expected due to farewelling various friends throughout the city.
Staring down the load road ahead.
The sun it strong, hot, and overpowering at times, but the wind generated by the bike is enough to just keep it in check. I change into long sleeves and long pants to keep the sun from burning my skin and put cream on everything that remains exposed.
My next stop is in Pres. de la Plaza, a tiny town along the way. Here I clean out the carburettor once again and then fill up with fuel. It is around 1.30pm but even though I have not yet eaten, I decide to press on and eat at Saenz PeÃ±a, a big town not too far away. I never made it.
The bike in bits on the side of the road near Pres. de la Plaza.
At 2:15pm the bike stopped running, making enough unusual sounds to cause me to think that the motor was about to seize up. As soon as the motor stops, I spend the next ten minutes kicking it over and over again, to ensure that it does not lock up completely. It does not help. The bike never starts again.
In my search for a problem and to get the engine running again, I once again clean out the carburettor. It is once again full of bits of rust from the fuel tank, but cleaning it does not help. In the process of working on the bike, I discover that the exhaust pipe is flopping around, hanging on by a thread, so I tighten that up too. A couple of other tweaks and the bike is still not working.
Fixing up the exhaust pipe on the bike.
Then I make my biggest mistake. In trying to tighten a loose connector on my coil, it snaps, leaving me with a bike that will never go again until I replace it. So even though I may have had a chance at fixing it before, now there was no chance. So I pack up my stuff, strap my helmet on the back, slap on the suncreen, and start pushing the bike down the road. It is now 3:30pm.
The place where I started pushing the bike.
The township where I had just come was too small to have a workshop, so I continue onward to the next township, 13kms away. It is slightly bigger and more likely to have someone that can fix my bike. The heat of the sun is exhausting, and before long I am weak and faint in the heat, pushing the bike along only by force of sheer determination. Every time I stop my body just wants to collapse, my heart racing wildly.
Pushing along the side of the road is too much effort, so I push with the bike just on the edge of the road. The traffic is sparse, but at times they come from both directions and meet right where I am, so I have to keep watching both directions and get off the road fast. Some trucks refuse to move even when there is room, and simply lean on the horn. Occasionally some crazy driver overtakes toward me, missing my bike by a hand-span or two. Virtually all are travelling at speeds over the designated 110km/h. Some are travelling close to 200.
The corners were a great marker for a water stop.
After running out of water, I push onward until reaching two small houses. Here two gauchos are saddling their horses, and after building the strength to walk over there, they fill up my empty bottle. I also take advantage of the stop and change into shorts and a light shirt, removing my longs that are now dripping in sweat. It helps, but not much.
Finally I see some buildings that tell me I am entering the turn-off for Machagai. Struggling with the force needed to keep the bike upright, I concentrate on each step, one after the other, to keep me going, looking at the ground before me so I do not see the distance remaining.
The gauchos that gave me the water I desperately needed.
Suddenly a car lets out a long continuous beep, and pulls off in front of me. On looking up I cannot believe my eyes. It is my dear friend Sergio Astarloa and family. They are travelling aound the province of Chaco every weekend to share about their vision for Africa, and just happened to see me as they were passing.
Overcome with emotion, I struggle to put the bike’s stand down before it falls from my weakness. Sergio walks up to me and greets me, and asks about what happened. I cannot believe that he is here to help me. It has been such an incredible day, and I had not even made more than 100kms.
He offers to tow me to Saenz PeÃ±a, since it is the only place likely to have a decent workshop that can fix my bike, and before long I am connected to his car by a thick rope, travelling at 70 km/h towards this big city. The wind of the journey helped me to cool down and gather some strength.
As we journey I consider the amazing coincidence of meeting up with Sergio, and the incredible way that he helped me out of my current situation. It was overwhelming to think that after three hours of pushing the bike along the side of the road where not a soul even slowed to ask how things were, a friend should just appear out of nowhere.
In Saenz PeÃ±a, we stop at a classy workshop. It is the best place I have ever seen since arriving in Argentina. Clean, tidy, and well ordered, it inspires confidence. At just after 7.30pm, the mechanic was about to leave, but agreed to look at the bike in the morning. He talked about tuning the carburettor and other things that I have only ever heard other mechanics mumble about. So I have a lot of confidence that the bike will go well after it is fixed.
A meal and some journalling and my day draws to a close.
Sergio still had to get to his destination, so he dropped me off at a hotel and moved on. I was happy to stay at the hotel after such a hard day; and treat myself to some luxury. After a hot shower and decent meal I was ready to retire for the night. My day was now over, as was my adventure. But it had been interesting.
Now tomorrow waits to reveal its own version of adventure.