On Sunday, May 29 we began the journey to Buenos Aires to reclaim our bikes. I was very casual about packing for the trip right up until about 7PM on Saturday, at which point I realized we had more to do than I thought and panicked mildly. We wanted to bring the old Scorpion helmets so as not to subject our beloved Arais to two more trips through baggage handling, but discovered on Saturday night that to switch the Cardo headsets over to the Scorpions would be too much of a PITA. (It would involve adhesive, instead of the clip mounts.) So we bubble-wrapped our Arai helmets, wrapped them in our riding jackets, put our back armor underneath them and crammed the rest of our riding gear in for padding.
That took roughly 40 minutes. And there was a lot more like that.
We were still wrapping up final details on Sunday right up until it was time to go. We had dog-sitters coming, but it was going to be two sets because the one that has more experience with our beasts was going to be gone for Memorial Day weekend. Cat food to acquire. Labeling and general straightening. And more packing than I’d been prepared to expect. We somehow managed to cram full two entire duffle bags.
Riding gear takes up a lot more space than you realize.
We finished all of our details around 12:15. I thought our flight was at 4PM, and I’ve read you’re supposed to get to the airport early for international flights, so I was shooting to be there at 1pm to start security, etc.
Somehow, the entire process from calling a cab to getting through security and ordering lunch by our gate was done by 12:55. And it turned out, our flight wasn’t until 4:40PM. We were a bit early.
I think we were both bored by our sitting around after our flurry activity. We just wanted to GET THERE already and get the bikes sorted out. The flight from Boston to Houston where we connected for the Buenos Aires flight seemed to take forever, even though we got there early and had a little over an hour to kill before they started boarding our next flight. We were both over flying like 2 hours into the Houston flight. And we still had over 12.5 hours of flying to go.
Luckily, the flight from Houston to Buenos Aires was overnight. We left Houston at a little after 9PM, and were asleep shortly after midnight. Had a rather lame in-flight meal, watched a surprisingly entertaining in-flight movie and then managed to pass out, in spite of a mother belonging to a consolidated group of kids and adults being very loud and drunk in the seat in front of us. Boo. Slept sporadically until shortly after 6, when the sunrise was glorious from 35,000 feet over La Paz. Then they started serving “breakfast” (we weren’t even IN Argentina yet and they’d already returned to breakfast) and we nibbled, drank lots of fluids and generality tried to be alert.
Flying down was a series of “We’ve been there” moments. We kept passing over or near places that we rode through on the way down on our bikes, and I had the opportunity to remember and relive those moments again. It really gives you a wonderfully unique perspective to have actually BEEN to the places you’re flying over. It gives all of those beautiful contours, interesting rivers and intriguing dirt roads a new sense of depth. Sometimes it still hasn’t sunk in all of the places we’ve been to, and flying over them helped to cement that yes, we really *have* been there.
Got to Buenos Aires shortly before 9AM, and by 10AM we were heading out. The only noteworthy thing along the way was a $140 US “reciprocal fee” for EACH of us just for flying into Buenos Aires. Hi, you flew in to our airport? BAM! That’ll be $280, please. The sign says it’s just the equivalent to what the U.S. charges when Argentinian citizens fly in, which may be true, but we hadn’t heard about it and were completely blindsided. We’d already been “in” Argentina 3 times and had never dealt with this fee. The guy explained that it’s just when you fly in, but it’s good for 10 years. So if we wanna come back…
The plan for the morning was to take a taxi to Dakar Motos, where we would meet with Sandra who would set up an appointment for us to take the bikes to the airport, get the information she needed from us and go over the process with us.
We left the airport and a guy immediately said “Taxi?” Sure. We show him the address, he nods and says no problem, motions us to follow him, and fills out a paper at a dispatch booth. Then he takes us to the cab and puts us inside. He asks if we’ll be paying with Argentine pesos or U.S. Dollars, and we tell him pesos, and there’s some confusion over the price. He’s definitely saying 5-something, but it’s surely not 5 pesos unless it’s just a tip for getting us a cab, and it’s probably not 50 pesos because we paid something like 120 pesos to get from Dakar Motos to the airport when we left a couple of months ago.
What’s that? 598 pesos? WTF?!?! We immediately put our feet down and say it’s too much. They pull out a rate card that shows it’s 400 pesos just to go to the town center (which is just over $100 U.S. dollars). And town center is like 20 miles. Which, granted, isn’t teeny taxi ride, but it’s not our fault they put the airport so far outside the city. It’s surely not 400 pesos worth, since we paid a fraction of that to go further last time.
So we continue to put our foot down and start to get out of the cab. As soon as they see us starting to open the door, the guy in the driver’s seat says “No problemo” and starts driving off. We get annoyed and tell them we’re not willing to pay more than 200 pesos to get to Dakar Motos, and the guy says he’s going to take us to a more economical taxi. So he takes us around the corner (still in front of the airport – just around a bend) and hands us off to a guy from the same taxi company who is going to drive us to Dakar Motos for 200 pesos.
First of all, tourists flying into Buenos Aires – beware. That is a HUGE rip-off. And I’ll bet they’re playing on people not understanding the currency difference and not realizing that they’re paying $100 for a cab ride. Or that people will think they have no choice. Either way, it made me angry on behalf of tourists. No wonder we prefer to go by moto. Already we’ve been ripped off to the tune of several hundred dollars just for flying into the country and trying to get into the city. We never had to deal with these fees when we rode.
We get to Dakar Motos and Sandra and Javier are out with a couple of moto folks. It turns out, one of them was Dave, who emailed us about 6 weeks ago from Dakar Motos asking if he could take the gas cans we left there. He was planning to ride north to New York, but we found out today that he reconnected with a woman he knew 20 years ago, and just couldn’t leave her. He started heading north and decided he’d rather be with her so he turned around and came back to her. It was a sweet story.
We chatted with Sandra for a few minutes, explained that we were actually staying at a hotel in the city as we were going to “play tourist” this time around, and gave her the info she needs to forward on to the shipping folks for the bikes. (Just the standard info – name, address, country, phone and email, bike year, make, model, vin and plate.) She gave us a paper with complete instructions on the shipping process, and we headed off to get copies made and grab some more breadfast at the bakery we liked by Dakar Motos, as we were starving at this point and wouldn’t be eating there again since we were staying in the city.
Back with the copies, Sandra gets everything together, we pay her, Javier gets my panniers for me (he’s been storing them), we buy some oil off him for Kay’s bike and we head into the city. We’d originally planned to walk to the train, take it into the city and then take a taxi to our hotel to save money. However, when we get the panniers, we’re reminded of how heavy they are (Kay’s note: we stuck all the heavy crap we wouldn’t need without bikes in them) , so we opt to take a taxi after all.
We get to the hotel (Axel Hotel) and it’s swank. Apparently, also a gay hotel. Didn’t realize until after we booked it, but it’s really stylish and the guys who work here are all hot so I probably would have booked it anyway. We found it in the guidebook and saw that it’s listed as $200+ per night. We paid $55 per night. Free wifi, breakfast, good neighborhood – we think it’s a steal.
Then we had to put all of the armor back in our motorcycle gear, get geared up and take yet another taxi to the parking garage so we could pick up the motos. The plan was to bring them back to the hotel, and then leave from the hotel in the AM to take the bikes to the airport. I didn’t want to wait until the AM to get the bikes on the off chance that we couldn’t get Kay’s bike running.
Turns out, this was a very good bit of foresight… for the wrong reason.
We get to the garage, pull the bikes out, take the covers off them, check the tire pressure… all the while putting off the fateful turn of the key that I think we’re both worried about (Kay’s note: I didn’t doubt my Horse for a moment). We decided to start my bike first, because we’re not worried about it starting, so I put the key in and turn it and… nothing. No headlights. No neutral light on the dash. Nothing. My battery is stone dead. Blast.
We turn to Kay’s bike. Put the key in the ignition and turn… and the headlight comes on. That’s a good sign! It takes a few starts of cranking the engine, but on the third or fourth try of cranking and revving the throttle, it catches and springs to life. It’s been two months without being turned on, so we let it sit and idle for a bit. And then we pull out the jumper cables which we were smart enough to bring along, and hook Kay’s bike up to mine. I turn the key again, and have lights! Woot! Try to start it, and it’s giving me more problems than Kay’s. It takes me 5 or 6 tries, but it eventually springs to life, too. Yay! And then proceeds to die again less than a minute later.
I try again, and this time it really starts and stays running. It sounds a bit rough, but again – two months will do that to a bike. We let it run for a couple of minutes, and then I start taking the jumper cables off. The second I disconnect the negative, it dies.
We reconnect the battery, I fire the bike up again and let it run longer this time. I try 5 minutes. Second I disconnect the battery from the terminal, the bike dies. No power, no lights, not even a dashboard clock.
At this point I think it’s got something really wrong and we’re not going to get it running, but we try again. This time we let the bike run for 15 minutes while it’s still hooked up to Kay’s, hoping it’ll charge the battery and won’t instantly die the second I disconnect it. But when I reach for the terminal, it dies. And that’s it. I won’t be riding my bike back to the hotel, or to the airport.
We make the decision to ride Kay’s bike two-up back to the hotel, where we will try to call Sandra and see if she knows someone who can tow my bike to the airport. It’s weird to ride two-up after riding my own bike all those months, and it’s challenging for Kay to have the center of gravity altered so drastically. But we get the 6km back to the hotel without mishap, and it feels really good to be on a bike again – even under the weird circumstances.
Back in the hotel room, we use Skype to call Sandra and give her the scoop, and I give her the hotel info so she can call us back. She finds someone who will tow the bike for us for “maybe around 350 pesos.” We agree because, well, it could be a lot worse, and we really don’t have any other way to get the bike to the airport. So we’ll have to go back to the garage to meet the tow guy at 9:30AM tomorrow to get the bike to the airport.
The plan had been for me to ride two-up with Kay back to the parking garage, and then ride to the airport with the guy who was towing my bike… but then I realized my panniers were still in our hotel room, and I wanted them to be shipped home with the bike. And they won’t fit on Kay’s luggage rack. So I have to take yet another blasted taxi back to the garage in the morning with the panniers, while Kay rides his bike and then hopefully I can hitch a ride to the airport with the guy who’s towing my bike while Kay rides his bike to the airport.
I’m stressed out by the fact that my bike won’t run, and it feels like a big let-down that I won’t be finishing the trip under my own power. It’s probably my own fault for not disconnecting the battery, but the only thing I had connected to it was a couple of pigtails and the stupid Aerostich multi-meter, which I’ve had on the bikes for weeks without starting and seen no difference in the battery life. And honestly, it doesn’t sound like a battery problem, so maybe I am off the hook here. I guess we’ll know when we get it to the BMW dealer back home. But it feels sad to have Nargo and I going to the airport in a truck after doing 18,000 miles on this epic trip.
Dakar Motos is… Dakar Motos. Javier and Sandra have put together a great place where moto adventurers can meet up and chill for a while without going broke. At the same time, it’s literally a couple of bunk beds in a motorcycle workshop. Sometimes you want cheap and campy, sometimes you want a little more. This time, we went with the more. But one thing we couldn’t do without was, and is, Sandra’s helpfulness.
Amongst the free toiletries is a tasteful, thin, flat, box that says Disfruita! Have Fun! Showering involves full glass and mirrors on two sides. The soundproofing seems pretty good so far. Will give it a full test later.