Saturday, December 5, 2015

Buenos Aires to Belgrano and getting ready to go - November 4 to November 15

I spent 2 days in Buenos Aires getting money exchanged, scoping out the omibus station, and looking into getting a visa for Brazil.

My impression of the BA was that of a old European city with large well planned streets and parks, similar to Madrid Spain.   Strangely I did not get robed or even kidnapped. 

This Argentinean chopper was in front of the Brazilian embassy where I attempted to get my visa.  I was told that all visa's require a personal interview by appointment only, that the next appointment was sometime next week and besides, the computer was down so not to worry about it, so I proceeded not to.

Below is one of the 3 train stations in Buenos Aires.  Next to the train station is the massive bus station, with over 60 but gates/slots.  Most travel within Argentine is done by bus.  There must be 30 or more companies going all over the country.  This is a good example of free market providing competition which results in great quality and choices. 

 Picture a 1st class airline set which folds down into a bed on a bus.

Ok so the bus seats may be 1st class but the "food" .... well ???

I had 2 days to plan getting my 200 pounds of gear to the station and onto the bus.  I scoped out the station (twice), I talked to the English speaking hotel clerk to make sure the taxi was arranged (twice), I both called and visited the bus company to find out about porters from the taxi drop off to the bus, I did online research on porters in the bus station.  I talked to the porters in the bus station....  sooooo  1 hour before my the bus it to leave...

Me to english speaking hotel clerk:  I know I confirmed twice this morning that my taxi was to arrive at 8:00 pm but where is it ? It is 8:05 pm
 Hotel clerk: You need a taxi ?  It is Friday night and very difficult to get a taxi.  Let me call after I help this large group check into the hotel.
Me to self: You have got to be kidding me !!!!!!   Do you not remember a few hours ago when you confirmed with a big smile that you were going to arrange this ??
Me to english speaking hotel clerk:
I understand it can take 25 minutes to get to the station, and that although everything else in Argentine runs late, the buses don't and will leave right on time... and I do not really want to lose my ticket and spend another day in this place.
 Hotel clerk: No problem.  I will call the taxi company..... they say they can get a taxi to pick you up about 8:45 pm
 Me to english speaking hotel clerk: That's very kind of you but my bus leaves at 9:00, it takes at least 20 minutes to get there.
Hotel clerk: A puzzled look of being challenged by higher math.

We now wait for 30 minutes for the taxi to arrive.  At 8:45 he runs out of the hotel and throws himself in front of a taxi.  I madly (and I don't mean I was mad, just rushed) put my 200 pounds of gear inside the car, and off we go.  I survive the taxi ride to arrive at 8:58 pm, with 2 minutes to drag my gear up the stairs, through the station to where the bus is suppose to be....  no bus... oh shit it's 9:01 and I missed it... hundreds of eyes are staring at this crazy gringo with who is obviously way out of his comfort zone.  But just then the bus shows up at 9:05, I bribe the guy who loads the luggage, and off I go at 9:10, drenched in sweat.  Then a wonderful relaxing all night ride through miles and miles of green lush farmland.

I arrived at the Villa General Belgrano at 8:00 am to a warm spring morning and an even warmer greeting from the campground owner, Betta, who drives me from the bus station through the small German like town to the campground and my new home.

Imagine my excitement when, after purchasing the vehicle (my new home) online almost 3 months earlier while in Africa with Dale & Nancy Karr and the Johnson family, I finally get to see it !!!
The previous owners from Holland, JP and Hannie, have done an amazing job of not only giving me instructions on all the systems, but storing the truck.
First look.  AMG, it is amazing !!  I am so impressed with the quality and design.  But still not sure if I purchased a worn out vehicle ready to break down at every opportunity or a world class overlander ???

 The 1st day is very eventful,  there is a hail storm (something that is very frequent I come to find out) that threatens to crack my solar panels and the windshield.  I attempt to get outside to put something over the hood but quickly retreat inside after being hurt on my hands and head.  The noise is awful.

After the hail storm I drive it 30 feet and get stuck.  Ralf, the campground owner, kindly shows me how to dig it out.

I spend the next 2 weeks learning about the truck and systems (solar panels, stove, refrigerator, oven, microwave, hot water, heat, shower, toilet, charging systems, water, truck engine, bed extension,  air conditioner, suspension, etc), and getting money, insurance, GPS chip,.  I walk 20 minutes to town to get internet and run errands.

I also took a crash course in Spanish from a very cute and wonderful local, Viviana.  Vivian was born in Belgrano and lived in Germany for several years.  She speaks, english, german, and spanish, but her husband only speaks spansish and german.... but likes the Beattles !!!   All their kids are grown and successful.  I was happy to hear that the son just quite Microsoft for a more human job !!

 This is a typical dinner at the camp ground.  Note Ralf (blue shirt) is a master chief and wonderful person.  I enjoy the meals immensely but the only problem is that everyone is always speaking German, not Spanish !!

 My only wish in life now is to be reincarnated as one of Ralf's dogs......

I have fun working on the truck, for example replacing a punctured airbag for the truck suspension.  This requires a few bus trips to the next town,  Santa Rosa, to get bolts, hydraulic fluid for the jack, a new jack, etc.  I am enjoying all of this. 

On one of these trips I have the good luck to meet Ivan and Kim Hoyt, who I will drive north to visit and stay at there place in Carlos Paz which is just west of Cordoba.

Ivan and Kim are missionaries but not what I think of as pushy judgmental preachy missionaries.  They both are genuinely and loving people.  I just loved being with them.  Their approach is more facilitators and leaders.  It struck me that they are more like the early apostles than "we come from abroad and are here to save you !!! "  Wonderful !!!!

On another trip to Santa Rosa I happen upon a yearly "Traditional" festival.  I sat at an outdoor cafe watching an amazing show of horsemanship.  Little kids would ride in their parents laps and girls would ride behind their proud guys with there long dresses covering the backside of the horse.

Here is Christian Solis, and his beautiful wife and angelic baby.  Christian lives in Belgrano and helped me get the bus ticket back from Santa Rosa.  We meet again in town.  He is studying environmental science.  It was so nice to have unsolicited help when struggling to communicate with the bus ticket guy.  I felt happy for them being together starting their family.

All this while I have not driven the truck off the campground.  But now the real adventure begins.

Watching the presidential election with Vivian and hubby.  Argentina has a very screwed up government which works in a culture of corruption.  But it is sort of democratic, and as near as I can determine, the people (possibly low information voters who believe in the politicians who tell them they can get something for nothing), periodically vote themselves into a substandard lifestyle.  

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