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February 5th, 2011 - Entering Uruguay

Finally came the time to leave Otamendi and Argentina for good. I double checked everything, mounted the bike after 58 days of involuntary encampment, and left Tati’s farm in Otamendi for Buenos Aires, 500km to the north. The weather turned out to be hellish. Temperatures rose to high 90’s, and high humidity made it impossible to not sweat like a pig. I stopped at every shaded gas station, and dumped water on my head so not to pass out.

After a long ride, I finally reached Buenos Aires around 4 pm, and met up with Adrian. We took the bike straight to his friend’s shop to check out the carburetors and spark plugs. What I feared came through; the spark plugs were as white as Casper, and the lean condition was still haunting me.

To fix the problem, we had to raise the needles in the carbs to adjust the mixture, but the North American CV carbs never had that option. The solution was to add spacers to the needles to fix the height, but the spacers had to be 2mm in diameter. I searched the giant city of Buenos Aires for small washers in that size, but I came back empty handed just short of a heatstroke.

The very talented mechanic, Luis fabricated the spacers on his 1930’s out of shape lathe, and the bike finally started to run the way it should. In the mean time I spent my time with Adrian and his family, and went windshield shopping in the city. The windshield on the bike shredded to pieces in the wicked Patagonia winds, so I replaced it for a better one.

Adrian and his family showed me the utmost hospitality in Buenos Aires, so it was hard to leave the delicious food and comfortable bed behind, but it was time to get back on the long road. On the fourth day, I packed up the bike, and headed for the Uruguayan border town of Frey Bentos. To cross into Uruguay, I had two options. One would have been crossing the Rio de la Plata on a ferry for $200; the fastest and easiest option, but I chose to ride inland along the river until I could find a bridge of some sort to cross the widest river in the world. 270km north of Buenos Aires finally was such a bridge and I crossed into Uruguay.

The border crossing went well, but the officer kept asking about my insurance. I handed him an official looking piece of paper and assured him that it was my “international insurance” (I don’t have any insurance whatsoever). This was the first time that anyone at any border in Latin America asked for insurance, so I suppose I have to make one up for the next border in case I get asked again.

Uruguay started pretty, and it turned prettier with every mile. I was going to Montevideo to meet a GSR member named Eliseo who happened to be a machinist. That would give me a chance to fix all the small problems once and for all, and continue my travels north for the Brazilian Amazon worry free. In his emails, Eliseo suggested a road that wasn’t even on the map but I took it anyway. For 260km, I saw only a handful of cars, and three villages as this road passed through some of the most secluded, but beautiful parts of Uruguay along the Parana River. I was finally out of the overpopulated Buenos Aires province, and the fertile pastures of the quite Uruguay were a blessing. It was a love at first sight. I love Uruguay.

Uruguay is a very small country the size of Iowa, tucked in the far-eastern corner of South America. Being sandwiched between the two South American giants of Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay is sometimes looked at as another province of Argentina rather than a wholesome country. But it’s not. Uruguay is a unique place of its own in my opinion. Majority of the population come from direct Spanish and Italian ancestors, and unlike Argentina, it hasn’t quite mixed in with its neighbors. Blue eyes, blond hair and super tan skins are predominant looks, and a beautiful smile to cap it off comes standard with every face in Uruguay. Every person I met was happy and laidback, and without exception wanted to know everything about me and my bike. At every gas station, I held small press conferences for the crowd as I entertained them with my ridiculous sounding scanty Spanish, telling tales of the far-faraway lands.

I decided to stay for the night 150km before Montevideo as it was getting dark, and I would continue the trip the next day. I stopped at Juan Lacaze, a very small town off the main highway to Montevideo. I stayed the night at the house of a genuinely sweet Uruguayan girl, named Paola, who happened to speak very good English. She made an amazing dinner of traditional Uruguayan meal and educated me on customs and traditions of her country. The bike was running fine, the weather was cooler, and I was welcomed into Uruguay with topnotch kindness. I could relax at last.

The next day, I blazed the short leg to the capital city of Montevideo, and met up with Eliseo at his machine shop. Eliseo received me with his never-fading smile, and ten minutes later we were drinking Matte, and chatting with his father like we were friends for years. He put me up in the guest room at his apartment, and after meeting his beautiful wife and a great meal, I retired for the night. I’ll stay in Montevideo to round up the odds and ends of the bike, and will head north from here for Paraguay. Stay tuned.

There are One Comment

  1. Cynthia
    February 5, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    Love this post-great job 🙂 And so happy that you continue to meet amazing people along the way and that you are enjoying your journey! I LOVE your pictures—they are beautiful but I know of all of them you know which is my favorite and makes my heart stop!

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