The final miles and thoughts
23.05.2010 - 25.05.2010 20 °C
From Alta Gracia we headed for an overnight stay in Che Guevaras birthplace Rosario before travelling the last few hundred miles to our starting point in Buenos Aires, having completed over 5,200 miles in South America.
Many of the group have spent these couple of days reflecting on what they have seen and experienced and we have been no exception.
April and I both started the journey not quite knowing what to expect. Our thought was to experience it as we went rather than read up on lots of travel books and guides. In many ways its been overwhelming.
The riding itself has been far more physically demanding than I thought it would be. The rest days were barely enough to pull yourself together especially when combined with some of the must see sights we went to that ate into any of the rest we needed. Its only now that we are safely back in Buenos Aires that this is catching up on us. As I write this April is having an afternoon nap and I have barely been awake for the last two days!
The altitude has also been a big factor. Day after day at over 3,000 metres takes it out of you. It's difficult to breathe or even walk around at times. Sleep is interupted by your body begging for more oxygen and then it becomes hard to get back to sleep again.
However, and its a big however, the things we have done and seen have been a truly once in a lifetime experience.
Bolivia was an eyeopener. I think often in the west it can be easy to equate poverty with dishonesty and laziness. There is much poverty in Bolivia, It hits you in the face and sometimes in the nose ! But not once did anyone have anything stolen or did we feel threatened or in danger, in fact the complete opposite. Everyone was extremely friendly; although many were curious about the motorbikes no one touched them without permission, and the interest in where we had come from and where we were going was overwhelming.
As for the driving, on reflection there were rules we just didn't understand at first. Drivers never lost their tempers and waited for the crazy foreigners to sort themselves out before telling them they were travelling the wrong way down a dual carriageway again or that they should have stopped at that junction because thats what everyone who lives here always does !
Peru was full of fantastic scenery,cities and sights. Its trying hard to promote its tourist industry and jusifiably so. They are also trying hard to improve their infrastructure. The amount of effort that has been put into repairing the railway to Machu Picchu after the recent floods is enormous.
We did however fall foul of some of the roadworks. In particular one small stretch of road shortly after leaving Cuzco on our way to Nazca. This consisted of about 1,000 metres of bends on an uphill section of road that the road builders had decided to cover in gravel to the depth of about a metre. When we came across it they were in the process of trying to flatten it with a couple of rollers. Unfortunately for us and all of the other traffic using this main road they had covered both sides of the carriageway. This made it impossible for any of the trucks to get up or down. It also posed a very tricky problem for us. Bikes do not do gravel very well especially those that are fully loaded and have a passenger. But we decided to do what most Peruvians seem to be good at and thats just getting on with it. With April pushing and getting covered in dirt and gravel, then walking to the top, with Hedley burning our his clutch and much sliding and slipping we made it to the top for a celebration picnic. Then we carried on as normal, just like everone else.
Chile and the Atacama were a complete contrast to Bolivia and Peru. Prosperous well organised there is a sense of purpose in Chile. The desert must be one of the harshest places on earth but the Chilians are making the most of their natural resources. The mines are on a gigantic scale suited to the vastness of the Atacama. Its a shame in many ways that we didn't have time to see other parts of Chile. Four days was hardly enough to scratch the surface. Maybe thats for another time.
Argentina. What can I say about Argentina other than I think its a great place. Today is the Bi Centenary of Argentinas independence. Here we are in the capital and there is a lot of flag waving and celebrations but none of the hard nosed jingoism that you might expect in other countries. They are rightly proud of what they have achieved. There are displays from Gouchos, drummers, native music, football celebrations and music. All in good spirit with families taking part. The celebration reflects the people we have met here. For instance, coming into BA yesterday we parked our bike at the entrance to a service station so that all the group could meet up to go into the city together. As we parked a man approached us having walked a hundred metres back from the petrol pumps. In perfect English he said he had noticed we were English and wondered if we had a problem, was there anything he could do, and then the questions about our journey and what we thought of Argentina. It all begs a few questions about Government posturings and wars.
All in all I think we have lost count of the number of photos that have been taken of our bikes and the number of people who have their photos taken either on them or next to them. What a way to travel. You wouldn't get that in a car.
Finally, April and I hope you enjoyed reading our first ever blog. We have only written what we have seen rather than fill it with facts and figures that can be found in proper travel books, but we hope you have found it interesting.
Thanks for all your comments thay have kept us in touch with home and motivated us to keep the entries coming.