An Aussie Abroad - (Taking Lucy Home, from Chile to the US)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Junipertravels, Jul 21, 2019.

  1. Normlas

    Normlas Been here awhile

    Jun 24, 2011
    New Zealand - JAFA
    Well done mate, great to hear you are back on the road and Lucy is firing on her cylinder :clap

    You have probably already found it but I found the forum website to be very useful for good detailed mechanical advice.

    Did you ever catch up with my friend Ruben in Salta?

    Ride on bro!
    Junipertravels likes this.
  2. mrsdnf

    mrsdnf Long timer

    Feb 8, 2019
    Lost between the Dandenongs and Yarra Valley
    After reading about your master chef cooking I feel a bit shamed sitting here eating a bowl of Corn Flakes with cold milk and no sugar. :D
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  3. Junipertravels

    Junipertravels Adventurer

    Mar 30, 2019

    :beer Cheers mate! I didn't end up catching up with Ruben, though I'll be heading back that way soon. I'll let you know! I'm doing a small loop - Tucuman, Tafe de Valle, Cafayate then back to Salta. I want to make sure everything is A-Okay with Lucy, plus visit some friends that I have in the area. And yeah the website is golden. So glad I bought the KLR650, there is oodles of information, parts aren't impossible to find, simple engine to work on... It's a great bike. I just met a local lad today who'd just bought a KLR and was asking what I thought of the bike, that's pretty much how I summed it up for him
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  4. Junipertravels

    Junipertravels Adventurer

    Mar 30, 2019
    Haha, no shame in that mi amigo. I lived on cereals back in Aus - Wheatbix all the way! In fact I'd probably live on cereals here if I could keep milk cold on the bike
  5. MotoRojo

    MotoRojo Adventurer

    Dec 21, 2014
    North Vancouver BC
    Following along and loving the places Arjan’s former moto is taking you. Treat it gently and keep those great reports coming :clap
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  6. Junipertravels

    Junipertravels Adventurer

    Mar 30, 2019
    Cheers for joining MotoRojo!

    Okay so I packed my things, all of my things, for the first time in over a month... Hugged friends goodbye and jumped on Lucy... Summer is setting in here now and the 37C day was trying to cook me as I left Salta. I was heading South along the Ruta 9 to Tucuman. The full name is San Miguel de Tucuman - it seems every city here is named after a Saint as well as the location, as I mentioned earlier North Argentina is a fairly religious region

    Last vista of Salta:

    Why Tucuman, I hear you ask... Is it because I wanted a thrill to go to what the locals consider to be the most dangerous city in the North? Or because I wanted to experience sweltering heat like back home in Aus? (Tucuman is often much hotter than the surrounding cities, this weekend is no exception with peaks above 40C) Not really... The answer is in the photo below...


    So last weekend there was an English teachers conference in Salta, and staying at Las Rejas with me were these 5. On the Friday morning we'd had a quick chat over breakfast and agreed to have some casual beverages that night. When we met that night I'd brought a bottle of Argentina's finest el cheapo red. The girls produced a stolen ticket to their teachers conference function for that evening. Free food and drinks, and all I have to do is iron my shirt and pretend to be an English teacher. Boo yeah :clap

    The fancy-smanshy function:

    Anyway, I ended up getting caught out within an hour and we all bailed... Debauchery with a side of karaoke followed. On the whole we became fast friends :beer


    So I was lured down to Tucuman with prospects of some more local shenanigans. One of the girls Ari could store Lucy securely; another, Bel, offered her house for a party where I could learn to cook the Tucuman fast food special - the Panchuque; and another Kari, offered to get me on to her fitness training groups weekend hike. I chose the cheapest most central hotel available, perfect for nights out and a short distance from the hikers meeting point. This was a mistake, in hindsight I should've stayed somewhere a little less "faulty tower" and caught a taxi to the hiking meeting point (the reason I chose this hotel). I had to negotiate everything with the owner, hot water, Wi-Fi, somewhere to leave my luggage for one night... All were extras. I don't mind staying in the cruddiest of rooms, but having to bargain for everything after a long boring hot ride was a pain in the arse!

    Anyway, once I had tucked Lucy into her secure bed we hit up a burger bar that reminded me exactly of my hometown Melbourne - complete with Brioche buns and craft beer. Argentina is the kind of place where you can cross 3 streets and feel like you're in a different country. This bar was great, relaxing, happy hour price cervaza kept me content and I splurged on a giant tub of ice cream on the walk home

    Burger bar selfie:

    The following day I prepared for the hike, I found out last minute that we would be hiking +40C weather, up to 3,000m (with a starting altitude of 500m)... :knary It seems these Argentinian's are picking up the "get Haydon fit" challenge where the Frenchies had left off! So I bought an extra water bottle, a new cap (lost my old one) and a long sleeve cotton shirt - in a past life I did a little work on a Queensland farm and these shirts are Gold for keeping cool in the sun

    Now we would have to leave early the following morning, so our night's plans was to be casual, relaxed, and home early for a decent sleep. This hike was recommended to be completed in 3 days and we were aiming to complete in only half that. I should also mention that the group is a fitness club, who train together for marathons. This trek was part of their training regime. So for context, I was nervous AF. And keen to make sure I wasn't going to need Kari to give me a piggy back ride

    So the night before we went out to one of the girls (Bel's) house, homemade nachos and guacamole, followed by Panchuques. All enjoyed with cocktails and some guessing games - my challenge is that the South American continent has their own set of trivial knowledge, of which I know nothing. I mean really, who is Shakira anyway

    Panchuque I bought downtown:

    Homemade Panchuque at Bel's house:
    At 1am we went to the night club. Wait what... What happened to having an early night? Kari's response was surprise - we are having an early night... We'd only go to the club for an hour or two and then go to bed, the rest would continue on until 6-7am - the normal time a night out finishes... Jeez, I think to myself, no wonder everyone here has siesta's. If a normal night out saw me getting home at sunrise I would need a Siesta too. Back in Melbourne 1am was when you went for kebabs at the end of a night, and in country Queensland the last round was 10pm

    And so it was, with only a couple of hours sleep I found myself, bleary eyed, on a bus full of fluoro coloured fitness fanatics, fully accessorized in sporting brand names. Meanwhile I had my long sleeve checked cotton shirt I'd picked up from a second hand clothing store. Felt like I was on an obscure variation of Farmer Wants a Wife, like Farmer wants a Nike sponsorship


    Oh merde... What have I got myself in for


    ...Continued on next post...
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  7. Junipertravels

    Junipertravels Adventurer

    Mar 30, 2019
    But, I did survive, and without needing any piggy back rides :raindance Grueling in some ways, but super worthwhile. Day 1 we hiked for 6-7 hours, day 2 was about 10 hours. It actually reminded me of hiking back home, having to cut across farmers paddocks, wide open views that were breathtaking. Fun fact, from lowest to highest points, the altitude difference was greater than Australia's highest mountain, and we went up and down that altitude a lot over the two days

    The company made up of super friendly interesting people of all walks of life - more opportunities to play Spanglish charades. One thing that made this hike so easy to agree to was that it was fully supported - no need to carry tents, camping gear etc. Back home I'd only ever hiked with 30-40kgs strapped to my back. I'd been convinced to wear my runners instead of boots since we had to cross half a river a half dozen times. The lack of ankle support from my runners was tough, but they dried out within 15 mins of crossing the river (I mean we were pretty much walking inside an oven)


    Part way along the first day we happened upon a soccer match, in the middle of nowhere. The only access to the ground was horseback or dirt bike - and it was packed. I have no idea where all these people came from. It was here we acquired another member of our band, a stray dog we came to call Champion


    Champion our groups mascot after cooling down in a muddy stream:

    The hiking trail was also being used by a load of motoX riders, super ballsy dudes. Met a bunch of them at this Hosteria in the middle of the mountains - the only way to get supplies here was by horse

    Here was a bunch of riders who'd stopped in at our Hosteria for some beers

    Instant-Mate (also known as a teabag) whilst watching the sunrise:

    Some more shots from the Hike:

    (Side note, lots of the HV transmission lines have this non-rigid arrangement, I can only surmise it's to give them flexibility and protect them from high wind and/or earthquakes. Either way they looked curiously precarious)

    Back in Tucuman the following day I loaded up Lucy once again, Kari and I had lunch to delay my departure (was another +40C day, wasn't looking forward to leaving). She took me to this awesome restaurant downtown so I could try some more Argentina foods - Matambre with a cream cheese. The Empanadas here were also awesome - with whole pieces of succulent beef



    From here I am heading to Cafayate (my third time!), the road through Tafi De Valle which I'll take is supposed to be amazing. In Cafayate I'll be staying with my French Amigo Gilles and his family. Unfortunately Gilles has had a little spill on his '250 and broke a bone in his wrist :muutt We were planning on doing the +5000m volcano run into the Andes, need to discuss with him if and when he's going to be free for this!

    Attached Files:

  8. Ozflock

    Ozflock n00b

    Sep 3, 2019
    Sensational times ! ❤️
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  9. Slick13

    Slick13 Wanderer

    Jun 9, 2018
    Hong Kong, Australia (Bright) & Japan
    Just found your ride report a couple of days ago mate, you're killing it out there!
    Seriously, you're pushing the very meaning of adventure travel; stuck in Salta for weeks, you embrace the grind, meet a shedload of new friends, get your mech skills squared away, hammer your fitness training and just roll with the challenges that come your way. Well done Haydon, you should be quietly proud of your fortitude and patience.
    Don't think the Han Solo-packed-in-carbonite fridge door in your post of Oct 5th didn't go unnoticed either; the strategically-placed water dispenser was a nice touch.
    Nice work on finding the red checked shirt for your hike, they'd be proud of you in QLD for representing yourself in such a suave fashion. You just need a bottle of Bundy and a little fighting spirit to complete the picture.

    Give it hell mate; stay safe and enjoy your travels.
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  10. Junipertravels

    Junipertravels Adventurer

    Mar 30, 2019
    Super kind words mate, and a bottle or two of Bundy would not go astray! :beer I'm just writing up the next post now. It's the story of how I got a very public bum injection in the local ED... :kat

    And Han Solo's water dispenser!!! Man, I lived in that hostel for a month and never made that connection. Hilarious observation mate, just made my day, cheers!

    Han Solo.PNG
  11. Junipertravels

    Junipertravels Adventurer

    Mar 30, 2019
    Tucuman to Calilegua.PNG

    So the day after completing the sauna-trek with the fluorescent army I delay my ride until after the heat of the day passes. Surely avoiding the scorching hot afternoon is worth arriving after dark. Surely. But nope, in the end there was no cool change and I had to squeeze into my bike gear for my very own sauna experience. The start of the ride is flat, straight and fully exposed in the sun. My reprieve from the heat only came when I entered the range, after an hour of riding in the full sun. And man was it a relief. And a tonne of fun. The road started curving and the landscape changed from cane fields to sub tropical rain forest. Tafi de Valle is situated halfway along a connection road between ruta 40 and Tucuman. The road begins the climb at 400m, climbs to above 2000m through tight twisty roads, and then drops altitude again on the far side.

    Unbeknownst to me, the far side the road deteriorates terribly. Afterwards I'm told the road's been nicknamed Infierno - Hell. I catch the most incredible sunset as I peak the range and then slowly pick my way down the descent, dodging the giant holes and debris. Okay, I'll admit it, I loved the descent even though it was dark and I missed the views. The concentration I had to give to riding this road in the dark made the time slip by quickly

    The Sunset is Amazing!

    The Descent is Amazingly Bad!

    Pre-sunset photo shoot with Lucy - with a stray horse in the background (very common in these parts!)
    20190930_191308 (1).jpg
    Before I new it I was in Amaicha at the bottom of the range, checking a fuel station when I get talking to a local who came to over to have a look at Lucy. He offers to drive ahead of me, so he can give warning to loose livestock that are often on the road at night time. Super good guy, never caught his name but the last hour of the ride he kept pace with me, using his emergency lights to warn me when animals were about - mostly horses, not the sort of animal I want to make close acquaintances with at 100km/h in the dark

    I reach Gilles house by 9pm and am welcomed immediately with a meat/cheese platter and a cold Salta Negra... This is pretty much how my week in Cafayate pans out - I supply the beer/wine or find some salami/cheese to bring home to Gilles for the evenings. The days are spent at Baco Bar, writing this blog, drinking beer and meeting the many other riders that come through this road. 40 peso street tortillas help keep costs down (or rather allows me to but more beer)

    My welcome platter:

    Gilles and the family (with Kyan trying to steal my beer):
    20191001_201627 (1).jpg

    Daily Tortilla:

    I help out where I can, which includes being chauffeur to Kyan, Gilles' 10 year old son. Smart as a whip, home schooled Kyan taught himself English to fluency better than either of his parents. This kid loves Australia and knows more about my own country than me! I've been teaching him some Australian slang, he picks this up along with my Australian accent quickly - sorry Gilles!

    For the most part my days go slowly and peacefully - Cafayate is a tranquil town, religious festivals are common. Plenty of good wine, great weather and awesome company. The below photo is a good representation of an afternoon here


    Typical religious day festivity. I've lost track of what this parade was celebrating
    On Sunday I help Gilles exercise his horses and learn how to ride a horse bareback - thankfully I was on a very well behaved beautiful Peruvian mare



    One unique thing for me was that Gilles house is surrounded by wild guinea pigs... A first for me to see these animals in the wild. And to see them scurry about the bush every morning was odd


    After a week relaxing here I finally get word on my next destination. I was meeting up with Jeremy, a Swiss hitchhiker I met in Salta some time ago. Jeremy is an amazing amateur photographer and we've arranged to go North to the Calilegua National Park in the province of Jujuy. The deal is I give him a lift into the national park and he teaches me how to use my DSLR camera properly

    Jeremy has this wicked adventure photography anecdote, before we met he camped down in Patagonia and tracked the prey of the Puma in a hope to get a photo of the large cat. Not only did he succeed, he ended up getting followed by said Puma which got within a few meters of him. Amazing photos. Anyway, with his help I'm hoping to get a photo of the Tapir - the largest (vegetarian) mammal in South America

    ...Continued on the next post...
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  12. Junipertravels

    Junipertravels Adventurer

    Mar 30, 2019
    So I part ways with Gilles and his family and make for Salta. This time only for 1 night - to meet Jeremy and coordinate our camping gear, and then make for the national park. I arrive a few hours before Jeremy and meet another Australian, Steve... Before I know it Steve and I are having casual beers, which turn into less than casual beers... ...In the morning I find this photo on my phone, along with a vague memory of a conversation - Joseph the Pirate (as he is saved in my contacts list) hand carved his wooden pipe and lost his eye when he was working in Algeria... Don't quote me on this though. He could've been pulling my leg. Full of fun stories he was


    So after a slow morning, Jeremy and I make our way North to Calilegua. It's another scorching hot day which isn't doing my head any favours. We set up a base camp in the park and then head back to the close by town of Libertador General San Martin for supplies. No thank you, I don't need any more beer...



    The national park is over 75,000 hectare, the largest conservation land in Argentina. It has 3 distinct landscapes - jungle foothills, mountain forests and woodlands. The varied vegetation supports land that is considered the most biologically diverse in the whole country. It's estimated to be the home of more than 50% of all bird species in Argentina, as well as the jaguar, ocelot and puma. The animal we are most interested in is the Tapir or Anta. Weighing up to 310kg it's the biggest animal in the park

    Foot prints of the Tapir crisscrossed the river next to our camp

    A tapir info page... The closest I got to getting a photo of one...

    In the mornings we rise with the sun and head out along either the rivers or one of the walking tracks - the bird life is thriving. The jungle would become hot and humid by midday and we would head back to the campsite/river. The heat was unrelenting. The only way to avoid it was to find a shaded section of the river, waded in with my camp chair and kindle. And spend the afternoon relaxing. By evening I'd be back in the camp having a siesta in my tent which would be relatively cool in the evening sun




    This woodpecker was burrowing is entire beak into the dead timber... How does this bird not get a headache? Was amazing to watch

    There were loads of these snail shells everywhere, all empty. The shells were massive
    ...Continued in the next post...
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  13. Junipertravels

    Junipertravels Adventurer

    Mar 30, 2019
    All of this might have been lovely, and we may well have stayed the full week here. If it weren't for the insects. Specifically the biting variety. I have never before experienced such frustration over bugs! Down by the river there were swarms of them. I could spend 30min or so comfortably and then a literal swarm of small biting flies would arrive and I would have to take cover. The insect repellent only worked for a short time so I was constantly reapplying. And in the space of a few minutes I could be bitten countless times. There were 3 different varieties of biting flies, I also found and removed two ticks from my skin. Give me spiders and snakes any day if I can avoid swarms of these damned flies! We resorted to cooking and eating well after sunset in the dark to avoid the flies, and despite the heat I was always in long sleeved shirt and jeans. One evening I went down to the river to wash up in my thongs and in the space of 5 minutes my feet looked like this:



    On what became our last night in the jungle I went into town to get a beer. Now the large bottles of beer here are heavily discounted if you return a bottle, however for some reason in San Martin, the rule is you can't buy the beer without having a bottle to return... I went to 3 bottleshops who all refused to sell me beer without returning a bottle... But had no solution of how I would get a bottle in the first place... Anyway, I was a little frustrated. But, frustration has become a trigger for me to stop and remember what's become my mantra - it's not an adventure without a little adversity. I come to a solution - I will use my plastic water bottle to carry beer and I convince someone to sell me beer and then pour said beer into the plastic bottle. Okay it's not ideal, but I find the dark ales here are overly carbonated anyway. After 45min of chasing beer I finally get on to the bike with my prized beer. And nada... I turn on the ignition and Lucy is completely dead... Excellent. I'm actually parked on a little lane way that has an abundance of traffic, it's about 9pm by now and well and truly dark. And.... I've left my tools back at the camp... :doh

    So there I am, sitting on the pavement of a busy road in the dark, trying to use a 1 peso coin and a flat stone to undo some screws and access the master fuse. With patience and some mild cursing I finally remove the master fuse. It's not broken... It's melted... I get the spare fuse in though and Lucy fires up. I get the prized beer back to camp, perfectly timed to Jeremy's asado




    The following day presented a problem though, since I'd used one of my water bottles to store beer I was now low on water capacity. During the mornings trek I run dry and I'm still an two hours from the campsite. The sun is high and unrelenting. I'm actually following the small stream, and the clear gurgling water is too tempting. I fill my other bottle with the river water, it's pretty much crystal clear, good enough for me. I decide to sip some and see if I have any reactions. By the time I reach the campsite I've had half a bottle of the river water and am feeling 100%

    In the end though the flies proved too much, our week long expedition was shortened. In the 4 days we were there we saw plenty of signs of the Tapir in the form of foot prints. But the animal alluded our night time expeditions (the Tapir is nocturnal). We did however see a huge variety of birds, butterflies and frogs. I think my favourite part of the trip was sleeping in the jungle - it is possibly the nosiest camp site I have ever used. It's unbelievable the volume of noise such small creatures can make. The jungle really is an amazing place, and so different from the forests I know back in Aus.

    The morning of our final day we pack up our camp and make for Jujuy - Jeremy's next destination. Another desperately hot day sees me take shelter in an empanada shelter for the afternoon. In Jujuy I bump into Juan - a V-Strom rider I rode with in Mendoza some months ago. Such a small world!

    Once I get back to Salta I pull apart the main fuse carrier and find the holder a little loose. I tighten this and replace the fuse, hopefully I won't get a repeat of the melted fuse... Assuming here the loose carrier resulted in a poor connection that produced the heat to melt the fuse

    I also added a switch to the handlebars which isolates the aftermarket electrical auxiliaries. I did this work in my second home - the Dr Bike garage with Luis and Daniel. Following the work the lads invited me to beers in the countryside. First we rode out to Luis' weekender and then off to another house where a cool pool and hot Asado was prepared. A very tranquil afternoon...

    New switch for Lucy:

    The "Bikepark" at the asado:

    I must have eaten too much meat since I started getting some fierce indigestion after the asado. I've never really had indigestion before but damn it is painful. I retire to my friends hammock for a siesta until it passes

    Except it doesn't.

    When I get back to the hostel there's an explosion... From two different ends of my body. Okay I won't make this too graphic, let's just say I had a shit evening. And night. And following day. :flush

    Touch wood* But I've never had food poisoning, I've helped past travelers with it and this is the very worst of what I have seen. I was feeling fine otherwise, I just had to stay within 20m of a bathroom. After the second day of not being able to keep liquid inside my body I took some Gastro-stop etc. By the 4th day of this I'm very dehydrated and I head for the Guardia (the ED) of the local hospital

    The hospital system here was excellent in some ways, like all things in Argentina it's contrasting. The hospital was well staffed, I saw a doctor within 30min and had a free, if very public, bum injection. The whole consultation was free and easy, I picked up a packet of antibiotics for less than $20 AUD - surely it was subsidised. The contrast though to this excellent experience was the facilities. The building was poorly maintained, the bathroom had no paper, no soap, no toilet seat, and leaked a little sewage water on to the floor after flushing - complete opposite to Australian emergency departments, hygiene especially in a hospital toilet is paramount. But to see a doctor in the hospital will take you the better part of a day, not 30min. In the scheme of things I definitely prefer the Argentina hospital experience. Just wish I'd brought toilet paper with me...

    Also, found this a little interesting in the hospital... Do they still do shock therapy here? Or am I misunderstanding the purpose of this room? :loco

    Anyway, I'm pretty sure it was the damned river water I drank in the national park that caused all this, not food poisoning. So my lesson is learnt - dehydration is better than gut poisoning. I've also bought a nifty little reusable water filter in case I do need to drink river water again in the future

    I'm on the mend too, I manage a bowl of overcooked brown rice that evening and the following day I feel confident enough to make for Cafayate. Gilles invited me back to stay with him (absolute legend of a guy, can't thank him enough!) He's letting me store Lucy at his place whilst I fly up to Mexico for a friends wedding!
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  14. Junipertravels

    Junipertravels Adventurer

    Mar 30, 2019
    My time in Cafayate with Gilles and his family was tranquil as ever - rise shortly after the sun, hot coffee outside in the crisp morning, watch the wild guinea pigs with a mountainous backdrop. Chauffeur young Kyan, drink wine and beer with Gilles and Enrique. Street tortillas. Meeting new people... I won't go over my living rituals of Cafayate again; I'll just say that I felt even more at home here than the last time. I think you feel at home when you start having acquaintances about town, and me and my routine ways lead to a quick first-name basis with the local delicatessen, the tortilla street vender etc. Occasionally I'd also re-unite with travelers I befriended in Salta, who'd come down to the Baco Bar for a beverage and an anecdote

    So the time went quickly and it didn't feel like a long time before I was wrapping Lucy up in a tarp, packing my small backpack and climbing aboard a bus bound for Salta. In Salta for my one night, my local Las Rejas let me have my normal bed free of charge :clap

    Honestly I'm glad to be getting out of Argentina. I really feel like the North of Argentina has sucked me in, I was making a solid pace Northward until I reached here. Something about this place is just a little too inviting. Every time I go to leave I have another invitation somewhere else in the region. So Mexico will be a refreshing change of pace and a great change in the food! Bring on the Chili, spice and flavours! Additional to this, the Southern American region has been a little unstable - travelers coming from Bolivia talk of riots and road blockades. And Chile has gone a little wild too, I think it was a rise in public transport prices which sparked it but the country is openly protesting about the large economic disparity. With the Argentina election at hand, I had some concerns that Argentina could also turn into another rioting state. The result of the pre-election in August caused a 30% devaluation of the Peso in just 3 hours, I think Argentina must have one of the worst inflation rates in the world right now. Anyway, it's a good time to make a move!

    So Salta for my one night I ended up having a beer with some of the guys who work for the hostel plus David. A lad from Buenas Aires who pays for his travels by making and selling jewelry. A quintessential hippy with dreadlocks to match the part. David and I go way back to my very first time in Salta, super inclusive guy who started that whole tradition of cooking for each other. He's an unique guy, but I'm glad to be friends. Being from Buenas Aires he speaks Spanish a million miles an hour and it's a good challenge for me to converse with him too. One of the local Saltenians we're with, elected to take us out to his local bar, and whilst I had to get up at 2.45am for my flight the next morning I was keen for a bite before bed and figured a game of pool and another beer would help ease me to sleep

    However before we even arrive at the bar I am lead down the main plaza - hippy jeweler amigo David introduces me to his colleagues selling the most intricate home made jewelry. Some pretty cool stuff. I would've taken a photo except for the overwhelming sense of racism I felt towards me from these guys. They were from further North, maybe that was it, I have heard there can be an anti-gringo sentiment up North. This is the absolute first time I've felt any kind of resentment from someone here. I hope David's friendliness rubs off on them. On one hand they seemed offended I couldn't speak Spanish fluently and were openly annoyed at my attempts. And on the other hand I believe they were aggressively suggesting I buy jewelry from them. It made me uncomfortable and I should've walked away then. Instead I persisted and after the 45min we spent hanging out with these lovely gentlemen David finally returns with some stuff he'd needed to get from one of his jewelry selling amigos

    We get to this bar and man this bar was "real." That's my tactful way of describing it. I'm no stranger to illicit substances, not a huge fan of them for myself but haven't issues with anyone making their own decisions. Anyway, I have never experienced the openness with which so many drugs were taken (and offered). Pretty sure I was approached by a dealer within moments of entering but I blew him off before I understood their offer. I was here for a quick game of pool, maybe some foosball, a quick beer and then to bed before my flight. It seems the pool tables primary purpose was furniture for lounging on, the wooden edges of the tables curiously showed remnants of white dust. I felt so out of place and everyone in the room knew it. It's a weird feeling glancing around a room and seeing everyone's eyes quickly avert from you the moment you look their way. Never before have I felt like a gringo intruder until now. Anyway, this is how things go when you're travelling. I'm here to see the world as it is, not the false tourist facade. So in that sense it was an interesting evening. It was getting late quickly, so I enjoyed my beer, make some hopefully not-too-terrible Spanish conversations, but leave shortly after arriving. I get my prized greasey $1.50 burger with the lot from a street vendor and am in bed by midnight - alarm set for 3 hours time... :fpalm

    My midnight snack:

    Before I know it I've had my Forty Winks and am in a cab with 2 British backpackers I'd met the day before. We split the cab to the airport so it only costs me $2.40 AUD to get to the airport... Going to miss these prices when (if) I get back to Australia!

    People say Misfortunes comes in 3's... I don't believe in this odd superstition however on this day, bad luck struck did indeed strike thrice

    (1 / 3) I received no stamp in my passport when I arrived into Argentina. If you recall I crossed into Argentina in the snowy Los Liberadores mountain pass with a fever and no wits. I never checked my VISA for a stamp. To be honest that whole process was a haze in my memory the day after I crossed. Note to self always double check all the border crossing paperwork! At first the people at the airport seemed aggressive and wanted to know how I'd gotten into the country without a stamp. This woke me up better than caffeine. A heated debate followed, thankfully I had photographs of all my documents. When I showed them the motorbike TIP (Lucy's VISA) and the date of entry they quickly changed tack and I was stamped through emigration promptly

    The first flight was short and blissfully uneventful, only a few hours to Lima and on an empty plane I managed to use a row of seats to catch up on sleep. The second flight however, was more eventful.

    (2 / 3) It started with cramps that would rival the worst PMS anyone's ever experienced, I'm sure the pain could rival that of giving birth. The woman next me had a Sigourney-Weaver-esc face and so I was convinced that at any moment an Alien was going to explode out of my stomach - In the end there was an explosion, but it wasn't from my chest... The sweats started, feverish chills came on... Oh Great, here's episode 2 of Shitty River Water Induced Stomach Illness. But this time I'm on a 10+ hour flight! One plus to my situation was I'd been given, by chance, a seat in the first row Behind First Class. So I had extra leg room for my 20-30 bathroom breaks, and most importantly I would be one of the first people off the plane after landing (which was an absolute godsend!) So I guess another plus was the exercise I got on that flight, I decided I could probably skip this evening's gym session (not that I gym anyway...). Yes I am trying to make fun of my own expense at this crappy situation, but sometimes when shit hits the fan all you can do is laugh. All puns intended. I mean they do say laughter is the best medicine, you know, unless you're dealing with diarrhea...

    I think the worst part wasn't the flight, it was customs in Mexico. I dashed off the plane like an old man running a race, or perhaps a toddler running with a full nappy. A slow motion fast paced waddle. I swear the fasten seat belt sign comes on so much earlier than it really needs to. The first toilet off the plane isn't until the immigration VISA stamping control point. And there was no one in sight. I could choose between progressing through the VISA section without any queue, or using the bathroom.

    I chose the bathroom. This was a mistake.

    By the time I exited the bathroom there was an immense and ever growing queue at the passport counters. The 1,000s of people from my 767 spewed off the plane and the queue grew exponentially. Twice I tried to get through the queue and twice I retreated to the men's room. My body had gone back to baby mode cycle, except that instead of needing to relieve my bowels every couple of hours, it was every couple of minutes. If I tried to hold it I would feel nauseous and feared vomiting on the clean marble floors. Not the sort of attention I want entering Mexico. In the end I gave up, got my Kindle out of my bag and read to pass time until eventually my entire plane had gotten through passport control. Even then my attempt to get through was close thing.

    (3 / 3) The customs douche bag. After passport control there is an X-ray machine and bag check. Here I am stopped, they want to look at my laptop, camera and drone which I'm bringing into the country. I'm told that high value items will require an import tax payment. F**k. Clearly I'm a tourist, I'm not exactly supplying tax free electronic goods to the local JB Hi-Fi. He starts with the drone, wanting to know its value. I make a guess, the drone is 2 years old and it has a broken camera gimble. He does some googling, I do some googling, it takes time but I talk him down to a value of $800 USD. Okay, he says, that will be $300. Would you like to pay cash? WHAT! It was the question about paying cash that triggered me, why ask if I wanted to pay cash? Was this guy wanting a bribe? The only cash I have is Argentina Pesos which aren't exactly worth a lot these days. And I mean this drone is broken, none of my attempts to repair it hasn't worked. I've brought it with me to try and get someone to repair it in Mexico City

    Now I'm not one to get angry often, or ever really, but I'm getting close now. I surreptitiously take a photo of his ID badge whilst he's Googling. Then I tell him he can take the drone for all I care. I'm not paying that much to hang on to something I may not even be able to fix. He begins to agree to this when I explain that I have also noted his badge ID number. And that he should know I will be following up about this ridiculous $300 USD fee afterwards, and that if he is telling fibs I will cause trouble. Okay, threatening a customs officer in Mexico might not be my wisest idea, but I'm in pain from being in labour with Sigourney Weaver's baby alien and not thinking straight

    Now the custom officer is pissed. I mean he is f**king fuming. The flip in attitude is so sudden I'm caught off guard. For a moment I think I've made a mistake, but then he shoves the drone back into my hands. Okay, maybe I got somewhere. Then he makes me follow him. Down a series of corridors, passed barricades and through locked doors, down to some secluded parts of the airport. Quickly doubt creeps in and I revert to my earlier assessment - I'm screwed. Shit you're a dickhead Haydon. You're in Mexico. This is the country where authorities slaughtered 43 school boys and covered it up. According to an article I'd been reading, a cartel raid uncovered potentially 120 corrupt officers of the law - photos were found of these guys partying with the cartel bosses or something. The point is this, in Mexico life is cheap and corruption is rife. So don't threaten custom officers, no matter if they're crooked, probably especially if they're crooked! I tell you this day has been nothing but a roller coaster. Naseau is building and I wonder if vomiting on this chap will make my situation better or worse

    He leads me down an gloomy, unlit corridor to a door which he unlocks... My breath catches. But the door opens and I'm flooded with light and noise. It's a backdoor to the main terminal building! Reveling in my freedom I thank the customs officer of all things, though he turns on his heel before I finish getting the words out. It doesn't matter though. My gamble paid off! I am overwhelmed with a victorious feeling!

    The moment lasts a scant second though as I scamper to the nearest trash can, emptying the contents of my stomach. As I said, it's a roller coaster of a day.

    I really wish I'd skipped last nights greasy street burger with the lot. Before I get any further I check my phone for the photo of his badge and the thing is blurry AF... I never even had this guys ID number, I'd been bluffing without realizing. Jeez I can't decide if I've just been a total dickhead or a genius. Probably the former

    Now I have a confession to make. I had promised my Mexico-fearing mum that I wouldn't catch Taxi's in Mexico. But in my state I can't think of anything worse than trying to get a bus or the metro to my hostel. I mean hopefully any would-be organ thieves will look at me in my sweating, feverish state and decide my kidneys just aren't worth it. A quick google on how to make sure you get a legit taxi in Mexico and I'm off (FYI, the key thing is to always make sure the license plate matches the painted numbers on the Taxi door and the license ID with the driver. If they don't, under no circumstance should you get in that car). I even manage to make some pleasant conversation with the cabby. When he stops to buy some peanuts of all things (I had pre-paid the taxi so wasn't on the meter), he returns and hands me a bottle of water and some hydration powder. What bloody gentleman!

    Despite it being a relatively short ride I accidentally have a little kip, only a couple of minutes, but I'm started awake when my door opens. I've arrived! Before I know it I've grabbed my stuff and shake 'old mates hand. The taxi is already gone when I realise I'm at the wrong place. I'm at the Historico Centro Hotel instead of the Historico Centro Hostel... An easy mistake, and it's on me for falling asleep and not checking. My hostel is in the same direction we'd been travelling (I'd checked with my phone as we drove) so had assumed he had the correct destination. It's a 20min walk, and it's only raining a drizzle. I've barely seen rain since Chile and it's a nice change from Argentina's arid northern regions. Maybe the walk will do me some good.

    It's an interesting district, the historic center of Mexico City. Cold concrete monolithic monasteries and churches, the concrete blocks are interspersed with dark charcoal igneous rock. This is contrasted with earthy pastels, yellows and reds, on the plaster walls of surrounding lesser buildings. The architecture is reminiscent to an old Europe. Though the building materials are darker and haven't always held up to weathering. Perhaps the overcast sky is darkening my description. Also please don't in any way take this description as negative, I find the historic quarter very appealing especially with it's omniscient buildings. Between the main Monastery and the sinking foundations of a nearby university are the partially excavated ruins of Pre-Spanish Mexico. Like layers of history. It might've been an enjoyable walk if not for my condition

    The Catedral Metropolitana de la Ciudad de Mexico (taken at dawn):

    The contrasting architectures:


    An interesting church in service:

    Now there are few things more awkward than being a fully grown man vomiting in Ritzy streets in the middle of the day. But unfortunately it was an experience my stomach insisted on me having. Perhaps I should have passed on that bottle of hydrate/water from my cabby. I wipe my mouth and stop by a Farmacia for some drugs, get to my hostel and I crash into a bed

    I ended up spending nearly 3 days ingesting nothing but water, drugs and hydrate powders. And once my digestive tract was empty the gut cramps ceased, enabling me to better sleep. The hunger pains are nothing compared to these cramps, so it's easy to ignore the gnawing hunger. I had fully intended to suss out a hospital and get some tests, determine if this river water poisoning incident in Argentina wasn't properly treated. However I receive word that there was a bug in the water supply in Cafayate and a lot of others have had these symptoms including poor Gilles. It also occurs to me that perhaps the street burger midnight snack could have been the cause. This time my illness wasn't long lived, the symptoms waned within 24 hours whereas the last time I still had them after 4 days. Hence I delay a hospital visit. I managed to keep down some plain bread and soon I'm tempted to eat something hot. I settle for an overcooked pasta in a chicken broth, something easy to digest and vomit up if it comes to that

    My first meal after 3 days fasting:

    This chicken broth pasta meal was a tough hurdle for me... As soon as I'd eaten the bread my hunger flared to life. To buy the pasta I had to walk passed dozens of street-food vendors with their tempting tacos, Gordita's, limes and chilies. It was a test of self control. The smells were incredible and as much as I love an Argentina Asado, there really is little variety and spice in the Southern country's cooking. I'm a chili-addict through and through, and I've had withdrawals ever since I left Asia back in June. So to be surrounded by these spicy stalls, starving hungry, and not buy anything took some will power

    Resisting the street food:

    Alas, I am on solids for two days now and feeling fine. I have foregone getting any more testing down and will assume myself cured until proven otherwise. It is time to explore this new city and prepare for the Dia Del Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival this weekend. A fun side note, by complete accident I have booked myself in to a room adjacent to Zocalo - the same plaza used for the James Bond Spectre Helicopter fight scene, which was also shot during the Day of the Dead Festival. I'm hoping my weekend is as exciting as this movie scene. Today I'm meeting up with Janin - a German I made friends with in Salta, and then getting kitted out in Halloween gear for what promises to be a weekend of partying!

    To give you an idea what I'll be experiencing this weekend (not the gunfight hopefully, just the location and festivities):

    Janin and her lethal Pisco Sours in Salta:

    The plaza getting ready for this weekends festivities:

    Some creepy clowns I stumbled upon last night... I'm expecting a sea of people dressed like this for this weekends festivities:

    Some Side Notes:

    - The Chilean minimum wage is about $600 USD per month (by contrast the Aus minimum wage is about $2200 USD), and yet the cost of living I experienced there was definitely much higher than Australia. So whilst I initially scoffed that a 4% public transport cost could do this to a country, after doing the math I now fully understand why so many Chileans are upset. One of the guys I met in Vina del Mar told me something like 80% of the protesters earn less than $800 USD per month

    - The Argentina election has passed and the opposition has won. Interestingly the Peso has recovered slightly, a correction, perhaps the pre-election plummet has been deemed slightly less unfounded...

    - The day of the dead festival is not a zombie walk, but an old rite, the one day of the year you can invite the spirits of your passed loved ones and enjoy their company again. Whilst the costumes are quite Halloween-esc, most of the costumes, props and decor are intended to make passed spirits feel welcome. It's a pretty interesting festival and really looking forward to it
    powderzone, Riel, roadcapDen and 5 others like this.
  15. mrsdnf

    mrsdnf Long timer

    Feb 8, 2019
    Lost between the Dandenongs and Yarra Valley
    Nice update. Your writing is terrific. Now I'm late for work. :-)
    Ozflock, Peter640 and Junipertravels like this.
  16. Gdamo1

    Gdamo1 Theres only one loose nut on my bike

    May 9, 2015
    Gold Coast AU
    Livin the dream mate!!
    Junipertravels likes this.
  17. Vince

    Vince Long timer

    Oct 1, 2006
    2 things, that was the worst looking spark plug in an actual going bike I have ever seen and you either had Giardia or Amebic Disantary from the water. Look into it.
    Junipertravels likes this.
  18. BSUCardinalfan

    BSUCardinalfan Been here awhile

    Mar 25, 2010
    Atlanta OTP - Acworth/Kennesaw
    Mexico is fine. you can use uber safely as well. Remember there are like 22 million people in the greater area and the odds of you getting randomly murdered are very very low. have fun and eat al pastor tacos!
    loving the report!
    Peter640 and Junipertravels like this.
  19. Junipertravels

    Junipertravels Adventurer

    Mar 30, 2019
    Hey everyone! Thanks for the concerns and kind words - I've had an excellent time here in Mexico City!

    Uber was a great tip thanks BSUCardinalfan - so cheap, easy to order and get around and much safer than public transport after night. I stayed in the historic quarter and it felt very safe - of course a few streets away were less safe, a few shop keepers did warn me about being in their neighborhoods. On the whole I've really enjoyed Mexico City and would recommend it to anyone :clap

    And thanks for the concern/advice Vince - the spark plug was definitely very average, though it was the first time I've actually seen a spark plug. I'm actually meeting up with some friends from Australia in a fortnight who are bringing me a small collection of consumable parts including 3 iridium spark plugs - parts for KLR650s in Aus are less than a third of the price compared with Argentina! I'll be keeping a closer eye on the spark plug, I found a Youtube tutorial of how to remove the sparkplug without needing to remove the fuel tank... Will attempt that next time I do a service. RE: the stomach bug situation I'm told I'm in the all clear. I'll consider getting a second opinion when I get back to Argentina (free health care there) but for now I'm smashing down Tacos, Gorditas, Butter-corn cups and other Mexican street food with no repercussions. The food here is excellent :dukegirl
    Ozflock, knight, mrsdnf and 2 others like this.
  20. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

    Nov 27, 2009
    Edmonton, Alberta
    Simply amazing!
    Junipertravels likes this.