Here I am on Thursday, July 22nd. I am writing from Dakar Motos. I came to stay at Dakar on Monday having finished my stint at the airport B&B. Sandra from Dakar assisted with me with motorcycle cargo logistics and Javier has been helping me find my way around.
Dakar is a pretty bare bones place to stay but has proven most suitable. It is located in Florida which is basically a suburb of Buenos Aires. Dakar itself is basically Javier’s workshop with a kitchen, bathroom/shower, bunks and *reliable* wifi. That’s a bonus. While there are four bunks, I am the only guest at present and share the space with Negrita, a little tortoise shell cat. Javier usually finishes work around 7pm. Going through the guest book, many, many people have stayed here — or at least visited. I am not sure what the count is but surely hundreds over the years. So I am amongst my present element — actually, many of the previous guests are accomplished “round the worlders” so I am staying amidst a bit of history.
Florida has been pretty good. As mentioned earlier, Buenos Aires is a tough place to ride a motorcycle in, never mind find accommodations. Actually, BA is a tough place to even walk in — given the right neighbourhood and time. Basically, I am a seven minute walk from a “downtown” area with several grocery stores, bakery, pasta, stores, pizzarias and other restaurants, and banks. In this sense it is a good home base, with my bike securely housed inside amongst friends — other KLRs in whole or partial, V-Strom, BMW GS single, Transalp, KTM and various other dual sport rides. Part of Javier’s business is storage in addition to mechanical work.
With the exception of taking my bike to the airport, it has stayed here and I have ventured out on foot or train. The same “downtown” is the station for the regional train. The train costs $0.90 (Pesos) for 15 ride to the Retiro (main) station. From here a subway ride is about $1.10. Divide this currency by four to get the approximate Canadian/US dollar value. This is *dirt* cheap for a foreign traveler like myself, but as Javier notes, it is actually a good chunk of change for some workers with low salaries who rely on public transit.
On Monday I met with Sandra. We discussed the shipping plans. On Tuesday I ventured into BA. On Wednesday I rode my bike out to the airport. I’m almost glad to get rid of it (for now) as my previous statements about dangerous driving habits still stand.
At the airport I wait a little while to meet my contact there. The bike was weight (not sure why) and put on a pallet. The air was remove from the tires and it was strapped down with plastic ties. Upon disconnecting my battery and removing my windshield everything, including my riding jacket and pants, were wrapped up in plastic and affixed to the bike with more plastic. The cost is based on volume, which they calculate into weight (its strange). The bike was then forklifted a way. I took a mini-bus downtown for P$15 (that would be a $50 cab ride in Toronto) and proceeded to get lost due to misconstrued (or just bad) directions). I probably walked about 30 blocks or more and found the Retiro station and headed back to Dakar.
Thursday (today) was payment day. Sandra gave me an address and instructions. I headed to the Navicon office, spoke with a person, made my payment at a nearby bank in US cash (they are picky about what bills quality they will accept!) and took the receipt back to Navicon. I was given my waybill and the bike should be at Pearson’s cargo terminal on Sunday via NYC. We deliberately chose not to use Miami as a transit location due to previously reported problems — i.e. bikes being stuck for weeks due to paperwork problems. I am due to fly on Saturday afternoon.
Have my feelings around Buenos Aires changed having spent some time on foot? Yes and no. Buenos Aires is still a town of foolish drivers. They manage to create five lanes out of three on and six lane divided highway. They tailgate. They swerve. The swerve without signaling. The rant could go on… I’m not sure why, but Porteños, as the people of Buenos Aires don’t seem to smile a lot. I saw a lot of frowns and wrinkled foreheads. Perhaps it is the weather. While I wouldn’t even call the weather brisk, its seems that Porteños are freezing at 10 degrees celsius. I must note today that out of my various strips into BA, I saw the most people smiling and having fun. This was in a pedestrian area. It was a nice change.
This same area is quite full of shops, cafes and restaurants. In some ways there is something very “civilized” about much this. I say this as in Toronto we are accustomed McDonald’s, Starbucks, Pizza Pizza and the like which are all very “paper” oriented. In BA you do get McDonald’s, but generally its seems that when you eat, it is a bit more refined. For example, I went into a pizza place. The pizza was served quickly and on trays, but the plates were ceramic and cutlery was provided. Beer is available and I saw an old fellow with a glass of white wine. Its a bit of a different mentality.
Actually, very interesting to me is that regional train stations serve beer. These are basically equivalent to GO trains in Ontario. On the open air platform, there is a little kiosk and you simply buy a beer (generally a 1 liter bottle — I think they are meant to share) and drink it at the counter. Or buy a sandwich or something. The trains are interesting. The doors are often left open even with the train is barreling over highway overpasses. Nobody seems to mind — except for the noise — and nobody is doing anything foolish. Sometimes I wonder if we over-regulate things in North America. On the train people also sell things: “Pepsi, 7-Up”, hot soup, newspapers, sticker books, wafers (cookies) and I have seen the personal pack tissue guy a few times now. Nobody seems to mind. The vendors are a bit loud but not overly pushy, and some people seem to buy from them. The trains and subways have been very clean compared to the TTC in Toronto — *very* clean. And while I didn’t spend much time on the subway, I certainly didn’t see an rowdies. For that matter the train windows open quite wide — yet you don’t see people dangling body parts out, and the amputation rate seems to be well within norms.
So with all of these “unsafe” trains and beer and wine available at almost every place that sells food, you would expect utter chaos and drunk people stumbling around all of the time and falling off trains. Oh yes — I believe that bars are required to stop serving between 5am and 10am (come on — one could sober up in that period!). In Toronto, when there is a special event and bars are open late — people just get drunker. Is it a cultural difference in moderation? Or is it the more you make something restrictive and taboo, the more people go overboard in explicit or subconscious revolt? Anyways, who am I to say? I’ve only been here a few days but it is food for thought.
Ahhhh yes…I forgot to mention a funny. My last post I was questioning whether residents of Buenos Aires generally had an attitude problem, and was surprised at the quality of driving. Heh! Shortly after I picked up my Lonely Planet and started to read about BA. “Renting a car: Don’t! The drivers are crazy”. And Porteños are known (generally) known to have an aristocratic air about them. I’ve certainly met friendly people but I’m not discounting this notion as an explanation as to why I have had more than average rude, or just not friendly, service. Other than that LP pegged it when they said that Porteños are a fashionable bunch. It seems, at least downtown, every man, woman and child likes to dress up a bit in fashionable digs. 15 or 50 — designer (looking) jeans are popular and stylish shoes and boots seem to be the norm. While we are currently in the winter season, I’m pretty sure than anyone attempting to wear Crocs would quickly be carted away by the fashion police.
And then there is me trodding around in my smelly motorcycle boots and over-worn travelers pants 😉