Last stop, Buenos Aires
After a night in Pehuajo, where I learned about Manuelita, the famous turtle, I reached Buenos Aires the following afternoon.
The broad, clean avenues, the modern buildings and the relative courtesy of the other motorists all contrasted sharply with our arrival into other South American cities. We still remember riding through the endless congested slums that surround Lima in an experience akin to what descending the 7 circles of Dante’s inferno might procure. I found the Zebra relaxing at the Hotel Tercero Del Sur in the charming San Telmo neighborhood. After enough hugs to make up for our 3 days separation, the Zebra told me that she had a unique experience in Neuquen. As her bus was driving across town, a drunk driver saw fit to ram his pickup truck into its bumper. Luckily nobody was injured but the damages to the bus were such that all passengers had to continue their journey on a new bus. We nervously joked about the irony it would have been to survive 32.000km on motorcycles and end up getting injured on a silly bus ride.
In the couple of days we had before meeting with Alex, the Zebramobile’s future owner, we decided to investigate claims that Buenos Aires customs could officially transfer the temporary import permit of a vehicle to a new owner. Only constraint, the 90 days time frame to get the vehicle out of the country must be respected. Our investigation took us from the Aduana offices to the US consulate through various notaries and failed to reveal a clearly established process. What we learned is that the Aduana and some customs offices at the borders can deliver a permit allowing someone who is not the vehicle registered owner to exit the country with the vehicle. We also confirmed that as long as the vehicle title was under the driver’s name it was possible to exit the country. This lead to a heated argument on a known overlander forum with someone whose business is to scare travelers into hiring his legal advice. At a time when we had only a few days left to transfer our bikes before flying to South Africa, his scaremongering managed to generate unpleasant levels of anxiety. Fortunately, the transfer of ownership went smoothly and both the Wolfmobile and Zebramobile happily extended their wanderings with new owners. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Zebramobile, here is Alex, your new boss
After what felt like one hundred emails exchanged with Alex to iron out the details of the Zebramobile’s transfer, it was good to finally meet him face to face. We caught up at the Hostal Portal del Sur, received a suspicious amount of dollar bills and handed over the keys to the Zebramobile. Naturally we could not let Alex go without an hour long briefing on how to properly care for and pamper Zebramobile. Just when we were beginning to believe that we could not entrust our bikes to a worst squid than Greg, Alex proved us wrong. Parting with the Zebra’s trusted steed was heartbreaking.
Downgraded to Backpackers
That is how, without further ceremony, we found ourselves on foot for the first time since the beginning of our epic journey. If Ushuaia was a foretaste of what wrapping up our trip might be like, this was definitely the full course. With our hearts tight in our chests, we dragged ourselves to our last backpacker hotel Estacion Buenos Aires. Our last few days were spent transition from the glorious status of motorcycle overlanders to humble backpackers and finally to average tourists. Our days were no longer guided by the voracious demands of motorcycle maintenance and itinerary planning, that tension had suddenly disappeared leaving us to aimlessly roam the streets of the Argentinean capital. Resigned, we sat on the lawn near the popular Cementario Recoleta, licking ice creams while meditating on the past 10 months.
Back to reality
Dusted off and cleaned up, we ventured inside the sumptuous Palacio Duhau for a very civilized afternoon tea with delicious pastries. Professional dancers dazzled the small audience with audacious tango moves, maybe this wasn’t so bad. Lured by the sirens of luxury, the Zebra and I hailed a cab, dumped our duffle bags into its boot, direction the Buenos Aires Sheraton. As I pulled my credit card to check in, I distinctly felt my adventurer’s hide slip down my shoulders.
Welcome back to reality.
Next stop: South Africa.