Riding motorcycles in Argentina is a bit hair raising to begin with but after a while you get used to some of the unwritten rules of the road:
- Speed signs must be ignored at all times. Never slow down to the indicated speed or the local behind you will either blast their horn or immediately overtake you no matter where you are eg. on a blind corner. This includes trucks (eeek!)
- Giving way depends on who gets to the intersection first and who is bigger (which when you are on a motorcycle is invariably them!)
- Overtaking on solid yellow 'do not overtake' lines is just fine especially on tops of hills or on bends
- It's OK to cut people off if you are nice about it as they will do the same to you, so don't take it personally
- Cops and soldiers show no interest in tourists as we are probably law abiding - far more than locals.
- Wave, flash your lights and smile at everyone as they are so excited you are in their country and on an adventure.
There are two speeds here: flat out or crawl. It took us a while to figure out speed signs in blue are the minimum speed which is usually half the maximum speed. When you see the terrible condition of vehicles in rural areas (almost always an ancient beaten up Ford or GM pick-up full of people) creaking along you understand why they have minium speed limits! Overall we reckon the quality of driving here is much better than Australia as people are generally more patient and when they see we are gringos assume we are clueless. Plus knocking a tourist for six is not going to go down well with the carabineros!
Roads here are great and on the whole well maintained. They can get pretty rough in more remote places as do some of the bridges. Road signs take a bit of interpretation but you get the gist of things pretty fast. Unlike in Australia they don't have good rest stops with basic amenities which is a bugger when riding long distances and you need a break. There are some truck pullover areas - invariably with an overflowing rubbish bin - but that's it. We've spent a lot of time in petrol stations and road houses which have cafés etc and are always a welcome break.
We see memorials to people who've perished on the road every where, plus shrines to the unofficial patron saint of travelers, Diafunta Corella. Some shrines to her are so big and complex they are almost cult like - even creepy. Argentinians are super superstitious and almost everyone has a red ribbon of flag in their vehicle for good luck, often supported by a crucifix just to be on the safe side. I've got a small red flag on my bike as a nod to her - what have I got to loose ...
Petrol stations are well spaced out so no dramas with running out of fuel (tho read the subsequent blog post Running out of fuel and other adventures). We love hanging out in them and watching the comings and goings though the Nescafe coffee, whilst giving us a hit, is hideous. We haven't been to places so remote that dirty fuel is an issue, though this may be an issue in poorer places like Bolivia. Here you don't pump your own fuel, an attendant has to do it (almost always a young bloke) and soon you learn to say 'dos completos' or ' fill them both up'.
We are constantly bailed up by people wanting to know where we are from, where we are going and want to take photos of us and the bikes. Sonja is always a huge hit with women who see this petite girl clamber off this bike, haul off her helmet and shake out her hair. I can't count the number of times she has been surrounded by women and girls amazed at what she is doing!
All and all we love riding in Argentina!