Things you take for granted when you're not on the road #47: Your own room. And having the dorm-room to yourself for a night doesn’t even come close to scratching that itch. So when I check-in to Break Point Hostel in the wine-growing region of Mendoza with the two Canadian-kids from the overnight bus-ride and discover there is a tiny-but-solo-room off one of the dorms, do you think I snap it up? Do I what. Ah the simple luxury of being able to spread out your stuff in fearless-of-robbery-abandon.
But first let’s gather up the scene. I’ve come from southern Argentina to meet American overlander Chris, who's sellling his Kawasaki KLR 650 at the end of his ride down from Costa Rica. One of the many wonders of the online motorbike-touring site www.horizonsunlimited.com is this way of buying-and selling with other riders, and the timing has all just worked out perfectly for our rendezvous. Isn't that funny? I arrive a day or two prior to the scheduled transaction and settle into the place, with the bar and the restaurant on the premises, the huge public park and gardens down the road for running around, and the bbq and courtyard out the back. And all this combined with my own private residence makes this a little home-away-from-home which is why I ended up staying there there for close to two straight weeks.
10am. The morning of. I nervously awaited the purr of a 650 heading down the road towards the hostel. And then one does. And then 3. Chris rolls up with his posse of American-riders who step off KLRs and one motley-looking BMW all covered in dust and gear and stories it’s all just a bit goddam exciting aswell as a bit intimidating. And in amongst all the introductions and first impressions and banter of instant friends there she is, my new ride, I just know it.
Chris and I head out to lunch to raise a mendozian Malbec together and close the deal and it’s all settled but for three days of hanging with the yanks and being shown over the bike, the spares, and the bike registration paperwork. I couldn't have asked for a better handover. Any lingering gaps in my essential maintenance knowledge are plugged patiently right there by Chris on the footpath outside the hostel in that town in Argentina. There is just one, little, lingering, issue, which in my excitement and gratitude for finally having a touring bike I completely fail to recognise the significance of; the bike is in Chris’s name and registered in Costa Rica. With no way to change the ownership outside of Costa Rica. But hey, this is South America right, what could possibly happen? Everything will work out fine now, see, I have a bike! Eventually, despite an agonising hiccup-last-minute-hurdle trying to get enough cash out to pay for the bike (can’t withdraw the necessary funds from an ATM, no bank will issue the necessary funds, walking around 10 banks all morning seems to impact little on the situation) I finally get the keys and Chris gets on his bus. And with him gone. And the keys in my hand. And the bike parked outside. I guess this means that ride is mine.
The hostel-kids and I asado-bbq out in the backyard most nights after I hunt extra spares by day with Ricardo my mate from Santiago who's passing through on his way up north on his own overland. I get the bike serviced and a further education by legend-mechanic Tulio who Ricardo manages to stumble across by great-good-fortune. And by the time you do all of that, celebrate the passing of another year, pack-up that one little bedroom of yours, get crunk and decide to delay the departure for just one more day. Well, two weeks have passed.
1. (verb) to love, feel pity, feel concern for, feel compassion, empathise. Ladies and gentlemen, may I please introduce to you Aroha Ngaire, my trusty steed for the rest of this tale and the journey to come. I cut out a stencil and spray-paint-ink her name on the side of the tank, Aroha, and saddle up for the first leg northbound. And I swear she’s stamping the ground impatiently as I to-and-fro with gear and fuss and strap too much shit on the back and it's like what-fuck's-taking-so-long. I know I know I’m sorry we should have left yesterday but papa-bear had a hangover.
And we roll outta town and into the very first day of the rest of this South American adventure.