I turned around and waved goodbye to Ismail for the last time at the airport checkpoint in South Africa. Wow, how fast the time had passed. Days passed by leaps and bounds. I have been traveling for so many years but still get astonished. This is one of the beauties being on the road. I’m saying goodbye to another continent for the time being.
This long-haul flight was the first flight I took since a long time. The price of cheapest flight ticket from South Africa to South America available was 657 USD bought by my brother and his friends. Thanks again, kiss you all.
During my flight in economy class I didn’t chat with the one sitting next to me and slept most of the time. Meal was served twice. During flight the screen on the back seat in front of me didn’t work most of the time. Not only mine none was working. There was a failure in the electrical system. After second half of the flight they had managed to fix the failure. I had bought my flight ticket from Latham Airways but was flying to the transit point in Brazil in South African Airways plane. The plane would land in Sao Paulo and I would wait for about 10 hours at the transit area. Then, to Buenos Aires!
What the hell to do in an airport for 10 hours? There are young people traveling with Interrail which I follow on Facebook. Though I haven’t post anything there I was following them with pleasure. Some spend nice time at airports. Train stations, airports, bus stations are like a home for them. There was an airport hotel. I decided to ask how much it costs. They asked 170 USD for 9 hours of stay. Boo!……. I said: “I better find a triple seat, if not put out my mattress and sleep on it”. Luckily, I found a triple seat, took out the inner liner of my sleeping back and made myself comfortable. When the time came for my flight I boarded the plane and flew to Argentina. I fell asleep again in the plane. I felt myself quite well when I arrived in Argentina. I thought: “In what time have we arrived?” I started to wait for my luggage. First my panniers came, then I waited for my bicycle. But what the hell? It didn’t come out. They informed me since there wasn’t enough space on board they just placed my bicycle in the next plane. Latham Airways was working like a local minibus.
At the airport I first looked for an exchange office but was told there was none. In Argentina you exchange your money either in banks or on streets by the men yelling cambio, cambio. I was told to watch out since the was an excess of counterfeit money but was lucky in that. Anyway, exchanging your money on street you better check.
Since it was Sunday I was advised to get money from the ATM. I went to the first ATM I saw. I inserted my card, wrote my password, the amount of money to be withdrawn appeared on the screen starting from 100 to 2000 $. Dude, what are they doing with 2000 $? I selected 100 and the ATM gave me 100 pesos. To my surprise the $ sign was for peso. The bank cut 96 $ for this transaction from my account. I went crazy. The banks in Argentina (I was there in December 2016) cut 96 pesos commission whether you withdraw 100 pesos or 2000 pesos.
Throughout Argentina UBER was operating but I went to a private taxi station at the airport and they arranged for me a big car and took me to the hostel in city center. I put my bags in the room and went down to the reception to get some water. Just at the same time Ayhan entered from the front door whom I met in Tanzania. We had talked with Ayhan months before that we might meet in Argentina. His South America journey had started months before mine. Well, we met. Our new year 2016 celebration in Tanzania was really funny. This man welcomed the new year in the trunk of a car.
Anyway, that was a mad story.
- Ayhan, since you are here, just change your cloths and come with me. There is a guy with whom we must meet. We are going out to somewhere else.
While traveling on my bike in 2010, I hadn’t come across with a single Turkish traveler on the road traveling on motorbike, with caravan or bag-packer. Now, in South America there are 8 Turkish motorcyclists, 6 touring cyclists including myself and 11 back-backers to my knowledge. I’m really very happy and most of them share what they experience on the road with their friends and followers. Well, in Argentina I received a message from a young man Osman Soykan: “Abi (brother in Turkish also used for men older in age) you had come Ataturk University in Erzurum in 2011 during Career Days for a talk. That day I was listening to you.” This message was meaningful for me.
The man we’ll meet is in my eyes a person who never gives up on his dreams. He crossed almost whole South America on his motorbike. Well, many people did this. But the reason why I admire him so much is that he had an accident in the South of Argentina and broke 7 bones with damage on his spinal cord. In short, he just escaped death. Namık abi doesn’t speak Spanish nor English. He sends a HELP and SOS message to one of the people he met on the road together with the coordinates. Two hours after the accident an ambulance comes and receives the first treatment. Then, he gets transferred to hospital and gets operated in the hospital of Koc University escaping paralysis. Countless surgeries and 7 screws on the spinal cord. We watched the video of the surgery, even after the surgery he was longing for his motorbike (Since I had faced with a similar situation during my world tour, I do understand him). Two months after the surgery he came back to South America and picked up his journey where he had left off. I had the chance to meet him in Argentina. It is that simple to continue such a journey after what he had undergone. It requires an iron will, determination and dedication. Namık Abi crossed almost all the countries in South America on his motorbike. He had gained great experiences. Especially, his experiences at the borders, since we both were traveling on two wheels were valuable for me. He shared useful information. Though I wasn’t using regular maps I got from him tear- and water-proof Chile and Argentina maps. On the road I used those maps for finding some places and afterwards handed others.
Another traveler sent me a message. Ferda had set off using the motto “Two women and a world”: “Gurkan if you have time I would like to meet you.” We met. She talked about her experiences, where she had been with her friend so far and about her future plans. I’m sure Ferda and her friend’s travel inspired many other women. This question is frequently asked by my Turkish female followers: “How safe is it traveling as a woman?”. Well, here are the examples.
The next days, Mehmet Genc “Traveler without Route – Rotasız Seyyah” sent me a message: “I’m here, let’s meet”. We met all together sharing our experiences.
I met Mehmet years ago and we said: “We’ll meet in South America”. I met him at the end of his tour in South America. He had shared his memories of his South America travel for all countries but except one or two countries which I had read. Not only Mehmet’s but also, I read the memories of many other travelers. Different views and details are richness for me.
Before arriving in Japan in 2010, I had read the memories of a Turkish traveler who rode across the country. There were great differences between the experiences gained by him and by me. Japan was the best country for me but not for him. This does not mean that what he or I were telling about Japan were a lie. He met different people who touched his heart telling about their stories and shaped his story. I met different people who also touched my heart and a different story was shaped. There were only a few Turkish travelers who traveled to every corner of Japan and shared their memories on social media in 2010. I have never said that this guy did it wrong, a country shouldn’t be traveled in that way or so. Gurkan Genc, Serkan Sogut, Kerimcan Akduman, Mehmet Genc, Elif Uzer and many other travelers, we all have our own way of traveling and this difference is invaluable. All the travelers I was following contributed to my travel for which I’m grateful.
Walking on the streets the apparel of the people always catches my attention. Four of the five women walking on the street are wearing the same type of slippers. Those sky-high platform slippers are fashion in Buenos Aires. The fashion changes from country to country and I observe this change on the road. By the way the reason of preferring sky-high heels is because Argentinean women are short.
On the streets around the hostel downtown where we were staying always cyclists were passing. I must say that Buenos Aires is a semi bicycle friendly city. In the next days, I rode about 30 km on the bicycle lane located in the city. Although there were many activities related to bicycle I must admit that I didn’t make a thorough search. At the end, they managed to integrate the bicycle lanes with the city in a way. There were 3-4 bicycle rentals for city tours, but you have to call the stores to make reservation afore. One day we decided to make a city tour with Ayhan and Mehmet but could hardly find rental bicycles for them.
I found Argentina expensive after Africa. You pay 16 USD for a meat meal in an ordinary restaurant. When you go to suburbs you pay only 5 USD if you buy from a kiosk. There are also spots where fixed menu or meal is sold by weight. Buying raw food and cooking at hostel’s kitchen is the cheapest choice.
One day Ozgur, an embassy employee called me:
- Gurkan (I mentioned before, I don’t like to be called as Mr.) our national mountaineers are here, could you suggest a hostel?
- I’m staying in city center, it may not so cheap for them.
Since I’m supporting young athletes, I know that their budgets are not so high. Now that they are national mountaineers why don’t our embassy cover their expenses, I really don’t understand. Later, Özge and her husband invited me for dinner (Honestly for the first time I needed to look at my phone list to remember the names of an embassy employee. During my stay in Argentina we did not have much contact. Only while riding in Chile Ozgur called me once more. I’ll mention about this call in my Chile article). I went to the dinner and got surprised. Tunc Findik (one of the top mountaineers) and two more guys were sitting at the table.
To my surprise, they were the mountaineers whom they were looking a hostel for and I thought they were young 17-25 age mountaineers. I told them why I thought this way. The mountaineers I met during my travel were all very young and when I heard about Turkish mountaineers I thought “wow, at the end they had come out of their shells”. As I said with that budget they receive how come they could travel? Tunç Fındık, Nasuh Mahruki, Serdar Kilic, to have conversation with them will add so much, invaluable experiences. During my travel I also meet people who want to know me and chat with them as much as I can. They talked about the new ice climbing route in Erzurum, about their projects. We didn’t see each other after that day. Well, I would have appreciated to meet them at night and stroll around but such an invitation hadn’t come. And I returned to my hostel.
The touristic activities which can be undertaken in the center are free city walking, opera house visit, Basilica cemetery visit, tour to Port Boca, the opera house turned bookstore. The nightlife starts at 2 a.m. Before this time all the places remain closed. Once we decided to enjoy the nightlife with Ayhan. Ayhan woke me up at 12 a.m. and we went out at 2 a.m. We strolled around for a while, but I felt sleepy again. What the hell a man mostly sleeping in a tent does at 2 a.m. on the street? Even at this time most of the places were still closed. At 3 a.m. lines started to build up in front of the places. The people in Argentina mostly sleep or make siesta at noon time and are on the street during night. By the way, all the TV serials start their first run at around 2:30 p.m. at lunch time. After watching them, they sleep and go out at night time. I watched Forbidden Love (a famous Turkish TV serial) a couple of times when hosted by families.
The first what comes in mind mentioning about Argentina is Tango. Once I was very keen about tango. I swear, my ex-girlfriend had discouraged me. Don’t ask me why, after that I never danced again. There are cheap tours you can attend in Boca. They are telling you how it turned to “Argentine Tango” by European nobles. The adventure of Tango had initially started when the Genoese sailors were trying to step on each other’s foot while resting at the port.
It is worth to pay 200 pesos for visiting the Recoleta Cemetery. We went with Ayhan and Ferda first to visit Evita’s grave. The tombs, busts, sculptures were beautiful. It was like in an open-air museum. I’d visited much larger cemeteries in Spain and in Russia, so this didn’t surprise me much. But another day we attended a guided tour with Ayhan. The guide told the story of every single grave. It was amazing, we could listen the whole day to the guide if he would continue. At the end of the tour the guide took us to the grave of his grand grandfather. Everyone attending the tour laughed a lot because those grandiose graves were very expensive in this cemetery. The guide’s talk about this grave was partly proudly partly in a complaining manner. He told us also that some families empty the graves of their ancestors to sell them to other people.
I entered new year with Ayhan and Mehmet in Buenos Aires. And with a girl. I’m sure if I would ask her name they wouldn’t remember.
- Ayhan who is she?
- Abi she was alone in the hostel and I invited her
- You did it well
We went to the channel at the south of the city to watch the fire work. At 12 o’clock we hugged each other and wished a happy near year. Then we went to a place to listen music after which we returned to our hostel.
The day to leave has come. Mehmet is going to the south of Argentina to Antarctica. Ayhan is returning to Africa to start his new job. I’m setting off towards Santiago Chile.