15th FebruaryOur stay in BA continues to be a pleasure. We are now well established at our bar of choice for breakfast each day. The regular waiter is beginning to be impressed with our improving language skills, honed under Amanda’s patient tutelage.
We have managed to track down camping Gaz and I am in hope that I can finally update the software of the GoPro video camera, bought for the trip. This will enable the camera to be used remotely by wireless control and the output pictures to be seen on an Ipad screen simultaneously.
River is flying in today from N.Carolina with fresh supplies of gin and will complete the party when he arrives at 23.00.
Meanwhile we are about to visit Tigres today, a place similar to parts of the |Norfolk Broads, apart that is from the crocodiles (Tigres not Norfolk).
The delta area is very large and has been the place for holiday homs and some permanent ones for more than one hundred years. The population is served by boats delivering gas, water and building materials and the frequent service provides a water taxi from each public jetty, finally back to Tigre.
We traveled by Subte (underground) then train to Tigre, by public ferry around the delta area to several different public areas and then returned by train. Our final mode of transport for the day was a white knuckle ride by bus from Retiro Station to our apartment in San Telmo. After an hilarious five minutes, during which we tried several times to feed adequate coins into the ticket machine before it rejected them due to timing out, the 12 year old driver (well probably 19) set out to beat the allcomers record for a return to the depot. Friday night is gridlock night in BA, however our driver was not to be deterred by a small problem like that. After one particular manouver when he hurled the bus through a gap definitely 100mm too narrow for it, the ironic jeering of the bus passengers caused him to turn and stare down the culprits and proceed to even greater feats of skill. We left the bus white knuckled and gasping with a mixture of admiration and fright, the adrenalin rush lasted some hours.
Diana collected River from the airport last night and they returned to the apartment at midnight. Sadly he forgot the gin so we are not speaking to him, but he had a good flight and had booked a hotel on points for two nights in order to ensure some sleep and finish some work.
We had been invited by the Club De Automoviles Classicos and the Club Amigos De Automiviles Antiguos to lunch at the CAC club house in San Isidro.
We were kindly driven there by Norma and Ian and Robbie. A turnout of members British cars included a Morgan, MGA, prewar single seat MG, a Bentley and a Wolseley Hornet Special as well as a Velocette bike. Also present were a Volvo Amazon, Lancia Lambda, Plymouth drophead coupe and Ferrari Dino. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch
and the very splendid surroundings of the club house. After examining the displayed cars, we returned from the 36 deg heat to the air conditioned dining room to be entertained by a discourse from the CAC club president Alejandro Daly on the
origins of the club, formed after the visit by John Coleman in 1959, which had aroused so much interest and brought owners together in the BA area.
We were introduced to Ricardo Alexander who in 1959 was running the Austin Agency in BA. He had been instrumental in arranging the preparation of JC’s car and saw him on his way. In reply to give background to the planning of our trip we explained how it had been directly inspired by JC’s book and through previous visits to Argentina in 2005 and 2009 organised by Vince Leek. After answering questions on the logistics and arrangements we were presented with club badges and mementos to carry with us and with many offers of help and good wishes we returned to our apartment.
On the following day Diana and River went to visit Tschiffely’s horses in a museum in Lujan while the rest of us attended to outstanding tasks to be completed before we can leave.
During the day we were entertained by the bands and drummers in the streets where the Sunday market is held every Sunday in San Telmo. The colour, noise and spectacle of these performers makes the market a great entertainment.
Today we received news that the ship had docked and that unloading had been completed. Ian Thurn our shipping agent
was optimistic that we might be able to clear the cars on Tuesday 19th. This meant that we could collect the cars and return to Buenos Aires and leave on Wednesday 20th in the morning without having to endure too much traffic because it is a public holiday. We emailed our contacts and began to prepare for departure.
We were all up bright and early this morning ready to be collected by Ian Thurn, who drove us out to Zarate docks collecting Santiago Ortega on the way, who followed us to the docks.
Once there we met the customs clearance agent Sebastian who efficiently collected the paperwork and assembled the growing piles. We had anticipated a three hour wait, which was passed pleasantly enough in a small cafe at the docks. Lunch passed and anticipation grew as we watched the constant flow of containers passing in and out of the docks through the vast areas of parked imported European cars. Later in the afternoon we were called to the secure area and had more copies of our passports made before we were admitted to the discharge zone. There were the cars, sitting in the watery afternoon sun, small and slightly vulnerable after their long voyage to Argentina. One final check of our paperwork before we were allowed to approach them and see how they had survived. All seemed well and so first the chummy was started on the handle, then Stan’s car and finally mine, all sweet and steady.
Anxious to get going, the hour now being late, I put the car in gear and made to set off. The idle gang of dock workers however indicated that we must wait. While waiting Diana discovered that a secure bag containing tools and spares had been stolen from the chummy, Stan and I had both had the padlocks cut from the storage boxes and the contents were diminished. It was difficult to establish exactly what was missing but we each began the mental process of remembering what should have been there when it was packed a month before. Sebastian, finally called us to another office where we were issued with the clearance documents and authority to leave the dock.
We drove out through the dock gate and stopped beside Santi and Amanda, who had not been admitted to the secure area, passed over the tyres we had carried for Santi and made our farewells to him and Ian before setting off for BA. By now it was nearly 6pm and the evening traffic was in full flow, trucks and cars streamed towards BA in a mad flurry to get to their destinations as twilight descended and we pushed on in the diminishing light. Amanda and I were leading, Amanda reading the GPS instructions, which proved a little imprecise at times, suggesting turning left on the motorway, in fact meaning “do no turn off right at the junction”. Argentine drivers closely resemble their racing heroes in style, if not consideration for other drivers, turning off across two or more lanes only metres away from the slip road, hurtling towards the exit. The light faded and with it Diana’s rear lights, Stan’s dynamo not being up to powering headlights he was almost invisible to me in front because of the glare of following headlights. We missed our turn onto the Pan America Expressway and so had a rather tortuous journey back, which went well until we hit the turn onto the main Avenue, where we lost Stan and Diana. We got back to the off street parking nearly 40 minutes ahead, although I almost certian they stopped foor a drink just make us feel bad for loosing them.
After a very late supper, we spent our last night in the apartment and prepared for the following days meeting.
An early start today to remove our luggage from the apartment and pack the cars. Today I found that all my tools and some camping equipment had been removed from the car, probably in the docks. All three cars have suffered losses,
Diana and my tools being the most emotional loss, we each have been assembling our collections for many years and some of the items will be very hard to replace.What is worse is that until we can buy some more we are at Stan’s mercenary tendencies, hire charges have been mentioned with eye watering starting prices.
We arrived in the Plaza del Congreso at 10.00am (Argentine time, about 10.20) toured the Plaza twice until we found a relief road in which we could park and there waiting for us were Phyllis and Mac, Norma and Ian, Paul, Bernie and then Santiago and his son Thomas. It was very good to see them all and a wonderful way to be sent off from Kilometre Zero on our journey in the footsteps of John Coleman, the very spot from which he set off in 1959.
We received a gift of boxed brownies from Norma for each car and after prolonged farewells we were led out of the Plaza by Santi and accompanied by Paul on another of his Velocette bikes. Luckily the holiday had reduced the traffic and so we were soon onto the expressway and into the first leg of our journey towards the estancia San Ramon, the family farm of Santi.