Day 1: Buenos Aires – Libano (1)
“The secret to fulfilling a dream is taking the first step.”
With these words I inaugurate my travel journal on the 14th of March, 2011 in Bahia Creek, Patagonia. I made it to Patagonia! Jose, the car vendor, was right after all. Well, at least about that part.
Jimi is a Jeep IKA, a model constructed especially for the Argentine market. The car is very popular in Buenos Aires province. My Jeep is everything I ever imagined in a car: it’s sturdy and bold, has character and is not too adult-like nor boring like most cars. Even though some would say it’s just old, I’d say it’s vintage. Jimi is my first car ever. Needless to say I don’t know anything about car mechanics. All I know is that these type of old cars are all simply mechanical, and everyone who knows something about car mechanics should be able to fix it. Which should work-out fine in the remote region of Patagonia in case of an unforeseen mishap. When I get a first glimpse of the motor to me it looks pretty complex with tubes, cylinders and loose wires. But hey, what do I know. The first affirmation that anything can be fixed I get instantly when changing the motor oil is complicated by a somewhat prolapsed engine.
I wake up in the comfort of my friends’ home. Dieuwke is making me farewell pancakes. I am anxious to get going on an adventure in the unknown, with my new love Jimi. On the road! It takes me a while to figure out how to get out of the city, not yet aiming in any direction. I drive through Belgrano and apparently go north. At last I find a turn-off for Moron, and later the road 4 and the connection with the road 3 to Canuelos. It is 3 p.m. already and I’ve finally escaped town. South-West we go.
My goal for today is Sierra de la Ventana. Soon I will learn that setting goals for the road is worthless. I take the roads 205 and 51 to diverge from the busy ‘ruta’ 3 occupied by trucks and cars going South. The landscape is almost Netherlandish, with farms, cows, trees lining the road and huge stretches of green farm land. The main difference is that in The Netherlands these stretches are small.
Passing General Alvear I get stopped by a police officer. ‘Regular control’, he says. ‘A good check-up if my papers are all correct’, I think. That turns out to be so. A short relieve only, when the officer says I ‘only’ get a ‘small fine’ for driving without headlights. Politely and with my most innocent smile I honestly tell the gentleman that it is my first day on the road. I just didn’t know lights are obligatory during the day. Curtly and unimpressed he tells me I should know the Argentine law before getting on the road. I nod, say ‘You are right, sir, but still’ and hope for some understanding. Meanwhile a young female officer is writing my fine and asking for my data. When I notice the amount I get molested. 715 pesos? What? That’s even more than in Holland (€ 110 approx. at the time)! I’m losing my temper, and start pointing out several trucks passing by without the existence of backlights at all and ask why they’re not stopped. The officer patronizingly tells me he only watches the front lights, and it’s non of my business. Now I really get pissed and ask the guy if it has anything to do with the fact that I’m a blond tourist. No answer. I make a possibly universal sign showing my disapproval and he gets mad, threatening me with jail for offending him. With an expression showing contempt I sign the fine, thinking the ass probably has a very small… eh …..car.
I get in the car and drive off, my ego slightly bruised. I stop within 400 meters. With a bit of trial and error I find the right button on the rather modest control panel to turn on the lights. First car, first day on the road, first fine. Nice start of my journey. Later I understand that I have to pay my fine within 3 months in the province where I got it. On a voluntary basis. If not, it’s doubled. I decide to leave the province the next day. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Next episode: Welcome to L I B A N O.