June 4, Buenos Aires, Capital Federal, Argentina
My bike is back on the road and doing great! If you are ever in BA and need a good mechanic call Mariano Calderon, who speaks perfect English and has a very helpful and experienced team working at his shop, www.motocare.com.ar
The electrical problem that had left me without gauges, blinkers or any other lights (except for my bright head light) during the last 4,000 miles, turned out to be a wire casing rubbed through by friction with the frame. They covered the wire and anchored the whole bundle of wires and took care of many other little details so the bike is as good as new. They also washed it and I could hardly recognize it; no more butterfly butter from Texas! So now I'm even more anxious to leave town but there are still things to see around here...
Yesterday afternoon I had another good cop incident! These 'good cop' stories are short and boring but when it comes to cops I'm hoping that boring, short, pleasant stories are the only ones I'll ever have to tell, other than my bad cop incident in Belize (those F&*^$ers!!!!!!).
Sunday afternoon traffic was light and I was on Avenida 9 de Julio, which is the huge downtown Avenue with 7 lanes going in each direction - and it's flanked by another 2-3 lane avenue on each side for accessing the businesses and neighborhoods. The light was red and wanted to take a picture of this huge Don Quixote statue I saw. I slowly turned right, going the wrong way down a one way road (there was no traffic) and pulled up onto the sidewalk and parked the moto (it's okay to park your moto on the sidewalks here as long as it's not blocking anything).
As I was taking off my helmet and getting my camera I saw a police officer walking very briskly toward me. As he approached I saw that he had his ticket book out, opened to a fresh ticket page and pen ready to write. I thought for sure I was going to get a ticket and wondered whether it would be for turning right on red, which is a huge no-no here in Argentina, or for going the wrong way down that one way street, or both of those things, or perhaps parking on the sidewalk. He began explaining the light was red and turning at a red light is an infraction in Argentina and he would have to give me a ticket. I just put on my nice, but stupid, gringo face and asked him to please speak a little slower because I don't understand much.
I always find that it's best to answer the question that you want to answer instead of answering the question that they've actually asked you. And if they haven't asked you a question just act like they have. So I acted like he asked me what I was doing and I pulled out one of my cards and explained that "I was just pulling onto the sidewalk to take another picture for my book, and here's my website for you to look at, and thanks for your help and there are tons of pictures on my website and you can see them if you want and what a great city this is, etc, etc, etc", all spoken in the appropriately half-witted Spanish grammar. Again, the goal was to assure the cop that I wouldn't be causing any problems and that it would be too difficult for him to explain the details of a ticket to me, like where, when, who and how to pay; therefore, writing me a ticket would only be a waste of his time.
It worked! He told me that was fine, to go ahead and take the picture and have a nice day! I still thought there was a chance that he would just wait 'till I took the picture and write me a ticket anyway so I took my time with the picture but he left me alone and just waved as I rode away.
After that I realized that along Avenida 9 de Julio there was a cop at almost every intersection and many other cops at other large intersections. I also realized that I hadn't even realized there were that many cops around, then I realized it was because I hadn't been looking for cops because I realized many weeks ago that a majority of the cops here, and in Chile, are not looking to rob gringo's. In Central America every moment on the road was like a game of "Where's Waldo" and I could spot a cop from any distance or direction, because I needed to. It's nice to focus more on the scenery instead of looking for uniformed-robbers but when I get to Peru I'll need to turn on the Waldo-Cop sensors again.
I finally finished some pictures from the Centro area that I took last week, many just down the street from the nice cop incident...
June 7, Buenos Aires, Capital Federal, Argentina
I recently had a telephone/email interview with the Seattle PI and today received emails of encouraging words from some folks I've never met because they had read my article in today's PI! Here's the Seattle PI article.
I'm leaving my Buenos Aires apartment today and tomorrow I'll head into Uruguay on my way north to Puerto Iguazu for some of the most impressive waterfalls in the world. The waterfalls are on a three-way border between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay and I'll be on the Argentina side of the falls for some of the best views. It's been a relaxing stay in BA and I've meet some fun people who help make it impossible to imagine never returning to this wonderful city. Next time I'll get an apartment that's higher above the road and maybe a little further from the center of town to avoid the smog and road grime that caused the respiratory issues which have plagued me for more than half of my stay. But even with those unpleasantries Buenos Aires is still one of my favorite cities in the world.
One of my favorite things about South America has been not having to worry so much about the police. In Central America, and other poorer countries [Mexico not included] cop corruption is the norm but in the more developed nations - like Chile and Argentina, police corruption tends to be more rare because it is less tolerated. It seems that the corruption of the less developed nations tends to keep those nations poor, giving their citizens very few options on how to live, leading to a general state of "learned helplessness" that simply makes people more tolerant of bad things going on around them. They end up just accepting police corruption because they've learned that there's nothing they can do about it.
I learned an example of a very distinct difference here in Argentina the other day. There is a police checkpoint on the highway where bikers and foreign travelers have consistently been hustled for money by the corrupt cops. I learned of it from asking Ed, a Horizons Unlimited member, because that stretch of highway is on the way to Iguazu and he warned me about it. Later on I spoke with Mariano, the guy with the motorcycle shop that helped with my mechanical issues, and he said that particular checkpoint is no longer an issue and he hasn't heard of any other problems.
Police checkpoints are very common here [and pretty much everywhere south of Texas]. They usually just let you pass by but sometimes they stop you and request information - passport number, title, name and other basic information. I've gone through dozens of these police check points in Chile and Argentina and have never had a problem.
News of the above-mentioned corrupt-cop checkpoint on the way to Iguazu eventually reached the right people and they contacted the media about the bad cops. Shortly thereafter the police in that checkpoint were all replaced with good-cops and now gringo's on moto's no longer have to subsidize the incomes of bad-cops at that stop. In Central America and other poor regions something like that would have never been reported - and if it ever were nothing would be done about it. I hope all that changes someday...