Buenos Aires - off we go

On 1 January early in the afternoon I went to Heathrow airport to check in for my flight. After I had been unable to get anything in writing from Alitalia about their bicycle policy, and contradictory statements from their customer "services" helpline (I called them four times in total), everything went extremely smoothly.

The bicycle was nicely boxed thanks to a cardbox box provided by London Fields Cycles (who also did a great job preparing the bike for its 8000km journey), and so check-in went extremely smoothly. The luggage (4 panniers in one cheap laundry bag) was 1kg over weight (24 instead of 23kg), which didn't lead to any problems. And the bike in the box was below the 23kg treshold, and although it was obviously oversized, I wasn't charged anything for it - it turned out the first three answers I got from their customer services helpline were right.

The flight to Buenos Aires via Rome was long. First 2 1/2 hours from London to Rome, then a 2 hours wait, and then 14 hours from Rome to Buenos Aires. The flight arrived on time, and immigration took another hour. At least I didn't really have to wait for my luggage then - I found my bag quickly, and the bike box was already waiting for me. Exciting!

I asked whether it would be possible to put the bike together inside, but they told me I would need to go out first, which I did without problems. I found a quiet spot in the shadow near the entrance to the terminal, where I started to first unpack my bags (and to throw away the laundry bag), to get to my tools, and then came the exciting moment of opening the bicycle's box. Everything looked pretty fine, and I started to put things back together again - put the handlebars back in place, the racks for the front panniers, and the front wheel. The brakes needed a bit of readjusting (and need a bit more still - now they are not tight enough), but after pumping up the tyres everything was fine, and I was ready to go. First I took some money out at an ATM in the terminal, and then I stopped at a service station in front of the terminal for water, and then I was "on the road".

The "on the road" bit was a bit hard. Not only was I tired, but there wasn't really any alternative to the motorway into Buenos Aires. And although this had a hard sholder for most of the way (initially), the hard sholder had a lot of speed bumps, which turned cycling into a slalom to avoid the speed bumps and all the rubbish... Traffic wasn't too bad initially, but got considerably worse after the first junction, and from there on it went downhill (not literally).

As soon as I got closer, and saw a parallel road next to the motorway, I switched to that one. It wasn't always easy to figure out if it went into the right directions, but as long as it was so close to the motorway as it was, I figured out this was safer. At some stage a friendly taxi driver stopped and asked me where I was heading, and where I came from. When I told him that I had just arrived from London, and was heading from the airport into town, and then it was on to Colombia (within six months), he seemed quite impressed. He gave  me some directions, and drove slow to guide me over a junction, but then I lost him and decided to get off the motorway again as soon as possible.

In the end, I was on city roads, which had street names, but not much in terms of directions. I navigated mostly using OpenStreetMap data via Osmand on my mobile phone, which worked well, but lacked the overview. After three hours cycling, I arrived at my destination, and I first went for some beer and vegetarian salad - my first break in Buenos Aires.

Then it was a bit waiting for my host for the next few days, as he was at work. With the weather being nice, this wasn't a big problem, and I rested a bit in a nearby park and then started to explore the neighbourhood, and to get credit for my Argentinian SIM card. Then it was another coffee and mineral water.

And so, the adventure begins....