It was January 2017, my old friend, the great sportsman Ömer Kerman and I were crossing a river on the RN 40 at an altitude of 4400m in the north of Argentina, in the foothills of the fascinating Andes Mountains, when we dropped one of the bikes into the water.
2500 kilometers from Buenos Aires, with no satellite, no internet connection and no one else, I thought that the adventure and perhaps our journey had come to an end. After 3 hours of struggling, pulling one motorcycle after another, we arrived at a small village inhabited by hospitable and helpful Argentine people. We ate, slept and rested, and the next day, despite very limited means, we managed to repair the broken engine and continued on our way, grateful that our prayers had been answered.
Ruta National 40 (RN 40)
The legendary national highway that connects Argentina from the Bolivian border in the north to Tierra del Fuego in the south, 5121 km long, with asphalt and dirt sections, river crossings, passes at 5000 m altitude and dozens of national parks and Unesco cultural heritage sites along the way. From my point of view, it is a track that an adventurous biker must do in his/her afterlife. I overdid it a bit and lived this adventure 4 times, the last time this year and alone. I’ve ridden about 25,000 km in and around the RN 40. I saw marvelous places and met wonderful people all up and down the Andes. I’d like to do another 25,000 km if I can.
For many years Latin America has fascinated me with its history, geography and people. I researched and decided on Argentina with the pleasure of traveling by motorcycle and the charm of the RN 40. I am glad I did, I have visited this beautiful country and beautiful people 9 times, living there for a month each year. I learned Spanish to be able to communicate well with these people who, like me, enjoy conversations. I was also attracted by the fact that it is summer there while it is winter in our hemisphere.
The cradle of great civilizations, Argentina has received immigrants from all over the world. Germans fleeing Nazi persecution, Nazis fleeing prosecution, Welsh people who hold the record for the farthest migration from their country of origin, Swiss people who make you wonder how they felt the need to come here from their own country, and of course Spaniards, Italians, Armenians, Jews… They all brought their cultures here and established colonies, and with the help of the Latin warmth and the richness of this land, they built a wonderful society. They formed a nation without any conflict among themselves and without racism. There is no doubt that there have been many painful events from the 16th century, when the Spanish occupation began, to our recent history, and they have been struggling with economic problems for the last 30 years or so, but these will not be the subject of my article.
Argentina is 4 times the area of Turkey, 2,800,000 km2, but has 16 people per square kilometer. The country is geographically divided into 3 regions: Norte, one of the largest plateaus in the world, between 3000 m and 5000 m high, with incredibly colorful hills, rivers and dirt roads; Cuyo, with its vast pampas, farms and vineyards and beautiful cities such as Buenos Aires, Cordoba and Mendoza; and the legendary Patagonia, which includes the fascinating Andes Mountains, rivers, lakes and glaciers.
During my motorcycle travels in these regions, despite being a person who loves social life, it was the great loneliness that affected me the most.
This ‘good weather’ has ruined me, Buenos Aires
In this city, which can be compared to Izmir in terms of climate, I lived in Palermo, which resembles Kadıköy, when I was not traveling by motorbike. I met people, made friends with shopkeepers, tried to live like a local. So much so that I always ate at the same restaurant. It may sound strange to you, but I believe that the perfect is the enemy of the good. When I entered the restaurant, kissing almost all the staff (an Argentine custom) and having my food brought to me without ordering anything was very pleasant. The fact that it was not touristic and there was no wifi was another factor for my preference. I have to say that in one month, I ate more grilled meat than I eat in a year in my hometown.
Buenos Aires is a beautiful city built by respected Italian and Spanish urban planners and architects. It is also a port city. There are many beautiful places to visit. I am sure you can find more from many sources than I can give you. To tell you the truth, during my long travels in Argentina, I did not choose to visit extremely touristy places like the Perito Moreno glacier or the Iguazu Falls, I did not do the Tango, I did not go to see them in private. I tried to get to know the people there, to live their lives, to share their tastes.
Maybe you have also thought of this question that many people have asked me: Why always Argentina?
I am not exaggerating, if I were to go back maybe 10 more times, I can think of many more beautiful places to visit and experience. After every trip, I start working on my next trip.
What is wrong with traveling to the lands of Jose Luis Borges, Che Guevera, Maradona, each time with a different excitement and pleasure?