Motorcycle travelers are a close-knit bunch, relatively speaking. We share a lot of common traits – a love of beautiful places, a love of riding, and a love of good people and fellow riders. Often in our travels, friends pass on suggestions of places to go, things to do and people to see. And every once in a great while, and oh-so-specially, riders have passed on a rare and treasured gem of a close friend or contact whom they think we should meet.
We have been lucky enough to meet a few of these amazingly generous and kind people in our travels – Murph and Danielle in Newfoundland, Tammy in Newfoundland and Guatemala (that’s a funny coincidence), Tim and Lynnae in Baja, Ruben and his lovely wife in Oaxaca, Ken and Carol in the Yucatan (whom we have known for a few years), Julio and his beautiful family in Ecuador, Roberto and Janeth and their wonderful family in Ecuador, Roberto and Daniella in Santiago, Pedro and his lovely family in Argentina….and so on.
As we have been moving north in Argentina we have been told of a few places/people to stop and see, and one person in particular is said to be a “must see” – Jorge in Azul at La Posta del Viajero en Moto.
We’ve been told by our Swiss friends that Jorge is a wealth of information and an incredible friend to motorcycle travelers from all over the world. Azul is quickly added to our route, and we plan to stop and see Jorge and say hello. Markus and Karin camped at La Posta. We are due for a room with walls and a bed, at least that’s what my 44-year-old back says, so unless there are rooms at La Posta we will plan to find a hostel.
We arrive late in the afternoon on a Thursday and park in front of the unassuming building covered in hand-painted bike-related signs, and ring the bell. After a couple of minutes I ring it again, and then later one last time. But no one answers. We start to check our gps for local places to stay and I put my helmet on to go. Just then I see an older woman standing up the street a few doors who waves gently to me and points to the door of the La Posta. I point at myself and ask if she is speaking to me and she nods. I have ear plugs in so it’s all rather silent and surreal. I look at the door of the La Posta and work to get my helmet and earplugs stowed just as this spunky, bald Latino man opens the door and welcomes us.
Jorge stretches out his arms and welcomes me with a hug and cheek kiss (seriously, I love those…note to all my friends and family that this may be a new custom of mine when I get home) and greets Brian with a warm and friendly handshake. He introduces himself and then nods at Blanca, his mother, who was the woman who waved to me from a few doors up.
We tell him that we wanted to stop and say hello and didn’t mean to interrupt or arrive unannounced. I had no idea what to expect, but it probably wasn’t this. I have the feeling we have just arrived at Jorge’s home rather than a hostel of some sort. We chat for a few minutes about where we have ridden from, where we are from and where we are going. And then I ask Jorge about a recommendation of where to stay for the night. “Here, of course” he implies/says with his arms and energetic Spanish flourish. I say we don’t want to impose, and I feel like we are, but he insists. Blanca opens the gates and before we know it we are whisked inside the courtyard of both the La Posta and Jorge’s home, as they are one and the same.
La Posta del Viajero en Moto is Jorge’s incarnation of an oasis for people traveling by motorcycle through Azul, Argentina. Literally hundreds, and more likely thousands of riders have passed through here and been welcomed by Jorge and his family.
Although I’m quick to adapt, it takes me a few minutes to adjust to what is happening. Jorge shows us a well-worn and sun-starved spot of the lawn under a weeping willow where some other riders had camped for 11 days. They left yesterday and the spot is now being passed on to us.
We park the bikes, set up the tent, and gratefully accept this as our landing place for the night without even discussing it together. Jorge stands and chats with Brian after we get our gear in the tent while I admire the paradise we have been invited into. Just behind my bike, next to the tent, is the back of the La Posta building which we had been parked in front of just minutes before. This side is covered with murals too, one is of Jorge’s doing of John Lennon and the Beatles. I ooh and aah as I wander around to look at the flowers and birds.
On the other side of the willow from us is a small pond, and it overflows with ducks and other birds, including three pink flamingoes. A freshly stuccoed wall awaits Jorge’s planned painting of Marilyn Monroe.
I wander inside the shop where a bike is being stored, and lots of metal working and carpentry are obviously in progress. There is a sort of great room adjacent to it filled with stools and chairs and two long tables, and a small kitchen area. Jorge says that we should think of the place as our home. We can use the kitchen, and the bathroom on the back side of the shop, and whatever else we may need. He is so kind, and so genuine. Jorge is a rider too and has traveled to other countries by motorcycle. And maybe it’s that, but more likely just his generous and amiable spirit that have inspired him to create this biker’s oasis in Argentina.
I’m struck by the number of signatures on the walls, as it appears a sort of guest book has sprung forth in ink on the walls, doorjambs and ceilings of every room of La Posta. Jorge points out some of the older ones, nearly 15-20 years old. He says he is celebrating a sort of informal 25th anniversary of the place although he was taking in travelers and friends-of-friends years before that.
Many of the autographs come in the form of art, and there are lots of names we recognize, and some are of people we know.
Simon and Lisa Thomas of Two Ride the World, Guiness Record holders who inspire so many others (including me) to travel by bike.
Ken and Carol-Ann Duval, two of the wonderful people I mentioned above who were also part of the inspiration for my trip, and who are legends in the overlanding community.
There are stickers, and flags, photos and license plates, bike parts and riding gear….all left as a piece of each rider to say “I was here”.
Jorge has guest books too, because despite the full walls, most people leave their message in the actual guest books. Even those are works of art.
This place, and Jorge, are legends. It’s amazing to just sit and soak in the atmosphere and to think about all the memories and history La Posta has witnessed. I read a few of the guest book entries and can see that every one who comes here feels just the same – warmly welcomed into a brotherhood of riders. We don’t actually meet any other travelers on our way through, as most people who come here do not. But because the oasis preserves memories and names we feel like we have met many of them already. The common link that connects all of us is Jorge.
Jorge shares a few stories with us when he stops in – he has had riders stay with him from all over the world and has some incredible memories. He asks me to translate for Brian as he tells us a few.
In 2003 a rider from the UK, Simon Milward, stayed with Jorge during his Millenium Ride that raised funds for international medical aid. Jorge and Simon became fast friends and Jorge shared with Simon his lifelong dream of riding his bike on the Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas in Argentina). I can’t imagine how difficult an undertaking that would have been given the bad blood between Argentina and Britain. But somehow Simon managed to pull it off, perhaps by contacting friends, and the two were set to ride to Punta Arenas, Chile and catch a boat from there to the Falklands after Simon finished his ride. But sadly, Simon was killed in an accident in 2005 in Africa. Such a tragedy.
Jorge shows us a helmet in a glass case in the great room. It belonged to a Japanese rider who stayed with him in 1996. Toshiko Noro sadly was killed in 1999 while doing the thing he loved, experiencing adventure by motorcycle. He was riding in Libya and navigating in the desert when he became lost and disappeared. His body wasn’t found until nearly 4 years later by Bedouins and eventually Toshiko was returned to his family. Jorge was invited to come to Japan by a friend and fellow rider a few years ago to visit the Honda factory, and while he was in Japan Toshiko’s family asked Jorge to come for a visit. When he went to see them in Hokkaido, they presented him with Toshiko’s helmet, a sign of their deep gratitude for Jorge’s friendship with their son. I’m moved to tears at his story and it takes me a few minutes to get it together to be able to translate this for Brian. There are so many stories, happy mostly, but a few sad, that have ties to La Posta.
This place is incredible. What Jorge has given to motorcycle travellers something of a living time capsule, a crossroads, a virtual meeting point and message board where you don’t actually cross paths with other riders, but you can see who has come before you and leave a kind word or message of inspiration for those who will follow, and to Jorge in thanks.
We settle in for the night, make some pasta in the kitchen, and have hot showers. Jorge has suggested strongly, haha, that we stay again tomorrow night since he has an asado (bbq) every Friday night. We feel honored and of course we plan to stay.
Brian snoops around admiring the graffiti and decides he will take on an art project tomorrow and paint his logo on the wall. And thanks to Time to Ride (two German riders we met in Ushuaia who were the 11-day campers) there are paints to use on the common room table. Makes me wish I had some artistic talent….I would love to paint a Mount Rushmore on the wall.
On Friday I ask Jorge about a nearby laundry. It’s time to wash my clothes in a machine. My sink washing can only hold me for so long. He checks with his wife, Monica, and she comes and offers to wash it for me in her machine. I didn’t mean to make any work for her, as they have already done so much for us by letting us stay and enjoy this beautiful place. But she takes it and washes, dries and folds it. I tell her it’s the first really clean clothes I have had in 3 weeks, and I’m so very grateful.
Brian works on his mural and I decide to scratch out a bison and an American flag in one of the few blank spots I can find on the wall.
That night Jorge’s friends and a few riding buddies turn up starting after 9pm for the asado. They are all so nice, and so funny. Jorge disappears out front and some of the friends tell me that Brian and I should go out front with our cameras. We step out just in time to see Jorge raising our flags on the flagpole out front – ironed and pristine American and British flags. It’s a huge honor to me, and I’m moved by it. Although some of his neighbors will not like the flag of the United Kingdom flying overhead (because of the Falklands War), Jorge raises it proudly to welcome Brian. That long and difficult history between England and Argentina doesn’t belong at La Posta, Jorge explains. I wonder to myself how some people in the U.S. would react to an Iraqi flag, or some other flag being raised in a small neighborhood to welcome someone. I would hope we could all do that, but doubt it would be so easily accepted.
Jorge and his friend, Santiago, each mirror the same sentiment to me in different conversations today – we are all the same really, flesh and blood. When it comes down to it, so many things do not matter, like politics, material things, and so forth. They both say something like “if you have a good heart, you are my friend”. And that is the unwritten motto of the brotherhood of riders, I think to myself. I couldn’t agree more. And I feel fortunate indeed to now call you friends. I tell them of a Lakota phrase – mitakuye oyasin – which loosely means we are all related, we are all family.
We spend hours sharing beers, stories and jokes, and some of the best asado we have had yet. Jorge’s friends are right, he is a master griller. At the end of the evening in a momentary lull in the conversation I step outside to look up at my flag, and the white of her stars and stripes glowing softly in the moonlight. Then I look in through the doorway at the comraderie of these men. Brian, my favorite Englishman, sitting among a room full of Argentinians who are teasing him like he is family. And I know already…..this is going to be one of my favorite memories from this trip.