1st to 5th February

Saturday 1 February

After a very short night between Delhi and Doha, we arrive in Qatar for sunrise. The airport seems to be an important hub: we do not see many locals, but a lot of tourists, mainly Chinese. As it is Chinese New Year now, many Chinese enjoyed the little holidays they have to travel abroad.

We have some breath-taking view from the plane. We fly above Qatar, Bahrain, then Saudi Arabia, Sudan (we cross the Nile River just above Khartum), then the African rainforest, the Atlantic Ocean, and finally Brazil (Rio de Janeiro) and we land in Sao Paulo for one hour. Finally, we fly to Buenos Aires. We arrive there for sunset. All our bags arrive. The only thing is that the boxes are open, but apparently nothing has been lost. Probably they checked them on the way, and did not find useful to close them.

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In the airport, Alfredo, a friend of Mick, is waiting for us. He has organised with his father the transport of our bikes from the airport to our couchsurfer’s house, Pablo and Magali. So we put all the stuff in his father’s car, and go by bus to Pablo and Magali’s. On the way, we stop to have a small dinner, with local specialities: empanadas, and an ice cream of dulce de leche (a kind of sweet milk). We are totally exhausted when we arrive to their house, with the jetlag.

Sunday 2 February

We meet Alfredo at 10. He will be our guide for the day. After India, we really enjoy walking in Buenos Aires, especially a Sunday, the city seems empty, so calm. We see the Congress, then the famous Plaza de Mayo, where the mothers used to demonstrate during the last dictatorship to ask where their disappeared sons were. Just behind the square stands the Casa Rosada (pink house), the palace of the head of state. We can visit it, including the office of the president!

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For lunch, we get our revenge: we go to an asado (grill), and try many pieces of beef. We have some beef sausage (chorizo), blood pudding (morcilla), and several aprts of the cow (tiras de asado, lomo, vacío). That’s delicious, but the quantity of meat is impressive! For sure we’ve eaten more meat during this meal than in total during our two weeks in India.

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We then go to the Teatro Colón. It’s the opera house of Buenos Aires. It was built one hundred years ago, when Argentina was among the wealthiest countries in the world, and was dreaming to be the France of South America. The place was very elitist, where the high society went to be seen. It’s main hall is absolutely magical, with thousands of lights, luxuous furniture, and perfect acoustics. It took a long time to obtain shows and an audience that match the quality of the building. But it is now the case, and this opera house is renowned in the world for its quality.

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In the evening, we go to the Ateneo bookshop: it’s a former movie theatre that has been restored to a bookshop. There is a café inside, and many seats to enjoy reading the books.

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We have a small sandwich for dinner: Bondiola. It’s a piece of grilled pork, like bacon, inside a bread with lemon. Pretty good. We arrive home after midnight, we are still totally exhausted.

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Monday 3 February

Today, we take care of the bikes. We mount them, only to discover that Mick’s bike has a problem: the front caniper has received a shock and now touches the disc of the brake. We also add the flags on our bikes: hey are now much more colourful and lively.

In the afternoon, we have a meeting with Sebastian Kind from Aires Renovables.

Aires Renovables: After his studies and a few years working in Europe and Argentina, Sebastian created his own company, Aires Renovables, with the goal of developing a portfolio of wind energy projects and solar farms in Argentina and Uruguay. Currently, the company is studying the creation of a wind farm over a BP oil reservoirs in the South (80 MW capacity).

Argentina analysis brief overview: Currently, in Argentina, 54% of the electricity is produced from fossil fuels (oil, gas). Approximately 41% is produced from hydro (mainly on Parana River, Uruguay River, !). And 4% from nuclear. There is nearly no renewable energy (beside hydro). The total installed capacity is 24 GW. Argentina is a producer of oil and gas, although its production is now decline. In contrary, the demand for energy (linked with the GDP) is increasing by 5% each year. The cost of kWh is also very low due to governmental subsidies.

Renewable Energy: Argentina possess legal instrument develop wind and solar, which are declared national interest. Therefore, mechanisms were introduced in order to establish, amongst other, a 40% premium over market price for every kWh generated from one of this source of energy.

Argentina is one of the countries with biggest resources in renewable energy in the world. There is a strong potential of solar in the Cuyo region (North West of Argentina, it’s the Atacama desert).

Argentina has a large proportion of its power coming from hydro however although it is only a quarter of the total potential.

Half of the country, from Buenos Aires to the South, is perfect for wind energy: strong and constant wind. Wind turbines can achieve a capacity factor of 40% in these regions. The wind energy is economically competitive with the fossil fuel. In final, about 0,05% of the theoretical potential is used.

Also, for the moment, there is no problem coming from the electric grid: the network can support the introduction of variable energy, and also it can transport this energy on long distances. Out of the 25GW installed in Argentina, only 200MW are from wind farms. And it is expected that there should be no problem for the grid if the variable energy is below 15-20%.

So what is missing? As in many places, the willingness of the politicians. There is no incentive to develop renewable energy. And with the chronic instability of Argentina (here, every ten years there is a crisis!), it is very hard to get credits for such projects. So there is no foreign investment.

In the evening, we have a dinner all together, with our hosts, Oablo and Magali, and also Alfredo, our wonderful guide!

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Tuesday 4 February

This morning, we go to the bicycle shop. They repair the chain of Juju’s bike, removing two links. But for Mick’s brake, it’s more complicated. It appears impossible to rotate back the caniper to its original place, so the only thing would be to put a new one. And as they don’t have here, they cannot do it before we leave. So we’ll see later on, in Mendoza or Santiago.

We also change the money, in the black market: officially, one dollar is worth 8 peso if you go to a bank. But as the Argentinians do not trust their currency at all, and they want to ensure their savings, they buy dollars. The real rate is around 12 peso for 1 dollar. So we change at that rate (we had withdrew money in India for this purpose).

In the afternoon, we pack our bags, and go to the bus station of Retiro. It’s nice to cross the city by bike. It’s quite calm, clean, they respect the cyclists! but the city is pretty big.

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In the bus station, we are surprised by how smooth the things go: they accept the bikes like this in the bus. Also, there is no problems for all our bags. We have dinner with Alfredo near Plaza Francia: Milanesa a la Napolitana. It’s another specialty, of beef meat coated with breading fried, and then with tomato sauce and mozzarella. Very good, but be careful to the indigestion of meat.

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We are in the bus at 22h30, leaving for Mendoza. The bus is very comfortable, and we sleep quite well.

Wednesday 5 February

We arrive at Mendoza around 12h30. We put back all the bags on the bikes and leave. We eat lunch in a vegetarian restaurant, to compensate for the meat of yesterday evening. Don’t laugh, it exists in Argentina, and apparently it’s quite popular among the middle class in Mendoza.

After a small tour of the city, we go to Federico’s house, a little outside the city.

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Federico is a friend of a Alberto, a former classmate of Mick working in Kenya. As Federico did not arrive yet, we are received by his mother, Estela. The house is very nice, with many wooden furniture, decorations, and hundreds of plants.

We have dinner with the whole family, Estella, Federico and his two brothers, Hans and Klaus. Federico has arrived today from Kenya to climb Aconcagua. But on another route! Good luck!

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And for Pablo, and other lazy people, here is our small video: