According to a South American phrase “if you travel on the first day of the year, you travel all year around!”. Following this phrase, six Italians and a Mexican joined us in Chile with their helmets and technical equipment, planning on having an adventurous 2014 New Year’s Eve and crossing Patagonia and the Tierra del Fuego on their motorbikes to finally reach the End of the World.
Paolo and Alessia are the first to leave Santiago with a Self Guided Tour and in 11 days they will cross 2480 km on their own on a Bmw R1200GS up to Osorno where they will meet the rest of the group: Fabio, Alberto, Claudio, Eros and Enrique. Once fully booked, the group picks up the bikes they will ride in the itinerary (65% asphalt and 25% dirt road): 4 Bmw R1200GS, 2 F800GS and 1 F700GS. Our vehicles are all serviced and equipped with new tyres in order to face this challenge the best way.
During the welcoming dinner the group toasts to the beginning of a 4000 km long adventure, while sipping the typical traditional Chilean aperitif, pisco sour. A delicious cabernet sauvignon is next together with a wonderful lomo vetado served with creamed potatoes, very much appreciated by Fabio and Alessia.
At 8am in themorning, the bags and all the rest is packed on the support vehicle by Maurizio (spare parts, packed lunch, coffee and snacks, satellite telephone) and all Exmo Tours team meet the Riders’ expectations and provide them with quality service. After breakfast served in the room, the group leaves, with some threatening clouds in the sky but no rain, and reaches the first border cross between Chile and Argentina a few hours later: the Paso Cardenal Samoré.
The group shows a certain knowledge of motorbikes from the start and proceeds at a fast pace through the Nahuel Huapi National Park, featuring bendy roads covered with volcanic ashes. The different photographic view points feature captivating panoramas, and, on lunchtime, the thermometre stable at 30°C, the group sits by the lake before heading towards San Carlos de Bariloche. We arrived at the Hotel in the early afternoon and after a rinvigorating shower we explore the most interesting pubs in the city and taste some local delicacy and local beer. At dinnertime the group switches from the meat of the previous night to a local fish dish: Patagonian trout with white wine.
The following day the group explores the meanders of the Llao Llao circuit and discovers with great amazement the heavenly view of this hidden corner. The snowy mountains, the deep blue and the thriving green of this virgin landscape are impressed in everyone’s memory, throughout this trip that takes us to El Bolson. During a coffee stop Paolo shouts like a real fan: “Go dirt road!” “Go dirt roaaaad, Nencini go dirt roaaaaad”. No sooner said than done: we ride in the Trevelin direction and we reach the Los Alerces National Park, featuring a curvy dirt road going along lakes and wonderful Pine forests. The road asphalt is great and the group releases the adrenaline stored to that point, and then recovers in the last few kms of asphalt that take us to the tavern. Before parking the bikes the Exmo Tours team makes sure all vehicles are filled with fuel to guarantee a steady start the next morning. Trevelin village is the background for a dinner based on mushroom ravioli and lots of wine glasses to toast to the kms of dirt road we roamed today.
The Trevelin to Puyuhuapi is relatively short, all the kms on dirt road amaze everyone for their beauty and make our entrance into the Carretera Austral a great moment, which is enjoyed by the group over a cup of coffee on the Rio Futaleufu Banks. The fast pace of the group slows down a bit and behind the helmet visor you can see the beauty of the Chilean Patagonia and breathe the magic of such virgin and remote places. The calm of this route is interrupted by an unexpected event; during the petrol stop in La Junta, Claudio overtakes a lorry in motion and passes the village on his own. Not being able to see him, the group starts to search for him under the rain. All of a sudden Alberto’s phone rings and Claudio invites us to join him at the hotel and feel the warm of the wood-burning stove. The group decides to “punish” Claudio, so he will have to buy a round of drinks that same night. Without a doubt a memorable dinner, because of the anecdote and the fresh fish, which has been fished and prepared by the same restaurant owners, whose boats are anchored outside the window by our table.
The next day the weather is good to us, and takes us safe to Coyhaique, allowing us to face this rough section of the Carretera Austral, which is currently being repaved and features a series of puddles and stones. The group enjoys the wonderful frame of the austral fjords and climbs up through insidious bends on the last section of the dirt road, stretching between a glacier and a majestic waterfall. We stop for coffee and Mauricio offers us the stem of a Nalca (a native decorative and edible plant), which has a taste somehow similar to celery. Once we get to Coyhaique we have a surprise for our riders: we will spend the night in a Boutique Lodge of our Premium selection where the staff will cook some local delicacy, and gives us a sample of the local artisan beer and a series of very important wines. The New Year’s Dinner starts with a pisco sour, a starter and a sort of lama ham based viagra bought by Paolo and Alessia in Barreal during their Self Guided Tour. It is hard not to tell a joke considering the amount of men at table compared to the women.
The next day will be filled with adrenaline. The bikes rest under the summer sun and the rafting guide gets to the hotel. We are equipped with a wetsuit and protections to face the Rio Simpson rapids. After some lunch and a beer sipped in the open-air jacuzzi of the hotel, a horse riding trip is next, throughout the valley slopes and the muddy fords. An unforgettable experience especially for Fabio’s horse, who’s not excited at all.
We leave all excited, but the 4°C of the first few hours force us to slow down a bit. We stop in front of the Villa Cerro Castillo valley and we enjoy the slope which takes us back to the dirt road. Here is where the most incredible part of the journey starts. The Carretera Austral stretches through the desolate lagoons and around the majestic General Carrera Lake, the colours change and everyone speeds up through this unbelievable paradise. It is a long day with lots of different panoramas and each of them is so fascinating. This is why, not far from Chile Chico, Enrique and Claudio take the wrong way and are left behind, but then join the rest a few minutes later. The group already foresees the round of drinks Enrique will have to pay for as a “punishment”.
The Andes and its majestic and thriving nature is already history, the Andean range fades away 50 km north and the border with Argentina shows us the bare and arid landscape of the Patagonian Steppe, featuring strong winds (120/h) and guanacos crossing the road last minute. We are finally entering the Ruta 40.
The last 20 km of the day will be dirt road and will anticipate the difficulties of tomorrow’s stop, one of the segments with the highest accident rate for our groups. Ruta 40 features a gravelled and brittle ground in this section, which allows the riders to proceed on clean and narrow tracks. With strong winds bikes tend to lose their trajectory and skid, so we need to be extremely careful tomorrow in those 200 km of dirt road. Once we get to Gregores Farm, the group is amazed by how authentic this place looks and finds out how you can live off herding sheep, horses and cows in such a remote place. The numerous puma skins in the sheep pen prove it. This happens whilst the cordero al palo (lamb) slow cooks for three hours on the charcoal fire and the group tastes some guanaco ham along with a cold beer. Being so far away from civilisation is an unforgettable and rejuvenating experience, which is precisely what is needed to hit the road with a clear mind. The next day the group hits the dirt road with no hesitation and stops and few times to enjoy the intense turquoise of Lago Viedma, which is now the background of this adventure. At lunchtime, the riders get to know a tavern called La Leona, which is famous for the expeditions of mountaineers heading to Mount Fitz Roy. Enrique is keen on climbing and enjoys the collections of pictures and decorations set up in memory of those brave height pioneers. La Leona has also been the shelter for famous train robbers such as Butch Cassidy, Sundance Kid and Ethel Place. We soon get to El Calafate. We park our bikes outside the hotel overlooking the lake bay and we get ready to pose a toast in front of another plate of Argentinian meat of undeniable quality. Here we spend our second day of rest as well, which features a trip to the Perito Moreno Glacier, in the Glaciares National Park. Alessia and also the rest of the group are amazed by this place, both during the hiking time on the gangway (you can spot ancient sheets of ice cracking and breaking in the water) and during the boat trip, from which you can see the glacier from a different perspective and enjoy its majesty. On the way back from this exciting day our thoughts go to our bikes and tomorrow’s route, featuring a fantastic National Park, also called the Eighth Wonder of the World: Torres del Paine.
We say goodbye to El Calafate with its harsh morning temperatures and 70 km of dirt road which take us to the border. Our journey is delayed as Enrique’s F700GS gets a flat tyre. The Exmo Tours staff solves the problem with the air compressor in the support vehicle and everyone is back on the road a few minutes later. Crossing the border is not so quick though, as the Argentinian custom personnel decides to let 3 tour buses pass before the group, hence delaying our schedule by an hour. As soon as we get into Chile, Gionata assesses the weather conditions on the National Park Towers. A wind and sand storm is forecast on the way to Torres del Paine, so the group decides to anticipate the arrival in the hotel and postpone the visit to the next day, weather permitting.
The conditions at 6 am are not good. However, they still decide to give it a go (even if this means making an already long route even longer by 200 km) and venture in the national park, hoping in an improvement of the weather conditions. However, neither the sporadic rain nor the cold can spoil the beauty of this place, and everyone’s mood goes up as they appreciate the great beauty of this heritage. Once they get to Puerto Natales, Gionata suggests to increase the speed and take advantage of the asphalt to make up for one hour on the schedule. A fuel stop follows in a remote petrol station featuring a boat with a saddle and handlebars (which Paolo is riding with no hesitation) and next is exploring San Gregorio beach, featuring the famous Amedeo boat. While everyone is walking on the seaside and having a look at some wreck, Alberto announces some of the bikes seem to have fallen because of the wind. As soon as they get back to their bikes they burst into a laughter as they realize it was Alberto’s F800GS to fall first, knocking the other ones down in a sort of domino effect. At that point everyone knew who was going to buy drinks that night!
We get to Punta Delgada a few minutes later and we cross the Magellano Strait and finally land in the Tierra del Fuego, where the group celebrates their first destination by taking a picture in front of the Welcome sign. Tired after a 600 km ride, but satisfied after so many emotions, the guys stay at the Cerro Sombrero Hotel and toast to the night before their arrival at Ushuaia.
After 110 km on the Chilean dirt roads, the Argentinian border is finally reached and we get to Rio Grande which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and makes the route extremely tiring. We have to find shelter in the mountains surrounding Lago Escondido, Fagnano and Garibaldi. These are very quirky spots so we decide to stop to celebrate the almost arrival to our Holy Land. Past the last curve the Ushuaia city totem pops up: the group made it! The pilots of the 7 Bmw slowly reach the hotel with a genuine smile on their face and get ready for tonight’s celebrations. They are over the moon and king crabs are served together with a good wine. The group jokes about the sign that mostly represents the latitude they are at the moment: “Welcome to the world’s ass”.
We are just a few km from the most southern point that can be ridden by bike, and the sign is part of the Lapataia National Park. Once they get there, the guys take a custom photo and comment on this personal achievement they have been waiting for so long. Ecstatic, we go back to Ushuaia city and the group goes shopping before boarding on the Beagle Channel, which is famous for its lighthouse, sea lions and penguins. We will stop in Rio Grande and we will reach Punta Arenas the following day, happy and satisfied with this 4081 km experience. On the last dinner we got the chance to announce the winner of the “Gavino Prize” (suggested by Claudio, but won by Fabio) and to write a dedication to all our travel companions on a note book provided by Alessia. All these gathering moments among the tour participants make this journey one of the warmest and most human experiences ever occurred in Patagonia. The Exmo Tours team congratulates on this group for its honesty and enthusiasm and hopes to be able to organize more tours of more remote realities.